ATF Censors Free Speech
by Ted Poe on October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM
As we continue to talk and discuss and debate the issues of the debt ceiling, of the continuing resolution, there are still things taking place in government. Some of them aren’t so good.
Just to give a little background, which you are certainly aware of, we have our Constitution with the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a section in the Constitution that protects citizens from government abuses.
The First Amendment is first because it contains the most important rights. If those rights are abridged, the rest of the Bill or Rights – to me—is meaningless, and we all know that two of those provisions have to do with the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. We traditionally honor those because they are so important.
Historically, the most controversial of all speech and press was political speech and religious speech. Those are especially protected in the First Amendment, and there are historical reasons for that. The colonists, our forefathers, they were an ornery bunch, and they were constantly hammering, through the press and through speech, King George III, Great Britain, and their abuses on individuals in the colonies – and rightfully so.
Therefore, when our Constitution was written and the Bill of Rights was written, we wanted to ensure that, under our philosophy and under our democracy in the United States, freedom of speech and freedom of press were protected.
Over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled on the free speech and press cases; but they have gradually limited speech, which is another issue. The prevailing rule is that if there’s a compelling State interested – whatever that means – and we’ll talk about that some other time – then speech can be prohibited. Never mind, Mr. Speaker, the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about limiting speech when there’s a compelling State interest.
But the Supreme Court said, if there’s a compelling State interest, speech can be limited, and, of course, the Supreme Court decides what that compelling State interest is.
There are also two types of punishment for speech. One is censorship, which is the most egregious. That is to prevent someone from saying something or publishing something. Then there’s the other type of punishment sometimes for what is said, such as threat or yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. But the most egregious is preventing someone from saying something or printing something or publishing something. That is censorship.
So that brings us to what is taking place. We’ve all heard of Fast and Furious. That’s the situation where our government sent guns to Mexico under the theory that they’re going to track the guns. Americans were killed; Mexican nationals were killed. We’re over in court because Eric Holder won’t give us information about Fast and Furious. Now one of the ATF agents wants to publish a book called, “The Unarmed Truth,” and it’s about Fast and Furious. He is an agent in the ATF and whistleblower.
The ATF has a policy that says, well, we, the ATF, decide whether someone in our organization is allowed to publish or have some type of outside employment, and we use our own discretion. It’s just up to us. We don’t have any policy rules. We just arbitrarily decide. And they have decided that because Dodson wants to publish this on his own time, not on company time, or government time – he went and tried to get permission – they said, you can’t publish that book. Here’s the reason he was given, Mr. Speaker. The reason given to him was, well, it might hurt the morals in the ATF.
Now, do you think that’s a compelling State interest to prevent a person from printing something and violating his right of free speech because the government says it might hurt the morale in the ATF?
Absolutely not. You’ve got somebody that wants to tell the truth about the ATF, and it’s a violation of his constitutional right not to be able to discuss openly what took place. It’s a denial of the First Amendment freedom of speech. It’s a denial of freedom of press.
These individuals of the ATF Censor Police ought to be furloughed. They ought to be sequestered, specifically those that are denying the freedom of press, the freedom of speech to someone who just wants to talk about what took place in the ATF. This ought not to be, but that’s what has taken place by the ATF coverup squad. Unchain the freedom of speech and press.
And that’s just the way it is.