Freedom of Speech And The War On Terrorby Doug Mataconis
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke in Manchester, New Hampshire yesterday on the topic of freedom of speech. When it comes to applying freedom of speech to campaign finance laws, Gingrich made this excellent point:
MANCHESTER, N.H. –Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says First Amendment rights need to be expanded, and eliminating the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on campaign contributions would be a start.
Gingrich, a Republican, suggested allowing people to give any amount to any candidate as long as the donation was reported online within 24 hours.
“Just as tax lawyers always succeed in out-thinking the (Internal Revenue Service) because they stay after five and the IRS goes home, the private-sector lawyers will always out-think the (Federal Election Commission) because they stay after five and the FEC goes home,” Gingrich told about 400 people at the Nackey Scripps Loeb First Amendment Awards dinner Monday.
Newt’s absolutely right on this one. McCain-Feingold is one of the most egregious restrictions on political speech that Congress has passed in quite some time. The fact that it was upheld by the Supreme Court is even more distressing.
Where Gingrich falls apart, unfortunately, is when it comes to the issue of freedom of speech and the war on terror:
MANCHESTER – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.
Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a “different set of rules” may be needed to reduce terrorists’ ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.
“We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade,” said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP’s takeover of Congress in 1994.
I’m not quite sure what Newt means when he talks about “re-examining” freedom of speech, but it doesn’t sound good at all. In the wake of 9/11, we “re-examined” the Fourth Amendment and it brought us the Patriot Act. I hate to think what a re-examination of the First Amendment would bring us.
H/T: Hit & Run
Update 11/29/06: There has been discussion in the comments about whether the Union-Leader accurately reported what Gingrich said. A link to the speech can be found here, and here is the relevant part:
This is a serious long term war, and it will enviably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country, that will lead us to learn how to close down every website that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear of biological weapons.
And, my prediction to you is that ether before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.
This is a serious problem that will lead to a serious debate about the first amendment, but I think that the national security threat of losing an American city to a nuclear weapon, or losing several million Americans to a biological attack is so real that we need to proactively, now, develop the appropriate rules of engagement.
And, I further think that we should propose a Genève convention for fighting terrorism which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous.
This is a sober topic, but I think it is a topic we need a national dialogue about, and we need to get ahead of the curve rather than wait until actually we literary lose a city which could literally happen within the next decade if we are unfortunate
At the very least, Gingrich is theorizing that First Amendment right would be curtailed in the wake of another massive terror attack (a theory which I think is largely correct). On the other hand, though, I think it’s fair to say that he was advocating we at least look at doing this, and that’s where I have a problem.