Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

March 3, 2009

Bush Administration considered free speech restrictions?

by Jason Pye

The Bush Administration weighed restrictions on the First Amendment, according to a recently released memo:

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration.

At that time, Steven Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel throughout Bush’s second term, concluded that Yoo’s statements about overriding First Amendment freedoms were “unnecessary” and “overbroad and general and not sufficiently grounded in the particular circumstance of a concrete scenario,” according to a memo from Bradbury also made public Monday.

Kate Martin, the director for the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington think tank, said the newly disclosed memo by Yoo and Robert Delahunty, another OLC lawyer, was part of a broader legal reasoning that gave President Bush essentially unfettered powers in the war on terrorism. “In October 2001, they were trying to construct a legal regime that would basically have allowed for the imposition of martial law,” said Martin.

John Yoo is also responsible for other abuses of executive power.

Yoo cited a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court Justice that most epitomizes collectivism, “[w]hen it comes to a decision by the head of the state upon a matter involving its life, the ordinary rights of individuals must yield to what he deems the necessities of the moment.” According to John Yoo, the Constitution and Bill of Rights do not apply in time of war.

You can view the section of the memo dealing with the First Amendment here.

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  • http://www.JohnEvans.US John Evans

    That is some seriously scary stuff…

  • Pingback: Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » It Could Have Been Much, Much Worse

  • http://gordonunleashed.com/blog/ Stephen Gordon

    I remember watching Yoo and Bob Barr debate at CPAC a couple years back. At that time, I considered Yoo the devil incarnate.

    After this document saw the light of day, perhaps he’s the devil in his true form.

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