The Free Speech Freeze from Washington D.C.

Why is it that politicians tend to betray the principles they espouse the moment they get into power? In the recent past, the Republicans betrayed the idea of fiscal responsibility in order to support a President from their own party. But today it is the Democrats who are in power in Washington D.C., and all of a sudden freedom of speech doesn’t seem to have the same cachet for those erstwhile protectors of American civil liberties.

Consider the Department of Homeland Security Assessment circulated by Janet Napolitano to the law enforcement community a few days ago. According to Napolitano, the primary mission of her department “is to prevent terrorist attacks” on America. She unequivocally disavows any intention to interfere with free speech:

“We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people …”
Taking Napolitano at her word, if her department doesn’t monitor political beliefs, why is the Assessment entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment?” (Emphasis supplied.)

And if her department takes seriously its responsibility to protect our civil liberties, why does the Assessment say, “Rightwing extremism … may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration?” (Emphasis supplied.)

Doesn’t Napolitano know that stigmatizing people who oppose abortion, and people who believe our nation’s immigration laws should be enforced, may have a chilling effect on freedom of speech in this country? Or, is it simply that ever since the Democrats came to power in Washington D.C., freedom of speech doesn’t matter any more?

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