ACLU Asleep at the First Amendment Wheel


ACRU Staff


October 13, 2009

By stepping into the private media with paid operatives, the Justice Department is committing a facial violation of the First Amendment. By remaining silent on this action, the ACLU demonstrates that it does not take the First Amendment seriously.

The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article in, a new website for the Department of Justice, on 1 October. This is the 99th ACLU Outrage, and unlike all the others, this has nothing to do with the ACLU doing anything such as filing a law suit. It has nothing to do with the ACLU saying anything, such as sending a threatening letter to a local school board or small town.

This Outrage is about the ACLU doing absolutely nothing in a situation where an organization supposedly dedicated to the First Amendment would be shouting from the rooftops.

In 2005, there was a flap about a handful of “conservative” columnists who were “paid” or had “advertising bought” on their shows, in return for “favorable” comment on issues being promoted by the Department of Education. There was general outrage in the media, including condemnation by the ACLU for “violation of the First Amendment.”

Now, the Department of Justice has announced on its new website: “The Department of Justice launches today in an effort to increase openness and transparency in government. Utilizing a variety of online tools, we will be able to share news and information, not just on our own web site, but through popular social networks Twitter, YouTube and MySpace and Facebook The Justice presence on these social networks will allow Americans to interact with the Department in entirely new ways…..

“We are all excited by these new opportunities. Today’s launch is just the first step towards creating the most open, accessible and transparent Justice Department possible. We welcome your feedback about the new site and your ideas for the future.”

What this happy, perky announcement does not mention is that Justice Department employees and outside individuals who are paid for their services will provide this presence. What is wrong with this picture?

It is no more the proper business of any part of the federal government to plant liberal stories in private media, than it is to plant conservative stories in private media. This is independent of whether the Justice Department is acting in an honest and competent way. Current policies of Justice include dropping charges against armed thugs at a Philadelphia polling place, dropping an investigation of corruption in the Governor’s office in New Mexico, and failing to notice the new financial filings by Congressman Charlie Rangel. (It says right on the forms false statements are a federal crime.)

There is good reason to believe that the overarching policy of this Justice Department is to use its powers to harm the enemies of the Administration, and protect the friends of the Administration. That is an even worse message to be promoted in private media.

What has the reaction of the ACLU been to this obvious violation of the First Amendment? [Crickets.] For those who don’t know that Internet code, it is used whenever someone or some institution ought to speak out, but remains hypocritically silent. If the ACLU genuinely believed in the First Amendment, it would be speaking out, now, loudly, clearly.

That the ACLU is silent on this issue, now, suggests that it thinks the First Amendment is merely a tool to be used to help one’s friends, and hurt one’s enemies. No more, no less.

Both the ACLU and the Justice Department need some remedial reading in why the First Amendment was placed in the Constitution. It is the opposite of the First Amendment for any part of the government to decide what is preferred speech, and push that into private media.

And under the 1971 Supreme Court case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, any citizen harmed by the unconstitutional actions here of the Justice Department has a right to sue the Department for violation of his/her/their civil rights.

Source for original story on the Net:



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