EXCLUSIVE: Bergdahl declared jihad in captivity, secret documents show , secret documents show

deserter

EXCLUSIVE: Bergdahl declared jihad in captivity, secret documents show , secret documents show

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, according to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News.

The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.

The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.

The reports are rich in on-the-ground detail — including the names and locations of the Haqqani commanders who ran the 200-man rotation used to guard the Idaho native — and present the most detailed view yet of what Bergdahl’s life over the past five years has been like. These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe.

The group is run by Duane R. (“Dewey”) Clarridge, a former senior operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s best known for having been indicted for lying to Congress about his role in the tangled set of events that became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. He was pardoned by the first President Bush in December 1992 while on trial.

Clarridge counts a number of achievements in his spy career as well, including a prominent role in the establishment of a national counterrorism center at CIA, a move widely copied around the world by foreign intelligence agencies. A New York Times profile of Clarridge published in January 2011 disclosed the contractual relationship Eclipse had with the Pentagon, through subcontractors, and reported further that Clarridge’s activities had included efforts to help find Bergdahl.

Clarridge told Fox News his group enjoyed a subcontract through the assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict from November 2009 through May 31, 2010, and that after the contract was terminated, he invested some $50,000 of his own money to maintain the elaborate network of informants and handlers that had yielded such detailed accounts of Bergdahl’s status.

Clarridge further told Fox News that by the end of 2010, he had furnished at least 13 of these detailed SITREPs, or situation reports, that his network generated about Bergdahl to Brig. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., who in April 2010 was named director of intelligence, at the J-2 level, at U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Clarridge said Eclipse SITREP # 3023, dated Aug. 23, 2012 — in which a member of the Haqqani network, said to be close to Bergdahl’s captors, reported that the American prisoner had declared himself a “mujahid” — was among the reports provided to Ashley.

 

The latter is now commanding general at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, where a message left with the public affairs office was not immediately returned.

The documents obtained by Fox News show that Eclipse developed and transmitted numerous status reports on the whereabouts of the errant American soldier, spanning a period from October 2009, roughly three months after Bergdahl reportedly walked off his base in Afghanistan and fell into custody of the Haqqani network, up through August 2012.

At one point — in late June 2010, after Bergdahl succeeded in one of his escape attempts — the Haqqani commanders constructed a special metal cage for him, and confined him to it. At other points, however, Bergdahl was reported to be happily playing soccer with the Haqqani fighters, taking part in AK-47 target practice and being permitted to carry a firearm of his own, laughing frequently and proclaiming “Salaam,” the Arabic word for “peace.”

Reached by telephone, retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, a 45-year service veteran who served as CENTCOM commander from August 2010 to August 2012, told Fox News he may have received bits and pieces of the intelligence generated by Eclipse, but said Ashley, with whom he maintained a close working relationship, had not forwarded on to him the specific SITREPs cited by Fox News.

Mattis was also adamant that no one at CENTCOM or within the broader U.S. military or intelligence community — despite intensive investigation of such allegations — ever learned of anything to suggest Bergdahl had evolved into an active collaborator with the Haqqani network or the Taliban. “We were always looking for actionable intelligence,” Mattis said. “It wasn’t just the IC [intelligence community]. We had tactical units that were involved in the fight. We had SIGINT. Any collaborators who were on the other side and who came over to our side. We kept an eye on this. … There was never any evidence of collaboration.”

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Fox News reported on Monday that Bergdahl was the subject of a “major classified file” prepared by the U.S. intelligence community, and that many members of that community harbored concerns that Bergdahl, during his period of captivity, may have engaged in collaboration with the enemy.

Experts consulted by Fox News said that SITREP # 3023 presents a picture of an American captive who, if not an active collaborator, may have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome — the dynamic by which hostages can become enamored of their captors and join their cause — or simply feigned allegiance in order to survive. The report cited a source new to Eclipse — a member of the Haqqani network said to be close to Mullah Sangeen, the Haqqani commander charged at all points over the last five years with operational custody and control of Bergdahl — whose trustworthiness had not been fully vetted by the group. However, the report stated, the informant “does have plausible access to the information reported below, and claims to have seen Bergdahl personally in Shawal,” in North Waziristan.

“In the early stages Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s captivity,” the report states, “he was held at Palasin, Naurak, FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], under the control of Mullah Sangeen and under the direct supervision of Haji Mursaleem, Sangeen’s father. Conditions and locality changed after Mursaleem died [in September 2010], and Bergdahl was kept under tight guard after his attempted escape from his new place of detention in Shawal.

“As of August 2012,” the report continues, “the person with responsibility for Bergdahl’s captivity is Sangeen’s brother, who has delegated the actual guarding of Bergdahl to Abubakr Asadkhel, a Burra Khel Wazir loyal to Sangeen, and whose sub-tribe lives in Shawal. Abubakr leads approximately 200 armed men from his tribe and operates from five bases (markaz) in Shawal. … Abubakr’s tribe is one of the prosperous branches of the Wazir and owns lots of trucks. Abubakr circulates his prisoner between schools in the area he controls, and his different insurgent bases.”

Conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying ‘Salaam’ repeatedly.

At other points, the SITREPs depict a much nastier relationship between Bergdahl and his captors. In July 2010, Eclipse SITREPs based on confidential talks with Afghan Taliban commanders reported that “the original command structure for the responsibility of holding the captured soldier remains intact.”

Overall responsibility for the captive is in the hands of Haqqani commander Sangeen, with Bandiwan, one of his deputies, responsible for making the detailed arrangements. There are two locations where the soldier is kept: one in Degan and the other in Shawal, North Waziristan. When in Degan he is kept in the compound of Eid Wale, a local Dawr who is close to Sangeen and is a chromite dealer. The other location is at Shawal. The


confirmed that the soldier had been missing for five days and when he was recovered, he was a little worse from wear (lack of food; a bit slimmer) but otherwise in good health.

But an earlier dispatch stated that after his re-capture, on or about June 22, 2010, Bergdahl was “in ill-health, and has been collapsing.”A SITREP dated one week before Bergdahl’s ill-fated escape attempt placed him in the Bazaar area of Miramshah, and noted that “he seemed not to be tightly controlled.”

The Eclipse reports suggest that negotiations over Bergdahl’s fate began within a few months after his capture. An October 2009 SITREP disclosed that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Pashtun warlord controlling the broader network that bears his name, had reached out through Pakistani political contacts to propose a prisoner swap. A July 2010 SITREP stated that two months prior, in late May, “negotiations between the Haqqani and representatives of the missing US soldier collapsed.” At that point, the report said, Bergdahl was moved to a more secure location.

The New York Times, in its 2011 profile of Clarridge, described his agents’ dispatches as “an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports.” The fabled ex-spook made the more than one dozen SITREPs that Eclipse prepared on the Bergdahl case — all previously unpublished — available to Fox News because he wanted to demonstrate, as he put it: “We know what we’re talking about.”

MY SON DIED ‘LOOKING FOR A TRAITOR?’

Gold Star mom: MY SON DIED ‘LOOKING FOR A TRAITOR?’

bilde

Jun. 2, 2014 – 06:00AM   |
2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, left, and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. (File and AP)

Sondra Andrews’ son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, is one of six soldiers killed reportedly while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The sergeant’s return to captivity has stirred “very raw emotions.”

“It gets really hurtful when I think, this guy was worth my son’s life? My son who was patriotic? Who was a true soldier? Who defended his country with his life?” Andrews told Army Times via phone on Monday. “That guy was worth that? I don’t think so.”

Andrews also was upset to hear the U.S. government agreed to release five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom.

“I bet you anything there were soldiers killed or wounded capturing those five guys,” she said. “So what does that do for their sacrifice? They sacrificed for nothing, because they turned right around and let them go.”

Bergdahl disappeared June 30, 2009, from a base in Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan.

He and Darryn Andrews were deployed with 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Soldiers who say they served with Bergdahl have since spoken out on social media and in news reports that the then-Pfc. abandoned his post, wandering away from the combat outpost on his own. Many expressed anger that soldiers were killed while searching for Bergdahl.

Darryn Andrews was one of those men.

He was killed Sept. 4, 2009, when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device and a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the Defense Department notice announcing his death. He was 34.

The military told the Andrews family that their soldier died after a mission to capture a top Taliban fighter, Sondra Andrews said.

“By omission, we assumed they were just pursuing the Taliban,” she said. “Then the guys [Darryn Andrews served with] started contacting me. They said, ‘No, ma’am, we were looking for [Bergdahl].’ ”

Sondra Andrews said she’s “very angry” that the military didn’t contact the family before announcing Bergdahl’s recovery.

“They didn’t have enough respect for us to give us the consideration of letting us know, especially since Darryn was part of that mission,” she said. “As a mother, you’re like, ‘what else have they not told us?’ ”

Within hours of Bergdahl’s disappearance, her son and his soldiers went out on foot patrols to search for him, Sondra Andrews said.

“They found his gear. They knew [he’d left],” she said. “You don’t get captured and leave your gear in neat little stacks. They knew he had walked away from his post.”

Sondra Andrews said she wants to see a full investigation into Bergdahl and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and captivity.

“The military really owes the parents of these fallen soldiers the truth,” she said. “Just the fact that they’re calling that man a hero just took me to my knees.”

Sondra Andrews said she wants people to know her son was a good man and a good leader who always wanted to join the Army. Darryn Andrew’s son was just 2 years old when his father was killed. His daughter was born four months later.

“He was a wonderful father and family man, an amazing son, a great brother,” she said.

Obama saved a deserter?

Revealed: Bowe Bergdahl left letter telling comrades at Afghan base he was ‘leaving to start new life and didn’t want to fight for America’ as Army announces he DOES face desertion charges

 

 

  • Sgt Bowe Bergdahl left a note for his comrades in which he said he did not want to fight for America any more and was leaving to start a new life
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today said ‘it’s premature’ to think there will be no charges against Bergdahl
  • Will put Obama under more pressure after Susan Rice said he served with ‘honor and distinction’ and freed five Taliban commanders
  • Former comrade who was there when Bergdahl disappeared five years ago broke a military gagging order to speak to MailOnline
  • He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned Bergdahl deserted his men and should face the firing squad’
  • ‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off’

By DAN BATES

 

Bowe Bergdahl left a note saying he had gone to start a ‘new life’ and a former comrade broke his military gagging order today to tell MailOnline of the jaw-dropping moment he discovered the Taliban POW had walked off from their Afghanistan base.

The soldier, who requested anonymity as he is still in the military, said: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off.’

The New York Times reported Bergdahl also left behind a note in which he said he did not want to fight for America any more, did not believe in the war – and was leaving to start a new life.

The revelation came as it emerged the Army may still pursue charges against Sgt Bergdahl for desertion.

AWOL: Bowe Bergdahl, pictured with pipe in mouth manning an observation post months before his disappearance, left a note telling his fellow soldiers that he was leaving to start a new life, did not want to fight for America and did not believe in war

AWOL: Bowe Bergdahl, pictured with pipe in mouth manning an observation post months before his disappearance, left a note telling his fellow soldiers that he was leaving to start a new life, did not want to fight for America and did not believe in war

 

Trial? Bergdahl (in T-shirt)faces the threat of desertion charges, the Army announced just days after Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice said he served with 'honor and distinction'

Trial? Bergdahl (in T-shirt)faces the threat of desertion charges, the Army announced just days after Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice said he served with ‘honor and distinction’

 

Penalty: A former comrade of Bergdahl's (seated with Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion 501st infantry Regiment (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan) said he should face the firing squad for what he did

Penalty: A former comrade of Bergdahl’s (seated with Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion 501st infantry Regiment (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan) said he should face the firing squad for what he did

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said military leaders have been accused of ‘looking away from misconduct, and it’s premature’ to think they will not look into it.

This comes just days after Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser said he served with ‘honor and distinction’.

There are a variety of offenses related to an absence without proper approval, and a number of potential actions could be taken by the military.

He could be tried by court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for desertion; he could be given a non-judicial punishment for a lesser charge, such as being away without leave. And he could be given credit for time already served while he was a prisoner.

 

It will pile further pressure on Obama over his judgement in releasing five top Taliban terror leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a soldier who now faces charges for abandoning his unit and his oath to the U.S. Army.

The soldier who spoke to MailOnline made his feelings and those of his comrades very clear.

He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned Bergdahl deserted his men and should face the firing squad. People died trying to save him. He was a deserter’.

Bergdahl’s platoon anxiously searched the observation post they had set up a remote area of Afghanistan but only found Bergdahl’s sleeping bag that had been neatly folded up.

It also claimed that he did not breach the perimeter wire and left by possibly hiding in a contractor’s vehicle meaning that he would have planned the escape in advance.

A huge search ensued during which time at least six US soldiers are said to have died while hunting for Bergdahl, 28, who has just been released from five years in captivity with the Taliban.

Premeditated: Soldiers claim Bergdahl (pictured in proof of life video) planned his desertion. He sent belongings home, learned the language, did not breach the perimeter fence on the day he disappeared and would spend his time learning the local languages. He even told them he wanted to walk to China

Premeditated: Soldiers claim Bergdahl (pictured in proof of life video) planned his desertion. He sent belongings home, learned the language, did not breach the perimeter fence on the day he disappeared and would spend his time learning the local languages. He even told them he wanted to walk to China

Killed in the search: Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, (left) and Private First Class Morris Walker, 23, (right) were killed in an IED explosion on August 18, 2009

Killed in the search: Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, (left) and Private First Class Morris Walker, 23, (right) were killed in an IED explosion on August 18, 2009

Killed in the search: Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, (left) and Private First Class Morris Walker, 23, (right) were killed in an IED explosion on August 18, 2009

 

 

Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss, (left) a 27-year-old father of two, who died in a firefighter on August 26, 2009. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey, 25, (right) was killed in an IED blast on September 5, 2009

Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss, (left) a 27-year-old father of two, who died in a firefighter on August 26, 2009. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey, 25, (right) was killed in an IED blast on September 5, 2009

Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss, (left) a 27-year-old father of two, who died in a firefighter on August 26, 2009. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey, 25, (right) was killed in an IED blast on September 5, 2009

Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, 34, (left) and Private First Class Matthew Michael Martinek, 20, (right) died after a rocket-propelled grenade ambush on September 4, 2009

Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, 34, (left) and Private First Class Matthew Michael Martinek, 20, (right) died after a rocket-propelled grenade ambush on September 4, 2009

Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, 34, (left) and Private First Class Matthew Michael Martinek, 20, (right) died after a rocket-propelled grenade ambush on September 4, 2009

 

Bergdahl was serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment in Paktika province near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan when he went missing in the early hours of 30 June 2009.

He had been at part of an Observation Post with 28 colleagues men and a few trucks set up in a defensive position to protect themselves.

Some of the men were sleeping in the trucks they had driven in on and others were camped out with their sleeping bags in the open. It was not until the 9am roll call that they realized he was gone.

Up until this point Bergdahl had been seen as a strange loner who wouldn’t socialize with the other men. Instead, he would stick to his bunk, learning Pashto and Arabic with Rosetta Stone.

A week earlier he had sent his belongings and computer home to his parents after setting out in an email to his father that he was ‘ashamed to be an American’ after what he had seen in Afghanistan – including soldiers laughing at running over an Afghan boy with an armored vehicle.

Specialist Gerald Sutton, 31, Sutton remembered Bergdahl talking with him and a third soldier just a few days before he walked away.

‘As far as I’m concerned Bergdahl deserted his men and should face the firing squad. People died trying to save him. He was a deserter’
                    – former Platoon comrade

‘He was asking us what it would be like to get lost in the mountains …  and he asked me personally if I thought he could make it to China or India on foot. At the time we thought he was joking.

‘About a week or two before he left he mailed some of his stuff home,’ he said. ‘including his Apple laptop. He sent that home to his parents. That didn’t seem suspicious to us at the time, but it made sense after the fact.’

‘He left his weapon that day. The only thing he had with him was his diary – that none of us actually saw, so I have no idea what was in there – 2 MREs [‘Meals Ready to Eat’ rations], his knife, a bottle of water and his compass.’

The soldier who discovered him missing, said: ‘The first I heard was when one of the guards said he could not find Bergdahl.

‘I asked him: “What do you mean you can’t find him?’ He said he couldn’t find him anywhere. We sent two guys to the top of the observation post in case he was sleeping between two trucks, I thought maybe he’s sleeping down there.

‘We also sent one of the men to see if he was drinking tea with the Afghans. We looked at his sleeping bag and it was nicely folded.

Provisions: Bergdahl walked off without his gun, but with water, a compass and two days of rations

Provisions: Bergdahl walked off without his gun, but with water, a compass and two days of rations

 

Desperate hunt: The soldiers began a frantic search costing millions of dollars using drones, military tracking dogs and dozens of men for eight days, although the wider operation to find him went on for three months

Desperate hunt: The soldiers began a frantic search costing millions of dollars using drones, military tracking dogs and dozens of men for eight days, although the wider operation to find him went on for three months

‘I said what do we have missing here and one of the younger soldiers said that there were four or five bottles bottles of water missing from a crate that he had. It was chaos. We all knew what would happen if we couldn’t find him.

‘Bergdahl’s backpack was missing, so was his knife. I knew right away he had not been captured – he had walked off.’

The soldier was told by an Afghan boy they spoke to that told them he had seen an American soldier walking away through the fields.

The soldier said: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off.’

The soldiers began a frantic search costing millions of dollars using drones, military tracking dogs and dozens of men for eight days, although the wider operation to find him went on for three months.

Captain Travis Sorenson, the co-pilot of one of the first F15 aircraft sent up to hunt for Bergdahl, said that he heard on intelligence briefings in the next couple of days that he was thought to have been taken East straight away.

‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off’

The plan was to get him into a cave system over the border with Pakistan because it was away from US soldiers, he said.

Captain Sorenson, 36, who has now left the military, told MailOnline: ‘The operation to try and find Bergdahl must have cost millions.

‘We had F-15s flying constant missions for 48 hours and had 52 planes doing search runs. There were A-10s, Apache helicopters, British Tornadoes, British Navy Harriers and German Tornadoes.

‘When we found out that he had walked off the base we were all extremely angry and could not understand why he did it. We spent a couple of days looking for him when other soldiers were getting bombed, we couldn’t support Navy SEALs and other people.

Backfired: The court of public opinion has swung dramatically away from joy and celebration at Bergdahl's release since the weekend when Obama welcomed his parents, Jani and Bob, to the Rose Garden

Backfired: The court of public opinion has swung dramatically away from joy and celebration at Bergdahl’s release since the weekend when Obama welcomed his parents, Jani and Bob, to the Rose Garden

 

Anger: The military ordered members of Bergdahl's unit to sign non-disclosure agreements but they have since spoken out about his 'desertion' and how it cost the lives of those searching for him

Anger: The military ordered members of Bergdahl’s unit to sign non-disclosure agreements but they have since spoken out about his ‘desertion’ and how it cost the lives of those searching for him

‘We couldn’t do our jobs because we were looking for this guy’.

Leaked military communications on Wikileaks show the complete military signal traffic relating to Bergdahl’s release.

The text says that one of the last sightings of him was when he was in a black Toyota Corolla with a bag over his head being escorted by three to five motorcycles.

In intercepted chatter Taliban fighters could be heard asking themselves: ‘Is it true that they captured an American guy?’

The men joke about it and one of them responds that they should ‘cut the head off’.

Soldiers in Bergdahl’s platoon have claimed they were forced to sign a highly unusual nondisclosure agreement covering his disappearance in an apparent attempt to cover up what happened.

Two soldiers who spoke to MailOnline said the letter was passed around by commanders to those close to Sgt. Bergdahl.

The ploy backfired, however, as a number of soldiers spoke out regardless in angry Facebook messages and media interviews.

But the irregular action by the military raises fresh and disturbing questions about attempts to control the flow of information about the incident.

Sgt. Evan Buetow, who fought in Sgt. Bergdahl’s platoon, said: ‘I never signed it. I know there were a couple of soldiers who were closer to Sgt. Bergdahl as friends.

Beheading: Wikileaks files on intercepted Taliban comms showed that they wanted to 'cut his head off'

Beheading: Wikileaks files on intercepted Taliban comms showed that they wanted to ‘cut his head off’

‘I know a couple of them signed the official nondisclosure letter. We did not have to sign an NDA for other missions.’

Others who have spoken out anonymously on the Facebook page ‘Boweisatraitor’ have also referred to such a letter.

Another soldier from Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit who is still in the military told MailOnline: ‘The nondisclosure letters were handed around.’

‘Everyone signed them who was told to – they were just following orders.’

NDA letters are usually signed by soldiers who have security clearances or are working on sensitive missions.

The standard form is called SF312 and is known as a Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement. It prevents those who sign it from speaking about a specific event because it is in the interest of national security for them not to do so.

 

The Democratic Assault on the First Amendment

TedCruz

The Democratic Assault on the First Amendment

Congress has too much power already; it should not have the power to silence citizens.

 

June 1, 2014 6:35 p.m. ET
For two centuries there has been bipartisan agreement that American democracy depends on free speech. Alas, more and more, the modern Democratic Party has abandoned that commitment and has instead been trying to regulate the speech of the citizenry.
We have seen President Obama publicly rebuke the Supreme Court for protecting free speech in Citizens United v. FEC; the Obama IRS inquire of citizens what books they are reading and what is the content of their prayers; the Federal Communications
Commission proposing to put government monitors in newsrooms; and Sen. Harry Reid regularly slandering private citizens on the Senate floor for their political speech.But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. Senate Democrats have promised a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to expressly repeal the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.
You read that correctly. Forty-one Democrats have signed on to co-sponsor New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall’s proposed amendment to give Congress plenary power to regulate political speech. The text of the amendment says that Congress could regulate “the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections.” The amendment places no limitations whatsoever on Congress’s new power.

Two canards are put forth to justify this broad authority. First, “money is not speech.” And second, “corporations have no free speech rights.”

Neither contention bears even minimal scrutiny. Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money. Distributing the Federalist Papers or Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” required money. If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.

As for the idea that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Citizens Unite d because corporations have no First Amendment rights, that too is demonstrably false. The New York Times  is a corporation. The television network NBC is a corporation. Book publisher Simon & Schuster is a corporation. Paramount Pictures is a corporation. Nobody would reasonably argue that Congress could restrict what they say—or what money they spend distributing their views, books or movies—merely because they are not individual persons.

Dem

Proponents of the amendment also say it would just “repeal Citizens United” or “regulate big money in politics.” That is nonsense. Nothing in the amendment is limited to corporations, or to nefarious billionaires. It gives Congress power to regulate—and ban—speech by everybody.

Indeed, the text of the amendment obliquely acknowledges that Americans’ free-speech rights would be eliminated: It says “[n]othing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.” Thus, the New York Times is protected from congressional power; individual citizens, exercising political speech, are not.

If this amendment were adopted, the following would likely be deemed constitutional:

Congress could prohibit the National Rifle Association from distributing voter guides letting citizens know politicians’ records on the Second Amendment.

Congress could prohibit the Sierra Club from running political ads criticizing politicians for their environmental policies.

Congress could penalize pro-life (or pro-choice) groups for spending money to urge their views of abortion.

Congress could prohibit labor unions from organizing workers (an in-kind expenditure) to go door to door urging voters to turn out.

Congress could criminalize pastors making efforts to get their parishioners to vote.

Congress could punish bloggers expending any resources to criticize the president.

Congress could ban books, movies (watch out Michael Moore ) and radio programs—anything not deemed “the press”—that might influence upcoming elections.

One might argue, “surely bloggers would be protected.” But Senate Democrats expressly excluded bloggers from protection under their proposed media-shield law, because bloggers are not “covered journalists.

One might argue, “surely movies would be exempt.” But the Citizens United case—expressly maligned by President Obama during his 2010 State of the Union address—concerned the federal government trying to fine a filmmaker for distributing a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton.

One might argue, “surely books would be exempt.” But the Obama administration, in theCitizens United oral argument, explicitly argued that the federal government could ban books that contained political speech.

The contemplated amendment is simply wrong. No politician should be immune from criticism. Congress has too much power already—it should never have the power to silence citizens.

Thankfully, any constitutional amendment must first win two-thirds of the vote in both houses of Congress. Then three-fourths of the state legislatures must approve the proposed amendment. There’s no chance that Sen. Udall’s amendment will clear either hurdle. Still, it’s a reflection of today’s Democratic disrespect for free speech that an attempt would even be made. There was a time, not too long ago, when free speech was a bipartisan commitment.

John Stuart Mill had it right: If you disagree with political speech, the best cure is more speech, not less. The First Amendment has served America well for 223 years. When Democrats tried something similar in 1997, Sen. Ted Kennedy was right to say: “In the entire history of the Constitution, we have never amended the Bill of Rights, and now is no time to start.”