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Live Free or Die

National Security? It’s the First Amendment for a Reason.

Alberto GonzalesFor once I agree with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: I’d like to see journalists in prison, too.

For different reasons, of course. I want the mainstream media raked over the coals for its never-ending abuse of the American psyche through lies, propaganda and manipulation. Its tacit approval of the Bush Administration’s stance on war, treason, rendition and national security is outrageous.

The press corps are policy whores and until they report corruption and malfeasance and not cover it up, I fully advocate throwing them behind bars. Misleading the public is, to me, criminal.

Gonzales agrees that they’re criminals. However, that’s because he believes the press isn’t covering up enough. Apparently the government has a beef with the handful of journalists who actually take themselves seriously and report on clastsified information and feels it has a legal foundation to prosecute anyone who does so. “There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility, Gonzales said during an interview on ABC News’ This Week (of course Gonzales never mentioned which laws magically trump the First Amendment). “We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected.

Ah, “national security, that wondrous chestnut of domestic policy where logic and reason need not apply. Isn’t it funny how only things that endanger the president’s tenuous grasp on leadership (and reality) are threats to national security? Protest our illegal occupation of Iraq? You’re demoralizing and weaking the military. Document the rabid pace at which American intelligence buys or steals personal information? You’re eroding the strategic fight against terrorism. Simply hate Bush? You endanger national security.

No matter what, you’re helping Al Qaeda win!

Meanwhile, our porous American border allows hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to walk into the country, each one potentially harboring a secret agenda. President Bush’s solution? Station National Guard units — an act that could violate the Posse Comitatus Act — along the border to monitor the situation. They aren’t allowed to stop or detain illegals as they cross the border. They just get to watch. Doesn’t that make you feel secure?

(Oh, and by the way, National Guard units aren’t technically subject to the federal government’s jurisdiction. They’re supposed to be under state juridiction. But that’s not as important as national security, is it?)

The whole notion of national security is a joke. You want a secure country? How about increasing industry and production while reducing incentives for corporations to move their operations offshore? How about utilizing the money the government is feverishly spending on war and the military complex on educating our youth, feeding our poor and innovating new technology?

How about giving veterans the benefits and medical care they rightfully deserve? Securing a country isn’t as simple as enforcing its border (although I am definitely a fan of curbing illegal immigration). It involves keeping the nation’s infrastructure from collapsing and its citizens from growing disenfranchised. Putting the country on endless alert for a terror threat that will never come helps no one. Poring through the phone and Internet records of average citizens only creates a climate of fear and outrage within the people.

It’s also useless as no self-respecting criminal would use traceable methods of communication like e-mail or phone lines to conduct their enterprise. Only the government has a track record of selling information culled from illegal wiretaps to business friends.

So I applaud the rare journalist that makes a practice of reporting on crimes the government has seen fit to classify to protect itself. Domestic surveillance on Americans is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Reporting its existence is not a crime and for Gonzales to infer otherwise only highlights what little respect he and his supervisors have of the laws that govern us all.

Gonzales’ words should prove to be interesting in the coming weeks as Wired magazine has recently published uncut evidence linking the NSA’s warrantless domestic wiretap operation with telecom giant AT&T as well as a detailed rationale from editor-in-chief Evan Hansen. The rationale is simple: Wired felt the public’s right to know outweighed AT&T’s need to hide an embarassing scandal from its stockholders and patrons. And they’re obviously correct; this kind of information should be made available every time some goverment wonk tries to bury an indiscretion. Last time I checked, the government works for us based on revenue donated from its citizens. Things like this aren’t entitled to be classified. They aren’t allowed to be secret. A good journalist knows this is why there continues to be press freedom in this nation.

“It can’t be the case that [freedom of the press] trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity, Gonzales asserted. “And so those two principles have to be accommodated. Nonsense! The Constitution trumps the right of the federal government to play Big Brother and abuse its citizens with fearmongering and data collection. The federal government has no abilities beyond that living document. Don’t try to pretend otherwise.

“To the extent that we engage in electronic surveillance or surveillance of content, as the president says, we don’t engage in domestic-to-domestic surveillance without a court order, he concluded. Except, as we’ve seen above, you do.

Not that anyone will ever be prosecuted. The NSA all but declared itself above the law when it halted an investigation into the practice by refusing access clearance to members of the Department of Justice.

Now that’s some national security!