White House Policy Illegally Silences Americans Critical of Bush
July 6, 2007 12:21 PM   Subscribe

The ACLU is suing Gregory Jenkins, former Director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance and a Deputy Assistant to President Bush, for setting the policy in the manual. Jenkins' policies have led to the removal and, in some cases, arrest of innocent people from taxpayer-funded events. 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.

Though heavily censored -- parts of only six of its 103 pages were released -- the manual devotes an entire section to "preventing demonstrators.'

"Always be prepared for demonstrators, even if the local organization tells you that there will not be any,' the manual says. "It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event.'

The manual also recommends "rally squads,' composed of "college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams and fraternities/sororities,' among others.

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators,' the manual says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform.'

posted by prostyle at 12:21 PM on July 6, 2007

Republicans are pussies. Surprise, surprise!
posted by maxwelton at 12:28 PM on July 6, 2007

Hmm. Well I know the wheels of justice are slow and all, and I'm glad for this, but why wait until the sad slow denouement of the Bush administration to file this case?
posted by Mister_A at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2007

I'm glad that the case has been filed, is what I meant up there...
posted by Mister_A at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2007

the president does not have the right to use a partisan litmus test to stack the audience with his political supporters

Has the ACLU been living in a different America than everyone else for the past few years? And I'm sure this case will go about as well as the wiretapping case.
posted by chunking express at 12:37 PM on July 6, 2007

You try to tell the President that!
posted by smackwich at 12:41 PM on July 6, 2007

posted by sidereal at 12:51 PM on July 6, 2007

I had the good fortune to work extensively on another matter with the ACLU's lead attorney on this case. He's wicked good, and I will follow this one closely.

A version of this scenario (a much less straightforward and more complicated version, of course), was an exam question in my First Amendment class. This seems far beyond what I understand the government's free speech rights to encompass. In other words, this is not a case where the feds have a right to have their message heard in a particular forum to avoid the town hall screamfest dilemma. This is just shutting non intrusive dissenters down because of their speech and stinks of tyranny and propaganda.
posted by kosem at 12:56 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

sidereal: "Magnetometer" is the proper term for what are commonly called 'metal detectors,' formerly seen only at airports but lately become ubiquitous.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:12 PM on July 6, 2007

How are we supposed to get the whole story (or even a reasonably good account) of anything when these government documents are so heavily redacted? Also, what are the guidelines for redaction in a publication like this? Blacking out national security concerns is understandable (though what constitutes a concern is, of course, debatable), but how can the heavy censorship of an official government document (even an internal and mildly sensitive one) for political (read: partisan) purposes be legal? I'm not even talking about the regulation on protests itself (which are horrible - I've been in a few "Free Speech Zones" far away from presidential visits before and it's a good way to feel powerless and voiceless), just the handling of the papers that describe those regulations? I'm not a lawyer, but I've looked through enough government documents to be wary of overtly political redactions.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:23 PM on July 6, 2007

How are we supposed to get the whole story (or even a reasonably good account) of anything when these government documents are so heavily redacted?

You're not supposed to. That's the point of the markouts.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2007

I don't know what you're talking about. None of that ever happened. Perhaps you need a little lie-down in a quiet room.
posted by taosbat at 1:41 PM on July 6, 2007

You're not supposed to. That's the point of the markouts.

Well, right. But what are the legal obligations of the government here? How legit (even if shitty) is this? And if illegal, why isn't there more of a fight against this sort of thing?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:47 PM on July 6, 2007

Usually, when you litigate against the Federal Government, they redact with greater vigor than other defendants. This makes a certain amount of sense because in addition to the regular reasons for redacting documents in a litigation (the redacted items are protected by the attorney-client privilege, the redacted items are confidential or trade-secrets), the feds have the law enforcement privilege, the deliberative process privilege and a few others that they aggressively pursue. This DOJ is especially aggressive with its invocation of the deliberative process privilege.

I think that this suit was just filed, so the ACLU got the report through a FOIA request, most likely. There has been no discovery or exchange of documents. One of the first fights, once the case gets truly under way, will be to iron out a protective order for documents and for the government to justify its redactions, state the basis for them, and if they're using one of the special governmental privileges, jump through the pain-in-the-ass hoops required to properly invoke them in court, which they are often unable to do. The short answer is, until the document fight, we won't know exactly why they redacted what they redacted. It will be a central issue in the early proceedings and the ACLU will press very hard to get access to the whole thing. It is, by the way, a little harder for the White House to stonewall a federal court than it is for them to stonewall congress on documents, at least in the short run.
posted by kosem at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by formless at 1:54 PM on July 6, 2007

And if illegal, why isn't there more of a fight against this sort of thing?

For the same reason there wasn't any blowback after the countless other scandals this administration has weathered. This one doesn't seem all that bad in the grand scheme of things. American soldiers tortured Iraqis, pictures were published everywhere about it, and nothing came of that. The US government spied on its citizens and nothing came of that. Has the administration had to hold itself accountable for anything illegal it has done thus far?
posted by chunking express at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2007

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2007

Um, regardless of my agreement or disagreement with the stance of the press release. Is a single link FPP that leads to an agenda org's press release really the best of the web?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2007

Rally Squads.

Say it again, quietly and with due reverence.

Rally Squads.

"Today, in a stunning move, President Romney authorized the US Military to arm Volunteer Rally Squads across the nation, to 'protect the Republic from the traitors and sabetuers within'. Vice President Rice then stated, in a seperate press conference, that arming the GOP-funded Rally Squads would be 'the first step to taking back our country from the abyss of mass treason.' Senior White House officials say that the Squads will be empowered by Patriot Act III to enforce anti-protesting ordinances and make Citizen Arrests of suspected traitors..."
posted by Avenger at 3:03 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

I was going to post something about the film Death of a President, which I watched last night. Then I read the article again and thought about everything Bushy has done and decided to just say something more mild like... well it figures (please don't arrest me kthxbye).
posted by AspectRatio at 3:13 PM on July 6, 2007

I'd rather see the ACLU sue the American people for massive indifference.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:23 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is a single link FPP that leads to an agenda org's press release really the best of the web?

When the org's agenda is my Constitutional rights, it's worth hearing about. You may not care that your rights are being dissolved before your eyes, but a lot of other people do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:31 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

What troubles me is that those who are in a position to object strenuously to the administration's undemocratic and arguably illegal activities have done nothing about it. I speak here of our elected representatives. Yes, they hold hearings but there are always hearings amd they go on and on. What do they amount to? So far, nothing. Our most prominent so-called leaders are far too busy hustling money to pay for TV commercials that - so it is believed - will win elections that won't take place for more than a year. Forget primaries. Those are mainly to give jobs to the boys. and/or girls. I have signed a number of petitions, most recently to ask that Cheney be impeached. This was forwarded to members of the Senate and I duly received a form thank you note for my request only to be told that the she didn't think it was a good idea. No reason was given. Of course, it wouldn't have passed, but that wasn't the point

I would really like to see folks like Move-on and similar groups who get up such petitions get one together that said to our so-called congressional leaders, please get to work and look after our business if you expect us to get out there and vote for you next year. It is us, the voters, who win you your jobs and we have the power to lose them for you too if you don't get off your asses and do something for us.
posted by donfactor at 3:44 PM on July 6, 2007

I love how I can quite easily download a pdf that's clearly labled "Sensitive -- Do Not Copy."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on July 6, 2007

Our elected representatives do not go out of their way to rock the boat because they all know they didn't get where they are by our votes. They got there because they knew which asses to kiss and which other asses to kick as they climbed the ladder to whatever perch they now cling, and the voting process was a dismissive afterthought.

The ACLU is one of the last efforts to fight for the Constitution and inalienable rights, and even they don't get it right most of the time, but they're fighting in the only place left which is the courts - and even there, the enemies of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people" have practically cornered the board. I fear the United States as we know it may not be united much longer.

There's a lot of sheep who think the wolves are their friends, and the chickens in the henhouse are just clucking away without a care in the world. The pigs are reaching for their canes. This is a very scary farm, right now.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2007

This is an example of what I was talking about above regarding the difference between Congress v. the White House and a federal court v. the White House. Even this administration (I suspect, although nothing they do surprises me) would sing a different tune under a court order directing them to produce an explanation for their claim of executive privilege. Congress isn't putting anyone in jail for failure to obey its subpoena...at least not directly.
posted by kosem at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2007

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