Looking deeper into the First Amendment
Time to switch gears just a bit here. Oh no, not to be mistaken — we are indeed headed in the same direction; however, it’s never a bad idea to learn more, read more, and study more within those areas that we find we don’t have the answers to or worse, if we suspect wrong doing by a person in the position of power. Having said that, and with the inspiration of one our reader’s in particular we again would like to address the media in our own country as well as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The First Amendment contained in the Bill of Rights that enhances the U.S. Constitution is one of those notions that when left alone – without government intervention – guarantees the rights in the free speech clause to freedom of conscience, expression, speaking, and of course the press.
In addition, predicated upon the other clauses we have guaranteed rights to assembly for the redress of grievances, as well as freedom of religion, petitioning our government, and an uncensored press. One should know clearly in advance that based on the amendment the colonists were enjoying things in life that their countrymen in England were not.
In fact, the First Amendment has rarely been visited and very little has the Supreme Court had to do in keeping its function. The Founder’s and their ancestor’s suffered at the hands of the British monarchy and when framing the new Constitution vowed to protect various rights and conditions. For the sake of this writing we are limiting our content to the freedom of speech and the unabridgment of the press.
Therefore, as Justice Stewart espoused, “For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the purpose of the First Amendment. For without an informed and free press there cannot be an enlightened people.”
Ideally or in a utopian world this may be the case; however, after full and open disclosure about the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, and the egregiousness of the Watergate break-in, we ask, where was the press on September 11, 2001?
Within a few short months of witnessing the carnage and destruction of the World Trade Center; furthermore, a clean hit on the Pentagon, with more lives lost in a solemn rural area in Pennsylvania what did the press have to say about the USA Patriot Act?
Moreover, the entire system of due process of law had been shelved for the arrest, detention, and access to counsel for American citizens here in America as well as abroad. In one fell swoop the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4, 5, 6, Amendments were at the arbitrary discretions of one man…the POTUS.
Again, where was the press for this particular period? The press just like every other American was patriotically committed to seeing the demise of Saddam Hussein and the nation of Iraq. Where is Justice Stewart’s notion of the “enlightened citizenry?”
Indeed the walk on war in Iraq in Washington D.C. got so little coverage that it prompted both the Washington Post and the New York Times to apologized for their failures. Why was the press so submissive after 9-11-2001? One reason was that, like the American public generally, editors were stunned by the terrorist attacks and felt the need for national unity against the perpetrators. Indeed, America has always worked under the assumption never to criticize the president in the atmosphere of fear – that would be seen as being unpatriotic.
In time however the press began to recover from its fear and lassitude. The brazen character of President Bush’s claims of unilateral power became increasing difficult to overlook. Furthermore, one of the Justice Department’s lawyers advised him that he could order the torture of alleged terrorist detainees, and that Congress was without power to stop him.
The decision to end this differential time of none coverage was signaled by the decision of the New York Times to publish a story disclosing that the Bush administration had secretly ordered wiretapping of Americans’ international telephone calls without obtaining the warrants required by law.
On one hand George Bush held a memorandum authorizing him to wiretap calls, with the authority to torture enemy combatants, which easily is against federal criminal law. This seemed to parlay the notion that the President was above the law. And it was through earlier stories of Watergate: that everyone in high positions as well as lower positions was subject to the law. It is known as the Watergate lesson: That the law applies equally to the high and the low.