The federal government is enjoined from abridging the freedom of speech or of the press by virtue of the explicit restriction against Congress making any law granting any part of the federal government the power to do so. That restriction is housed in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the highest law of our land. What that means, essentially, is that the government has no authority to halt the reporting of a public event (unless they’re somehow asserting a national security issue and, therefore, are classifying the event) nor can they confiscate a reporter’s materials used to record that event. And yet, according to Mark Segraves at WTOP News in DC, that’s exactly what happened a few nights ago:
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
I call the incident an “attack” because it was just that. An attack on the First Amendment, an attack on veterans and an attack on the public’s right to know how their government is treating wounded vets.
Schultz is a reporter with Public Radio station WAMU. Last Tuesday night, he was covering a public event at the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
At first he refused. But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise.
“I became worried that I was going to get arrested,” Schultz says.
I am amazed that Schultz’s editor advised him to hand over the recorder’s flash memory card. The VA has refused to answer questions about this situation nor have they returned the memory card. (And even if they did, who would believe they had not tampered with it?)
Even more astounding was what happened when one of the many vets who overheard what was going on came out into the hall to try to give Schultz their phone number. The VA official apparently claimed he wasn’t allowed to do that and promised to “get ugly” if they didn’t do as she ordered.
Read Segraves’ whole article for the details. This is one that deserves a full and public investigation to say nothing of an indictment against Hairston if this situation turns out to be even remotely as reported. Schultz’s comment at the end is spot on: With actions like these, what is the VA trying to hide? Why do they fear what interview was going to reveal?
Update: Well, apparently the glare of the spotlights the VA’s actions attracted have managed to clear whatever haze was keeping the VA from thinking clearly. In a letter from the VA, spokeswoman Katie Roberts has said they will return the gear:
In a written statement to The Associated Press, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the department “regrets this incident occurred” and as a result would hand back the flash drive that it took from WAMU reporter David Schultz at the VA Medical Center in Washington. WAMU is a National Public Radio affiliate in the capital.
“After reviewing all the facts surrounding the incident of April 7th and actions since, VA has arranged the return of the flash drive to WAMU,” Roberts said. “We make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients and to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about what information they release or discuss with the public while in a VA facility.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs regrets this incident occurred as we appreciate the interest of the press in covering veterans’ issues,” she added.
I would certainly hope that someone has explained all of that to Ms. Hairston, the woman who clearly didn’t think the VA appreciated the interest of the press at all.
As part of a strong immigrations policy, we need to be able to control the flow of incoming foreigners such that people who have violated our laws before don’t get back in to do it again. This has long been one of the pillars of my own immigrations reform suggestions since a firm control of the border is the only thing that makes any other reform work. I am glad to see the Department of Justice putting forward a plan to take DNA samples from people arrested for immigrations violations.
A Mexican national arraigned last month in San Diego on 11 charges in a rape case is now a poster boy for a new Department of Justice policy requiring federal officials to take DNA samples from those arrested on immigration violations.
Before being charged with rape, suspect Carlos Ceron Salazar was deported nine times from the United States. Had the new DOJ policy been in place, federal officials say many victims could have been spared.
“In the past, we have had a limited authority to take DNA samples,” said Elisebeth Cook, an attorney in the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department. “It’s critical while we have the opportunity to take the sample.”
While they’re at it, they should take the full brace of biometric data, too: fingerprints, palm and face scans, and retina scan. All of that should be kept in the IDENT database used by DHS already.
“American Taliban” John Walker Lindh’s family is asking President Bush to pardon him and let him out of jail before Bush leaves office next month. Their reasoning? “John made a mistake in joining the Taliban.”
Yeah, you could say that. You could also say that John deliberately traveled to an area known for its extremist and intolerant practices and then trained to take up arms in furtherance of those values. He was captured on the battlefield standing in opposition to the United States and our allies. He participated in a prison uprising against Americans and our allies. For these crimes – and crimes they most certainly are – he was tried, convicted and sentenced to a term of 20 years. And we’re supposed to just say, “oh, well” and let him go free? Why, so he can head back out and take up arms against us again?
I understand he made a mistake. But it was a well-informed one on his part and such mistakes have consequences. I don’t see the case for a pardon, here.
An Atlanta company has an interesting question regarding the currently-deployed vehicles in our law enforcement fleet. If you’d never send a pickup truck to go put out a fire, why would you send a family sedan to respond to a homeland security issue? Good question. They’ve got an answer:
Unlike conventional police cruisers, which are retrofitted consumer vehicles such as the Ford Crown Victoria, the E7 is the first car designed and built specifically for law enforcement.
Flashing emergency lights are embedded in the E7′s frame, making the car aerodynamic and visible from all directions. The front seats are designed with extra space to accommodate a police officer’s utility belt.
The rear passenger compartment is completely sealed off from the cockpit. Molded plastic seats in back allow for easy cleaning and prevent prisoners from hiding contraband.
Two front-mounted cameras automatically scan license plates of nearby vehicles and alert police when they find a car flagged as stolen or involved in some other crime. According to developers, the car’s onboard equipment can also detect nuclear and biological threats.
Li said the car’s 300 bhp [sic] forced-induction 3.0-diesel engine will deliver 420 lb-ft of torque and propel the vehicle from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, with a governed top speed of 155 mph.
He also said the E7′s engine, which can run on either ultra-low sulfur diesel or biodiesel, will have a combined fuel economy rating of 28 to 30 mpg — up to 40 percent more fuel efficient than conventional police cruisers.
The story’s pretty fascinating and has links to a photo gallery. The gallery shows off the myriad of features listed here and 1 that’s not. THe rear doors open to the rear of the car, not to the middle. And they open a full 90° to the side, permitting an absolutely unhindered access to the rear seats.
Come to think of it, I’d like doors like that to get my kid’s booster seat in and out of the car.
This is a pretty good design, it appears, and it’s purpose-built for the law enforcement community. I think they’ll like it, assuming the manufacturer can keep control of the price.
Federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday on charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.
Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper’s editorial board who had been critical of him fired.
I’m guessing the Governor won’t be making the selection of which person gets Senator Obama’s seat in the next Congress.
Pajamas Media has the story in this column by Phyllis Chesler:
On the very day, November 24, 2008, that the United Nations spent all day and countless sums of money “mourning” the alleged Palestinian catastrophe, a federal jury in Dallas found all five former officials of the Holy Land Foundation, guilty of having illegally raised money in the United States to assist the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, in its hot war against Israel.
According to terrorism expert, Steven Emerson, the defendants, “Shukri Abu-Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohamed El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh, could face up to 20 years in prison for their convictions on conspiracy counts, including conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. The verdicts, read Monday afternoon, ended a two-year saga in what is considered the largest terror financing case since the 9/11 attacks.”
Read the whole thing.
A Honduran man who had been deported twice before was sentenced in DC for the murder of a man in 2007. Hernan Melendez beat Andres Benitez to death with a baseball bat back then. He was tried and found guilty this past May and came up for sentencing this week. The sentence? He got 20 years in prison.
What the story is pretty light on details with is the question of 1) why this man was deported before and 2) whether he was an illegal entry into the US. I know we can make an assumption that he was – which raises the question of how he managed to get back in to the US twice before committing murder. But it also raises the question of why these questions weren’t even addressed in the story. I mean, they’re fairly obvious and, yet, they go unremarked. Why? What’s going through the reporter’s head that he doesn’t ask these questions? Or, if he did, what’s up with the editor that he clearly feels they weren’t germane to the story?
The IMF has joined the World Bank in the club of financial institutions that have had their computer systems compromised. FoxNews.com is reporting that the International Monetary Fund in DC discovered spyware on their systems but the IMF has been absolutely mum on what, if any, information might have been stolen. Or, rather, their official word is that nothing was stolen but some of their security officials are leaking more dire stories to the press.
The 2 incidents may be related. According to the story, the World Bank was hacked on October 10th. Since then, a World Bank unit was moved, phyically, into the same building as the IMF and their systems might have been using the same physical wiring as the IMF’s own systems. That’s not necessarily a possible infection path. It depends largely on how the traffic was separated in the switches and routers involved but it’s something to look into. I certainly hope they’re doing so.
Some people just can’t seem to live with others’ freedoms:
Police in Florida say they arrested a Connecticut man after he tried to steal communion wafers during a church service.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office says 33-year-old John Samuel Ricci of Canton was cornered by fellow churchgoers when he grabbed a handful of wafers from the priest during communion services Saturday.
When police arrived, this jerk was being held down by 5 or 6 parishioners who apparently stopped him from leaving with the Communion hosts. The report also notes 2 parishioners were injured during the scuffle. They were ages 82 and 61. You go, gentlemen.
I have a hard time believing people like this would ever try this kind of disruptive action at a mosque. That he’d try it at a church is disgusting and a solid demonstration that he clearly doesn’t respect others’ rights like he expects us to respect his. I am told though agencies I trust completely that incidents such as this – where people are trying to remove consecrated hosts from the church for political purposes – are on the rise.
More when I can get something I can link.