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Thursday, June 24, 2010

You could be in trouble with the feds for emailing a complaint to your congressman?

Nat Hentoff: Philadelphia man indicted for using right to free speech

This is a story that should be a warning to Americans, regardless of political party, because it dramatically illustrates what pre-eminent civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate documents in his book, "Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" by means of the ever-increasing broad and vague federal laws that allow prosecutors to pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, even for the most seemingly innocuous behavior.
Consider what happened to an unemployed American, Bruce Shore, because of e-mails he sent to the Web site of U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky. As reported by Arthur Delaney on huffingtonpost.com, Shore, watching the Senate in inaction on C-Span, was angered when Bunning complained that, gosh, he has missed the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game because he had to be in Congress to debate an unemployment benefits bill.
"I was livid, I was just livid," recalled the 51-year-old Shore. "I’m on unemployment, so it affects me."
Here is part of his Feb. 26 messages to Bunning staffers: "Are you’all insane. No checks equal no food for me. Do you get it?"
The next month, FBI agents came calling to Shore’s home in Philadelphia. They read him excerpts from his citizen’s complaints and asked whether he was the author, which Shore readily admitted. Apparently these agents had heard something about the First Amendment, and told this indignant American, "All right, we just wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything to worry about."
But the ever-vigilant Obama administration was not satisfied. On May 13 U.S. Marshals appeared at Shore’s door and handed him a grand jury indictment. James Madison, the father of the First Amendment, had insisted that the great right of freedom of speech must be placed beyond the reach of any branch of government. This is the indictment that forced Shore into federal court. The language is that of Communications Act of 1934 as amended and updated to include electronic messages in the Telecommunications Act of 1996: "(Shore) did utilize a telecommunications device, that is a computer, whether or not communication ensued, without disclosing his identity and with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten and harass any person who received the communication."

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