A bold maneuver, unprecedented in American politics, has pitted the Obama campaign against freedom of speech. Missouri authorities will pursue criminal charges against those who speak “falsely” against Barack Obama.
"Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.” (From a statement issued by Governor Matt Blunt on Sept. 24)
St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, both members of The Obama Truth Squad, have threatened to bring libel charges against those who speak out falsely against Barack Obama. Some say that such threats by Missouri authorities to pursue criminal charges violate civil rights. Many see this as an attempt by the Obama campaign at voter intimidation.
KMOV has a Sept. 23 video news report on this story. The report clearly shows involvement by the Obama campaign. This is an excerpt from the KVOV report:
“Sen Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign is asking Missouri law enforcement to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading television ad during the Presidential campaign . . . Prosecutors and sheriffs from across Missouri are joining something called the Barack Obama Truth Squad . . .”
According to Saint Louis CofCC Blog the attempts by the Obama campaign at voter intimidation are clear, but in actuality “virtually nobody that levels criticism at Barack Obama can be charged criminally for doing so.”
The implication here is also clear — if people with badges and guns are getting involved, they want Obama critics to shut up lest some cop will arrest them and send them to jail. We also found out from this news clip that this is indeed all at the behest of the Obama campaign. . .
Based on the 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision, New York Times vs Sullivan, Saint Louis CofCC Blog goes on to explain that if a “prosecutorial authority brings criminal libel charges against a defendant on behalf of a plaintiff, as McCulloch and Joyce are threatening to do, then the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve out of twelve jurors that the defendant knowingly said or wrote something factually incorrect about the defendant.”
The two key concepts here are “knowingly” and “factual.” Successful civil libel lawsuits brought by public figures are exceedingly rare, because it’s very difficult to prove that the defendant “knowingly” said or wrote something factually incorrect. Criminal libel prosecutions thereof, because they require a unanimous jury and a higher legal standard of proof, are virtually impossible.
As for “factual,” it means that the statement made cannot relate to an opinion. If you say that Barack Obama isn’t really a Christian, that’s not a statement of fact, because religion is mostly subjective. The Catholic Church still really doesn’t consider Protestants to be Christians, and in some cases, some radical Protestants don’t think that Catholics are really Christians. Therefore, if one says that Barack Obama isn’t a Christian, it isn’t actionable, because it’s somebody’s opinion. Now, if Obama were a Catholic, and really was Confirmed as such, and someone for whom that it can be proven does know he is a Confirmed Catholic goes out and says that he isn’t, that’s actionable. The reason is that Confirmation in the Catholic Church is (usually) provable by ecclesiastical records.
Federal civil rights lawsuits could be brought against Missouri officials and the Obama campaign under several statutes such as the First Amendment Retaliation (under 42 USC Section 1983), or “under the KKK Act (42 USC Section 1985) – it is unlawful for two or more persons to form a conspiracy to use threats or intimidation to prevent the exercise of civil rights (including voting).”
Instapundit.com has listed several other attempts at free speech intimidation by the Obama campaign.
Stephen Kruiser of America Needs Me writes:
. . .There is a disturbing pattern of thuggish behavior by Obama and his supporters. Obama himself finally let the mask slip for a moment when he told supporters to go out and “get in peoples’ faces”. He then dispatched his minions to threaten and silence critics.
The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star has an editorial about the Obama campaign banning signs and banners during his rally Saturday at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.
. . .Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is scheduled to speak at a rally at the university today. The public is invited to this forum, on property it, the public, owns. However, signs and banners will not be allowed, according to the organizers and compliant campus officials. Suddenly, UMW is a First Amendment-Free, or at least a First Amendment-Crippled, Zone, subject to the self-serving preferences of politicos. Why does an Obama rally–or a McCain rally or a Nader rally–justify taking a little off the top of Americans’ most fundamental rights?
A UMW spokeswoman says that the Obama campaign required the sign-and-banner ban. That campaign tells us that the ban is for “security” reasons. But a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting presidential candidates, says that the service has no objection to signs at rallies, provided that no “part of the sign could be used as a weapon”–e.g., a heavy metal pole or a sharpened stick. Finally, the McCain campaign tells us, “We encourage people to make signs at our events.” . . .
The First Amendment guarantees the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, petition of the government. Will one who aspires to the title Defender of the Constitution begin inhibiting these First Freedoms even before he is in office--at a public university?
Some are drawing inferences that Obama’s Truth Squad is a precursor to Obama’s plan for a civilian national security force. In July World Net Daily wrote:
Democrat Sen. Barack Obama's stunning assertion in a recent speech that the U.S. needs a "civilian national security force" that would be as powerful, strong and well-funded as the half-trillion dollar Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force is not included in published transcripts of his prepared remarks. . . Campaign officials have declined to return any of a series of WND telephone calls over several days requesting comment. Nor have they posted a transcript of the speech on their website.
Gateway Pundit warns Obama Stalinist Police State Already Taking Form
. . .Reminiscent of the beginning of the Stalin purges, the Obama “Truth Squads” seem to be the beginning of Obama’s plan to end free speech and create a police state that is beholden only to its secular messiah. Note: Stalin’s purges were affected by his country-wide police forces to silence political opponents. The Obama campaign has also advised Missouri law enforcement throughout the state to look for anything that the Obama campaign determines a lie. . . One of the most frightening aspects of all of this—as if it could become any more horrific—is that Missouri law enforcement now appears to be following Obama’s marching orders and it is being allowed to get away with these gangster tactics! . .
Here’s the statement issued by Governor Matt Blunt on Sept. 24.
Gov. Blunt Statement on Obama Campaign’s Abusive Use of Missouri Law Enforcement
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.
“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.
“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.
“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.
“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.”