soldier pointing gun at student with cameraThere are only two possibilities when it come to free speech.

Possibility one. You can say anything you want.

Possibility two. Your freedom to communicate is restricted.

Those are the only two possibilities.

If you decide that some people need to be muzzled you usually camouflage your agenda by starting with some variation of the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" scenario. Then you continue to your actual agenda.

But really, how often has it happened in history that a person creates a tragedy by yelling fire in a theater? Obviously it is a pretext to limit other kinds of speech.

The degree of freedom to speak one's mind varies a lot from country to country.

"Freedom in the World" is a report published by Freedom House (which receives about 66% of its budget from the U.S. government). They rank the United States as completely free across the board.

 The Index of Economic Freedom ranks the U.S. as "mostly free".

 The Press Freedom Index ranks the U.S. as "satisfactory".

The Democracy Index ranks the U.S. 19th among all countries and calls it a "full democracy".

In America most people know the rules, i.e., which speech is "opinion" and which is "sedition". Some don't.

In April, 2012, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to seventeen and a half years in prison, in what one expert calls one of the most important free speech cases in recent years. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with Mr. Mehanna's politics, he was prosecuted essentially for sharing his actual beliefs, his opinions. In other words his crime was not hiding his beliefs, it was sharing them. Prosecuting his words only means those people (doing the prosecuting) were unable to deal with his speech using their own speech, so they resorted to gang techniques (basically "my free speech is legal, yours is not, because I work for the government").

The basic point of the prosecution was "You can have any opinion you want, but you can only express it if it is in line with what is approved". The next logical step in that progression of thought is "You can have any opinion you want so long as it is approved".

Justin Raimondo is a prolific American journalist. He is a bit left of center but has a wide audience. Two notable opinions he holds are that Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is unjust and that the war in Iraq was wrong. These opinions apparently conflicted with the opinions of people in the U.S. government and resulted in an in depth investigation. The ostensible cause of the investigation was a document published on the website.

COINTELPRO was a U.S. government program kept secret until 1971.

One COINTELPRO operation involved using an informant to put barbiturates into the drink of black panther activist Fred Hampton followed by a government raid on his apartment (in which he was killed).

The question a person should ask here is, Was this activist such an extreme threat to innocent others that his death in such a manner was justified? Or was he killed basically for being out of the mainstream?

 One main focus of COINTELPRO was eliminating dissent against the Vietnam war. 58,000 American died in the Vietnam war, along with many times that number of Vietnamese. America lost the war very decisively, but what if we had won? What exactly would we have gotten for our victory? This is the kind of question that COINTELPRO was trying to prevent. Not because questions like that were harmful to America, they were not. Rather because honest dialogue about our reasons for being in the Vietnam war were harmful to the people running things.

Today, in America, if you vocally oppose American involvement in Afghanistan or Iraq, you will be investigated.

America has a vast internal security bureaucracy, even beyond the frightened paranoia of the 1950s, to monitor dissent against the "war on terror". Some of the investigations eventually become public (see below) but obviously the majority don't. Note: The last link has been removed from the corresponding website. The full text of the removed article is copied at the bottom of this page.

 Should Americans have the right to say and think what they like?

Or should law enforcement agencies constantly monitor all words and opinions in order to silence any voices that differ from the mainstream?

Free speech is a natural right, something every human inherits at birth. When some people in a government use force to try to take over the natural right to speak freely, those people usually end up destroying their country.

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Article Title Feds Slammed for Spying on Anti-war Groups, Lying

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Feds Slammed for Spying on Anti-war Groups, Lying    
Written by Alex Newman   
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 13:26

A report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for lying and spying on anti-war activists, animal-rights groups, and environmentalists, calling the improper “terror” investigations "unreasonable and inconsistent with FBI policy."

Among those targeted were the anti-war Thomas Merton Center, the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and an individual Quaker peace activist. According to the Inspector General, there was "little or no basis" for the investigations.

The phony probes resulted in innocent people being placed on the infamous “terror watch list” and in FBI boss Robert Muller providing "inaccurate and misleading information" to Congress, the report stated. The amount of tax money wasted, while not specifically addressed in the report, must have been enormous. Numerous policies were also violated by the FBI, and Inspector General Glenn Fine called the FBI's tactics “troubling.”

The Inspector General’s office reviewed 8,000 pages of FBI documents from 2001 to 2006 related to the groups to determine whether the investigations were proper, were initiated owing to protected First Amendment activities, and for several other purposes. “From this broad review we identified particular FBI investigations and other activities that potentially implicated the First Amendment activities of the groups or their members,” explained the report, entitled "A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups."

The report concluded that, while the FBI probes were not generally predicated simply on the views of the targets, at least one FBI field office was focused on a group "as a result of its anti-war views." It also found that “FBI agents and supervisors sometimes provided the [Office of the Inspector General] with speculative, after-the-fact rationalizations for their prior decisions to open investigations that we did not find persuasive." The bureau also classified some activities like trespassing or vandalism as terrorism. Whether there will be repercussions is unclear so far.

The Inspector General’s report made six recommendations: Address the false or misleading statements made to Congress and the public, including the possibility of taking action against the agents involved; keep better track of the sources of supposed facts; require the identification of a potential violation of federal statute prior to opening investigations; review guidelines to consider reinstating the prohibition on retention of irrelevant First Amendment material; develop a better classification to determine when First Amendment cases should be classified as “terrorism"; and, finally, investigate the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office "to asses the Division's compliance with applicable statutes, Attorney General's Guidelines, and FBI policies involving First Amendment issues."

An FBI spokesman said the bureau was pleased that the report concluded the investigations were not started as a result of First Amendment activities, but that disciplinary action against certain individuals was being considered. But the groups that were targeted expressed outrage. "The use of McCarthyite tactics against PETA and other groups that speak out against cruelty to animals and exploitative corporate and government practices is un-American, unconstitutional, and against the interests of a healthy democracy,'' PETA said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the organization told ABC, "PETA's effective activism scare [sic] well-heeled business interests that abuse animals, but when these outfits used their connections to violate the U.S. Constitution, the FBI's ham-handed attempt to catch us with our pants down backfired. As a result, the FBI was caught with its pants down."

The pacifist Thomas Merton Center was also quoted throughout the media. "It's kind of mind-blowing and perplexing to me that the FBI would target a peace and justice center that focuses on non-violence, in the name of terrorism. We hope that this story will strengthen the peace movement," President Michael Drohan told ABC.

In a separate interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Drohan said, "To mention us in the same sentence as `terrorism' is an outrage. Everything we do and have done is to stop war, prevent war and promote economic and social justice. They really owe the Merton Center a profound apology for incriminating us."

In a statement posted on its website, Greenpeace applauded the Justice Department’s report and condemned the FBI. “Greenpeace appreciates the steps taken by the Office of the Inspector General to illuminate the nature of these improper investigations. But, it’s troubling that the FBI has been targeting peaceful protest, when our government should be supporting public participation, dissent, and First Amendment rights.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which helped spark the Inspector General’s investigation when it released documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, also blasted the FBI and called for more safeguards. It said the report proved the bureau "improperly spied on American activists involved in First Amendment-protected activities and mischaracterized nonviolent civil disobedience as terrorism."

The FBI "has a long history of abusing its national security surveillance powers," ACLU policy counsel Michael German told AFP. "We are all in danger of being spied on and added to terrorist watch lists for doing nothing more than attending a rally or holding up a sign." And of course, this is not the first time the FBI has found itself in hot water for its spying activities.

A separate Justice Department investigation released earlier this year concluded that the bureau used lies and trickery to illegally obtain thousands of records, then issued after-the-fact approvals in an attempt to cover it up. That report claimed agents repeatedly and knowingly violated the law by invoking non-existent “terror emergencies” to get access to information they were not authorized to have. And among those targeted were journalists.

While most of those targeted in the FBI investigations discussed in the most recent report would probably be considered left of center, the federal government has also been stepping up its efforts against so-called “right-wing extremists.” These supposed extremists, according to a Department of Homeland Security document leaked last year, include veterans, pro-lifers, and individuals opposed to gun confiscation, a “New World Order,” illegal immigration, and other issues. And they are the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” according to the DHS threat assessment.