As expected, the Federal Communications Commission passed new rules regarding Internet usage that would regulate web traffic and allow service providers to allow priority service:
The Federal Communications Commission approved the “Open Internet” order after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan got the support of fellow Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn.
The rules aim to strike a balance between the interests of Internet service providers, content companies and consumers, but some industry analysts think a court challenge is still likely.
At issue is whether regulators need to guarantee that all stakeholders continue to have reasonable access to the Internet, a principle often called “net neutrality,” or whether the Internet is best left to flourish unregulated.
The FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet has been in doubt since an appeals court in April said the agency lacked the authority to stop cable company Comcast Corp from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications.
Senior FCC officials have said they will invoke new legal arguments not employed in the Comcast case.
The two Republican commissioners at the agency opposed the latest rule-making effort, saying it was unnecessary and would stifle innovation. Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker told an FCC open meeting that they believed the rules would fail in court.
Over at Reason, Peter Suderman likens the new rules to the FCC voting itself as the “Judd Dredd” of the Internet:
Anyone who values the First Amendment ought to oppose the campaign to “get” Assange by any means necessary. In a free society, you can’t just “change the law” to persecute someone you don’t like, and you can’t abuse your position to silence speech you oppose.
Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., demanded that Assange be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act. After all, she wrote, the First Amendment isn’t “a license to jeopardize national security,” any more than it’s a license to “yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.” A poor choice of metaphor: It comes from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1919 opinion in Schenck v. United States, when the Supreme Court allowed the Wilson administration to imprison a man for the crime of publicly arguing that the draft was unconstitutional.
We’ve since done a much better job protecting the First Amendment. In 1971’s New York Times v. United States, the Supreme Court rebuffed the Nixon administration’s attempt to stop the paper from publishing classified documents showing that the government had lied America into the Vietnam War.
With the United States’ case against Julian Assange still up in the air, politicians are still pounding their chests over WikiLeaks - even threatening newspapers for publishing the domestic cables:
Several legal experts pointed out to ABC News on Monday that the U.S. Justice Department could have a tough time actually enforcing the World War I-era law, which—as written—could also implicate severl such news organizations that published cables, such as the New York Times and the U.K. Guardian—or even anyone who’s read the cables or passed them along to friends over Twitter or Facebook.
American University law professor Stephen Vladeck told ABC News that “one of the flaws of the Espionage Act is that it draws no distinction between the leaker or the spy and the recipient of the information, no matter how far downstream the recipient is.”
If the Justice Department can’t prosecute under current law - and there is plenty of reason to believe they won’t be able to try him for espionage, Congress may pass new legislation to prosecute Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks:
That Washington would like to take legal action against him and as quickly as possible can hardly be in doubt. But building a case solid enough to allow Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, to seek Assange’s extradition from Britain, if that is where he still is at the time, or – possibly more problematically – from Sweden, may not be easy. The most obvious first stop might be the 1917 Espionage Act. But when the US government tried to use it to punish The New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, it failed.
It is for that reason that some US politicians are introducing draft legislation to expand existing US laws to make it easier for Mr Holder to do his job. The so-called Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination (Shield) Bill was thus introduced by Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the new House of Representatives with a Republican majority convenes in January. The Bill would make it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.
I know member of Congress aren’t familiar with the Constitution, but they really should do themselves a favor and read Article I, Section 9, which states that “[n]o bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”
Yesterday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) took to the floor of the House of Representatives to offer a defense of WikiLeaks. You can read the full text of his speech here.
The First Amendment has taken some hits this week. Sen. Joe Lieberman is hinting that The New York Times may have violated the law for reporting the news in relation release of documents by WikiLeaks (by the way, Joe, you can’t charge someone who isn’t an American for treason). And now there are reports that the FCC is concocting a plan to regulate the news:
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) pushed back on Monday against a contention by a Democratic FCC commissioner that the government should create new regulations to promote diversity in news programming.
Barton was reacting to a proposal made last week by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who in a speech suggested that broadcasters be subject to a new “public values test” every four years.
“I hope … that you do not mean to suggest that it is the job of the federal government, through the [FCC], to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume,” Barton wrote Monday in a letter to Copps.
Copps had suggested that the test would make a broadcaster’s license renewal contingent upon proof that they meet a prospective set of federal criteria.
WikiLeaks has dropped its bombshell cache of U.S. diplomatic cables, ripping the cloak off scores of secret deals and duds, including clandestine North Korean support for Iran and the Bush administration’s failed attempt to remove nuclear material from Pakistan.
The release — more than a quarter-million back-channel cables that include brutally candid assessments of world leaders and previously undisclosed details of nuclear and antiterrorism activity — represents the most embarrassing and potentially damaging disclosure of American diplomatic material in decades.
“I don’t see the world ending … but lots of red, sputtering faces in D.C., embassies and capitals,” a senior American diplomat told POLITICO early Sunday, just before the release of the documents, which chronicle the sprawling growth of the U.S. diplomatic and intelligence corps after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The diplomat also predicted that governments and individuals overseas are likely to clam up as a result of the disclosures, “since no one will trust us to keep a secret for a while,” while “various and sundry interest groups will cherry-pick whatever can be found in the documents to support whatever version of reality they are peddling.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) isn’t a fan of free speech. During hearing on Wednesday, the senior Senator from West Virginia called for the FCC to shut down Fox News and MSNBC; in part because it would make life easier for members of Congress:
Despite his rant, as Doug Mataconis points out, the FCC has no power to take these networks off the air.
I don’t watch the news anymore. I get everything off the web these days. However, the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. And whether you like Fox News or MSNBC or not, they serve as an integral part of our system, continuing a tradition that has literally been around since the foundation of our nation.
The mid-terms aren’t even over yet and Democrats are already blaming their impending defeat on outside groups spending money against them:
With Election Day still a week away, Democrats are previewing what promises to be a main line of argument if Republicans make strong gains in Congress: Conservatives bought their way to power with a flood of spending by outside groups.
These post-mortems, made before the patient is actually dead, have slipped into public statements from top Democrats in recent days. And the argument is being made even more strongly in not-for-attribution comments to reporters from party operatives: A tough-but-manageable political climate turned much more lethal with the infusion of tens of millions of dollars from anonymous donors funding ads for right-leaning independent groups.
The denunciations of outside money by President Barack Obama and others began as a tool to rally the Democratic base before the Nov. 2 election. But in recent days it has morphed gradually into something else: A main talking point to explain—and fend off the recriminations over—what many Washington Democrats assume will be a brutal election night.
Vice President Joe Biden sounded the first notes of the coming it-was-the-money message last week in an interview with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt.
“We will keep control of the Senate for certain, and I believe we’ll keep control of the House,” Biden said before adding that he had been “amazed” at the cash pro-Republican third-party outfits are dropping in campaigns.
“I’ve never seen this before, so the only caveat I’d put in terms of the House is how much impact this $200 billion are going to mean,” he hedged.
Recently, President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have been slamming the United States Chamber of Commerce for spending money on ads in the mid-term election, money they contend is coming from foreign source, which is illegal. The problem with the accusation is that it’s false. The New York Times notes:
[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.
In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.
The spin from the Obama Administration is that the president is just trying to “draw attention to the inadequacies of campaign disclosure laws.” The DISCLOSE Act, which was shot down in the Senate (twice), would have required PACs and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to produce their donor lists. That legislation was also an assault on free speech.