Congress has passed a law 18 USC s. 1001 that reads: “whoever . . . knowingly and willfully . . . makes any materially false . . . statement or representation” in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branches can go to prison for five years.
So the First Amendment should read: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech but it can punish lying to a federal official.”
Congress has passed a law 18 USC s. 1001 that reads: “Whoever . . . corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, . . . with intent to . . . hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer” can go to prison for twenty years.
So the First Amendment should read: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech but it can punish anyone attempting to corruptly talk someone into delaying a communication with a law enforcement officer.”
As I see it, those are laws that abridge free speech especially as we see them now being applied in the courts. What is particularly obnoxious about them is that the lie doesn’t have to affect anything nor does the persuasion have to have caused a wrong. It is just doing these things without any real detriment coming about makes it a crime.
The FBI was investigating a case where a person said he had been told by the FBI he could commit certain crimes. At issue was where a tape cassette he produced came from. An FBI agent called a retired FBI agent John and asked him if he had been in contact with Lawyer X. The retired agent said no. Telephone records showed calls between John and Lawyer X. He was convicted on that “no” of lying.
Then we have the Flaherty case where the FBI put a person who had contacted it up to calling the lawyer and asking him what he should do with a message from the FBI to call it. The lawyer to him not to do it. He is charged with telling the person who was already in touch with the FBI with hindering or delaying contact with it.
Now we have the real scary stuff. There’s a case involving a guy named Ross William Ulbricht who was the creator of Silk Road which was an internet site for selling drugs. Giving credit where it is due, the FBI did a fantastic job tracking him down. Ulbricht was convicted of various charges and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Some people were upset about the sentence meted out by Judge Katherine Forrest who by the way seems to be a highly qualified judge. They expressed their feelings on the comment section of the libertarian media site Reason.com. One wrote: “It’s judges like these that should be taken out back and shot,” To which someone responded: “It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.” Someone else added: “Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.” Another said: “Why waste the ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.”
The Department of Justice has issued a grand jury subpoena to Reason.com seeking to find out the identity of those people and others who commented like that. It cites a section of the U.S. criminal code that makes it a felony to mail communications threatening federal judges which is punishable by 10 years in prison. It also contained the statement: “The Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party.” The government likes to operate in secrecy like a thief in the night. Fortunately that request was ignored; I suppose there will soon be a prison penalty for such action in the future.
The stupid statements about the judge were clearly not threats. They were hyperbolic statements by people upset by the verdict. Now those people will have their identities revealed, be questioned by FBI agents (hope they don’t lie), perhaps dragged before a grand jury, or even charged with the ten year felony.
I wrote previously the federals take themselves very seriously. They have the power to harass and destroy people for minor indiscretions. We’ve seen how they make things into crimes even setting traps for people to walk into. These are slow but sure steps in suppressing our right to free speech which includes stupid speech.
Keep in mind the Soviet Union had a bill of rights every bit as good as ours. The problem was it was only on paper and no one enforced it. Ours is slowly being undermined by the misnamed Department of Justice and the judges, many who have come from that place, who refuse to enforce the First Amendment as it is written.
As I’ve often said the law is what the judges say it is. The judges have said those restrictions on free speech do not abridge free speech. If they say laws against stupid comments against a judge does not abridge free speech that also will be our fate. It’s a slippery slope. If they say free speech does not include speech against actions of our government then that too will be the law. The slope is becoming more and more slippery.