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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

 
Your government "protecting" you

by digby

The following text is a transcription of the first amendment to the Constitution in its original form. The first ten amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I don't see any qualification to that saying that the press is free to publish except where it makes money as a consequence of publishing documents that the government has unilaterally declared to be secret. But maybe it's in the fine print.

REP. ROGERS: You -- there have been discussions about selling of access to this material to both newspaper outlets and other places. Mr. Comey, to the best of your knowledge, is fencing stolen material -- is that a crime?

DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY: Yes, it is.

REP. ROGERS: And would be selling the access of classified material that is stolen from the United States government -- would that be a crime?

DIR. COMEY: It would be. It’s an issue that can be complicated if it involves a news-gathering and news promulgation function, but in general, fencing or selling stolen property is a crime.

REP. ROGERS: So if I’m a newspaper reporter for -- fill in the blank -- and I sell stolen material, is that legal because I’m a newspaper reporter?

DIR. COMEY: Right, if you’re a newspaper report and you’re hocking stolen jewelry, it’s still a crime.

REP. ROGERS: And if I’m hocking stolen classified material that I’m not legally in possession of for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?

DIR. COMEY: I think that’s a harder question because it involves a news-gathering functions -- could have First Amendment implications. It’s something that probably would be better answered by the Department of Justice.

REP. ROGERS: So entering into a commercial enterprise to sell stolen material is acceptable to a legitimate news organization?

DIR. COMEY: I’m not sure I’m able to answer that question in the abstract.

REP. ROGERS: It’s something we ought to think about, is it not?

DIR. COMEY: Certainly.

REP. ROGERS: And so if there are accomplices in purveying stolen information, shouldn’t we be concerned about that?

DIR. COMEY: We should be concerned about all the facts surrounding the theft of classified information and its promulgation.

REP. ROGERS: Hmm. And interesting that over the -- again, the Munich Conference, where we had individuals tell us that in fact there are individuals who are saying to be in possession of this information who are eager to sell this information to other news organizations, would that be a legitimate exercise on behalf of a reporter?

DIR. COMEY: That’s a question -- now you’re getting from the general to the particular. I don’t want to talk about the case in particular because it’s an active investigation of ours.

REP. ROGERS: It’s an active investigation for accomplices brokering in stolen information?

DIR. COMEY: We are looking at the totality of the circumstances around the theft and promulgation.

It's very interesting to hear the Director of the FBI fail to strongly defend the first amendment. Of course it wouldn't exactly be unprecedented, now would it?

I sure hope that all newspapers and other media outlets are listening to this. This is their notice that the government may be seeking a "novel" way to inhibit freedom of the press. If Mike Rogers' characterization is even slightly on target, something very, very troubling is happening.

It sure is a good thing we had such staunch defenders of the constitution running the government during the Bush years, or the likes of the AP which broke the Abu Ghraib story would have been in grave danger. Certainly, the Washington Post must be relieved that Dana Priest didn't reveal the existence of the CIA black sites during these more repressive times. Presumably all newspapers must realize they need to be more careful in the future. At the very least they, like all media outlets, will have to become a non-profit businesses in which no money is allowed to change hands lest they be charged with "receiving stolen property" (which logically must include "intellectual property.")

Let's just be clear here: Authoritarians like Mike Rogers are the reason we have the Bill of Rights. And it would be nice if James Comey could find it in himself to make it clear in situations like this that the FBI has some vestige of respect for its existence.

Trust 'em? Feel safer?


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