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Bush Assault On Free Press More Serious Than Most People Knew

By James Donahue

Now that George W. Bush is finally out of Washington, and he and his cronies are out of power, information is starting to be made public about how hard that gang was working to clamp controls on all forms of communication.

They not only had their hammers over the heads of the newspaper and television news industry, but these thugs were trying very hard to control what was published and said in Internet traffic. Had they succeeded, there is a very good chance that America would never have had a fair election and would have continued on its old path toward collapse and self-destruction while the “mob” cashed in on what was left of the nation’s wealth.

The shocking emergence of Russell Tice, former National Security Agency analyst, on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann the day after Bush left town is our first case in point. Tice, who was fired for defending the nation’s Constitutional Amendments and leaking a story to the New York Times about the illegal existence of the government’s wireless wiretapping program, said the NSA was blatantly spying on ALL American communications, 24-hours a day and 7 days a week.

Tice said they specifically targeted journalists. He said every fax, telephone call and computer communication emerging from the desks and computers of America’s journalists was downloaded and filed by the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The National Security Agency had access to all Americans’ communications,” Tice said. “It didn’t matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.” And they did it without a court order.

After Tice leaked that one story, he said he was frustrated in attempts to testify before Congress. He said he had his credibility attacked by Bush media puppets Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and even was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an apparent attempt at intimidation. He said his telephone has been tapped and his every move has been watched by federal agents ever since.

Also on the day after Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out an appeal by the old Justice Department to appeal federal court rulings against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) that the ACLU argued violated the First and Fifth Amendments.

The COPA law, if allowed to stand, would have made it punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 or up to six months in prison for transmitting on the Internet “any material that is harmful to minors” if not put behind a safeguard such as a requirement for payment or a special access code.

Material considered “harmful to minors” would include written, photographic, recorded, or in any way “communicated” material considered obscene or “designed to appeal to, or pander to prurient interest.” This would include material that “depicts, describes, or represents in a manner patently offensive an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast.”

Imagine what a field day the government would have with a law like that on the books. Free expression via the World Wide Web would have been so stymied that nearly everything people now freely view would be banned unless we pay to enter the site. Even the top news sites would be off limits once they publish a story about, say, a man dashing naked across a football field in the midst of a televised game. That has been happening frequently. Everybody laughs. Nobody is offended. Children don’t see much if anything. Even if they did, what harm has been done? Even children know the anatomy of a naked man. Sex is a way of life for everybody, and it is of interest to everybody.

Restricting glimpses of the female breast is another ridiculous rule. Most people will agree that a healthy female breast is a beautiful thing, especially for babies that turn to it for daily sustenance. To declare it evil is one sick act by twisted-minded religious fanatics.

Even more frightening was the effort to control freedom of the written and spoken word. Chris Hansen, ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel in this case, said the battle to maintain freedom of speech on the Internet has been a long and hard fought battle. “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”