In New Colonial America, The King Resides In Washington


The existence of America’s Constitutionally protected free press has come full circle. The Barack Obama Administration’s disdain for whistle-blowers, combined with politicians’ calls for attacking journalists who publicize information provided by leakers in the interest of “national security,” suggests the Nation has reached an age in which its leaders feel comfortable publicly advocating for a total state monopoly on information.

In February, before the Presidential Administration found itself fielding a barrage of scandals, Vice President Joe Biden decried conservative alternative media for shouting down mainstream efforts to soften public perception of Congressional gun-control efforts. The Vice President called on the Nation’s “legitimate news media” to discredit any grass-roots information initiatives that have the potential to derail government propaganda.

“We’re counting on all of you, the legitimate news media, to cover these [gun policy] discussions because the truth is that times have changed,” Biden said.

Then, we likened Biden’s proclamation that alternative media was spreading a bunch of “malarkey” to British efforts to quash Colonial America’s first multipage newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick, which was first printed by Richard Pierce and edited by Benjamin Harris in Boston on Sept. 25, 1690.

The British efforts stemmed from information included in the publication that stirred up public grievances against the overseas rulers of the new lands. Upon shutting down the publication, government officials announced: “The Governour and Council having had the perusal of said Pamphlet, and finding that therein contained Reflections of a very high nature: As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports, do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppressed and called in; strickly forbidden any person or persons for the future to Set forth any thing in Print without License first obtained from those that are or shall be appointed by the Government to grant the same.”

Following the American Revolution, the Nation’s Founders sought to ensure that the public would forevermore be protected in its right to speak — rightly or wrongly — against government actions, with the inclusion of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press have, for the most part, remained sacrosanct in the United States in the eyes of the Nation’s highest court, which has sparingly limited certain forms of “at risk speech” (calling for violent actions, immediately jeopardizing national security or knowingly publishing libelous content) in some cases.

There have also been legislative actions to suspend free speech in certain moments of national or local distress via sedition acts on the Federal and State levels, most famously during the Nation’s Civil War and during World War I and World War II.

Currently, there is no law in the United States barring the publication of classified information provided by whistle-blowers; and no journalist has ever faced prosecution for doing so. But, citing a supposed grave threat to national security produced by recent whistle-blower revelations (Bradley Manning’s military document dump and the recent revelation of the National Security Agency’s communication surveillance dragnet), some lawmakers are seeking to change that.

Speaking about the NSA leak on CNN earlier this week, Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) said that reporters who published whistle-blower documents should be pursued with the same vigor by government prosecutors as the actual whistle-blowers.

“If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude,” King said.

“I think on something of this magnitude, there is an obligation both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something that would so severely compromise national security.”

King’s logic is out of line with the Constitution on many levels, most jarringly when one attempts to consider what the lawmaker must believe the intention of including a free press in the Nation’s Founding document must’ve been. He associates the recent leaks with a national security threat because he is being told, by the very people under public scrutiny stemming from the revelations, that revealing their Constitutionally questionable practices produces a threat.

King is not alone in his view, but he is definitely challenged by public perception — and even among his Congressional peers. For many observers, it’s a little puzzling when a government “for the people, by the people” wants to shred whistle-blowers and assume control of public information outlets — if only through threat of reprisal for pulling back the curtain — anytime an issue presented by the press makes the public question whose best interest is being tended.

For some, a more appropriate proclamation from government officials who have decried the NSA leak — and media’s involvement — would be: “This leak severely threatens the supremacy of the Federal bureaucracy.” Or, “This leak severely threatens government’s ability to keep dissent, even in its most benign forms, in check.”

Many Americans simply cannot go along with King and others citing a threat to “national security,” which should mean a threat to the well-being of the Nation’s citizens — at least not so very soon after two foreign-born terrorists were able to blow up a rice cooker, after months of planning and public demonstration of their own radicalization, at the Boston Marathon.

Considering that attack, it could be argued that the true threat to national security is how ineffectual NSA surveillance must be, which begs a question: What the hell is the government doing with all of the information it collects if it isn’t using it to catch real terrorists?

And, in a Nation that once prided itself on requiring agents of the state to shoulder the burden of proof in justifying that their actions are warranted,  other scandals — such as the explosive Internal Revenue Service abuses that are now public knowledge — probably aren’t helping America’s bureaucrats make a strong case for more control.

Looking back to the original minds behind the Constitutional guarantee of press freedom, a definite theme is recognizable: America’s Founders were not so naïve as to think that a free press would always be in the best interest of government affairs. In fact, Thomas Jefferson held a view that was quite the opposite.

Writing from Paris in 1787 to Edward Carrington, whom he sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788, Jefferson discussed the importance of newspapers and why, even when the free press inhibits government ability, it must not be suppressed:

I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.

Based on his remarks, it’s hard to doubt that Jefferson would hold steadfast in support of today’s whistle-blowers and the journalists who have publicized their leaks. Of course, if Jefferson were in America today, it’s probably also safe to assume that he would have already secured himself a spot on more than a few government watch lists.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • TexasOlTimer

    If the administration and those law makers wanting to make it against the law to publish anything that has been granted the ‘top secret’ label are able to accomplish that, it only means that anything an administration wants to do and keep from the public, it only has to stamp it ‘top secret.’

    Since the Intelligence Committees are only made up of a few individuals from Congress and they are sworn to secrecy, anything they are told, they can’t reveal. However, what they are told, how much or how little, is at the discretion of the agency giving the briefing.

    If we stifle our journalists, we will have become no different than any dictatorship where newspapers only print what is permitted. Our freedoms will have been lost along with our country because it is only with the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers placed in the Constitution that give us that freedom.

    • vicki

      Since there is already the existence of top-secret (for national security you know) our news papers are already only able to print what is permitted.

      Add to that the ability to threaten anyone with the data mining of PRISM and we begin to understand why so much of the MSM (now including Fox) no longer even ask the soft questions.

  • Bernie Newcomer

    King’s is like a criminal who blames his mother when caught. The reason given for abusing us is for our security-you can see how well that has happened with the IRS. Knowing that the IRS will get you make you feel secure? Now we find the NSA is abusing our privacy and the government wants to blame and punish those who told us. King believes the journalist who wrote the story should go to jail-no 1st amendment any more according to king. Forget about being a whistle blower, look at what has happened to those who have tried.
    So we should forgive the abuse because they only had our best interests in mind. Maybe we need for king and his fellow reps. to realize we want FREEDOM not their abuse-show them Nov. 2014.

    • perry

      King is just another criminal in washington like most of them he runs his mouth like a guilty person.I would like to know why we never get a chance to ask the the questions the press will not.

  • guest

    Is that the purpose of leaking the NSA, to take away more of our Freedoms? I knew there was a reason
    even though the information came from a traitorist coward and should not have been fed to the general uninformed populace, let alone handed to our enemies I believe the reporter has the right and duty to report
    perhaps not in great detail

    • perry

      you call him a coward, and other names you will change your mind when you end up in a government camp and forced to work for food.

  • Blank Reg

    Guys like King always invoke vague statements of “national security” as an excuse for horrendous actions. What they really mean is “government security”, that is, the continued freedom for people like them to violate everyone else’s lives, liberties, and privacy in secret without oversight or consequences. This is why we had a Revolution to begin with.

  • M

    How many amendments are for the people in the US constitution? I can think of five. !, 2, 4, 9, 10. The fifth just mentions persons accused. The sixth gives persons the right to sue over $20. I am a person and should be free to be in my house without any government intrusion. No army man no government nobody unless I invite them.I did not ask NSA to look into my verizon account.

    • vicki

      The 2 most important points about our intended government never explained in our public schools are

      1. We are a Constitutionally LIMITED Republic and not a democracy.
      2. The Bill of Rights limits the powers we can delegate to our government.

      The 2nd one is particularly useful in explaining why the Bill of rights has the 9th and 10th Amendments in it.

  • perry

    when in the days of america the powers wish to take over the just do away with our rights and the DHS starts there take over by use of their large stock of ammo they have. we need to run for our lives.

  • guest


    I will not change my mind
    I believe there is soon a time when the Christian and the Jew will be rounded up and yes this technology makes it much easier to accomplish but I also believe that in the mean time we are being protected and that it really is not as much a loss of freedom as standing and being x rayed or prodded at the airport

    I believe Snowden is a cowardly traitor
    he did not need to run to China
    he could have outed the NSA without doing that
    the reporters that printed it did right but could have done it with less detail but if they had then the next one would have scooped them so they did their duty

    there is a political reason why he did this right after China and obomination met
    there are ulterior motives and distraction being practiced on us like false flag situations
    this will only be used to take more of our freedoms away not give them back and it will leave us with one less tool to stave off terrorists which is China’s and Islams win and I think the one has some how helped to orchestrate this too
    it all leads to the Christians and Jews being removed
    there really is no place to run
    look up your redemption draws nigh
    JESUS will soon return

  • chrisnj

    Okay – we all see the problem. What are we going to do about it?