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Chris Weigant

Chris Weigant

Posted: June 29, 2007 07:58 PM

ACLU Provides Concrete Evidence Of Bush's Contempt For Free Speech


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit today which any supporter of free speech should be made aware of. Here is the entire text explaining the lawsuit from their website:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against Gregory Jenkins, a former high-level White House staffer who enacted a policy that unlawfully excluded individuals perceived to be critical of the administration from public events where President Bush was present. The policy is laid out in an October 2002 "Presidential Advance Manual" obtained by the ACLU.

The ACLU filed today's lawsuit, Rank v. Jenkins, after obtaining a heavily redacted version of the Presidential Advance Manual from the Justice Department. This manual is the Bush administration's guide for planning presidential events around the country, and it repeatedly instructs organizers about "the best method for preventing demonstrators," "deterring potential protestors from attending events," "designat[ing] a protest area . . . preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route," and the like.

The lawsuit names as plaintiffs Jeff and Nicole Rank, who were arrested at a Fourth of July presidential appearance at the West Virginia State Capitol because they were wearing T-shirts critical of the president, and Alex Young and Leslie Weise, Denver residents who were thrown out of a town hall meeting with President Bush because they had an anti-war bumper sticker on their car.

When they say "heavily redacted," they are not kidding. The "Presidential Advance Manual" is 103 pages long. Other than the title page and the table of contents, there are precisely six pages which have not been completely redacted.

But those six pages are enough to enrage anyone who strongly believes in the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The ACLU helpfully provides a PDF version of this document on their website. The title page bears the warning: "It is a violation of Federal law to duplicate or reproduce this manual without permission. It is not to be photocopied or released to anyone outside the Executive Office of the President, White House Military Office or United States Secret Service," and is further stamped: "SENSITIVE -- DO NOT COPY." I am assuming that since it already exists in the public domain that it is not illegal to quote it here. [I hope.]

The first interesting tidbit comes from page 32, under the heading: Section V. Crowd Raising and Ticket Distribution.

The Lead Advance will assign a member of the Advance Team or trusted volunteer to help raise the crowd and to organize a ticket distribution system. Proper ticket distribution is vital to creating a well-balanced crowd and deterring potential protestors from attending events.

Wow. That last sentence is so Orwellian it makes your head spin. I don't think I've ever seen such a naked display of doublethink in any official government document in my entire life. The White House wants to create a "well-balanced crowd" by "deterring potential protestors." Think about that for a minute. It only makes sense in the English language if you define "well-balanced crowd" as "a crowd composed entirely of people who believe what we believe."

The manual goes on to detail exactly how to assure such a "well-balanced crowd" -- by revoking everyone's free speech.

Ticket collection at events should take place prior to the magnetometer [metal detector] checkpoint. Volunteers should be used to form the crowd into lines, check for signs or protestors, and to remove the stubs on official tickets. Homemade signs are not allowed at events.

This wouldn't be so ominous, since you could make a case that the Secret Service is right to ban signs on the grounds that they could be used as weapons. However, as the ACLU has learned, "homemade signs" also covers T-shirts with writing on them (deemed unsupportive of the president), and even the bumperstickers on your car out in the parking lot.

On the next page, it is clarified that they are not talking about signs that could be used as weapons (which are the purview of the Secret Service), but merely any free speech which might cause the president to hear an opinion outside his infamous "bubble."

As mentioned, all Presidential events must be ticketed or accessed by a name list. This is the best method for preventing demonstrators. People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform. That does not mean that supporters without tickets cannot be given tickets at the door and gain entrance to the event. It is also not the responsibility of the Secret Service to check the tickets of the people entering. They are concerned whether the person is a threat physically to The President and not a heckler. It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs that they may be carrying, and if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing to the event.

This makes it clear that the Secret Service should not be policing free speech. That's up to the "volunteers" to police -- even though such volunteers are probably ill-trained for such policing, and even though it is blatantly unconstitutional on the face of it. It does not specify how such volunteers should "check for folded cloth signs" -- leaving the door wide open for volunteers to check for any suspicious "folded cloth" concealed on the person attempting to enter. Which, again, is also blatantly unconstitutional.

The unredacted parts of the document go on to offer advice on how to set up the infamous "free speech zones," under the heading: Preparing for Demonstrators.

There are several ways the advance person can prepare a site to minimize demonstrators. First, as always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route.

This is a triple-whammy, being unconstitutional through three separate clauses of the First Amendment -- the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the government for redress. I am truly at a loss for words, due to my overwhelming rage at such police-state tactics.

The document next details tactics to counter demonstrators' messages: shout them down, block them from the cameras, and if that doesn't work, just remove the demonstrators from the event.

The formation of "rally squads" is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand held signs, placards, or perhaps a long sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.

Wait a minute... aren't hand-held signs, placards, and banners not allowed in the event? Since the document does not address this contradiction, the obvious and inescapable conclusion is that signs, placards, and banners are allowed in the event, as long as the White House agrees with what is written on them. Once again, blatantly unconstitutional.

These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/ sororities.

I love that "last resort" -- if all else fails, resort to totalitarianism: if we don't like what you are saying, then our goons will chuck you out. And I love the fact that not only young republicans (that properly should be capitalized, but if they're not going to, then I certainly don't feel inclined to), but also jocks and frat boys will be recruited for these "rally squads." Perhaps they should all wear brown shirts so they can recognize each other?

This fun document goes on to itemize what should be done under the heading: Handling Demonstrators.

Once a group of demonstrators has been identified, the Advance person must decide what action to take. If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect.

Now that is a truly revealing picture of Bush's White House indeed. As long as the media can't see or hear them, "they can be ignored." Truer words were never written about Bush's contempt for any opinions contrary to his own.

The final quote (before the redactions begin again) laughably sinks into sheer paranoia.

If the demonstrators appear to be a security threat notify the Secret Service immediately. If demonstrators appear likely to cause only a political disruption, it is the Advance person's responsibility to take appropriate action. Rally squads should be dispatched to surround and drown out demonstrators immediately.

Remember - avoid physical contact with demonstrators! Most often, the demonstrators want a physical confrontation. Do not fall into their trap! Also, do not do anything or say anything that might result in the physical harm to the demonstrators. Before taking action, the Advance person must decide if the solution would cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone.

Right. "Most often" a group of hippies and peaceniks "want a physical confrontation," not the jocks and frat boys who are dispatched to shout them down. The very idea would be comical, if it weren't in such a chillingly serious White House policy document. That last sentence is a gem, too, in addressing the fact that "the solution" of denying Americans their First Amendment rights might just "cause more negative publicity" than what they're trying to say. Really? Americans might react badly to such a thing on the evening news? What a concept. No wonder they stamped the document: SENSITIVE.

Thank whatever you hold holy that the ACLU has released this to the public as yet another concrete and damning example of the Bush administration's sheer and utter contempt for the both the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights which all Americans are (or, in today's world, I have to say "should be") entitled to.

 

Visit Chris' blog at: ChrisWeigant.com