Worrisome civil liberty news censored by media
By Peter Phillips
Published Friday, September 07, 2007
We need to broaden our understanding of censorship in the United States. No
longer is the dictionary definition of direct government control of news adequate.
The private corporate media in the United States significantly under-cover and/or
deliberately censor numerous important news stories every year as well.
Project Censored at Sonoma State University has annually researched these stories
for 31 years. Over 200 faculty, community experts, and students, select and
rank the stories the media failed to cover. Hundreds of uncovered news stories
are evaluated. The result is the annual listing of the top 25 most important
ones that were censored.
The systemic erosion of human rights and civil liberties in the United States
is the most common theme of censorship for 2006-07.
The corporate media last year ignored that habeas corpus can now be suspended
for anyone by order of the president. With the approval of Congress, the Military
Commissions Act MCA of 2006 allows for the suspension of habeas corpus for U.S.
citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in
"The New York Times" October 19, 2006, have given false comfort that
American citizens will not be the victims of the measures legalized by this
act, the law is quite clear that "any person" can be targeted. The
text in the MCA allows for the institution of a military alternative to the
constitutional justice system for "any person" regardless of American
citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus rights for all
people in the United States deemed by the president to be enemy combatants.
Laws enacted last year allowing the government to more easily institute martial
law is another civil liberties story ignored by the corporate media in 2006-07.
The Defense Authorization Act of 2007 allows the president to station troops
anywhere in the United States and to take control of state-based National Guard
units without the consent of the governor or local authorities to "suppress
public disorder." The law in effect repealed the Posse Comitatus Act, which
had placed strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement
in the United States since just after the Civil War.
Additionally, under the code-name Operation FALCON — Federal and Local
Cops Organized Nationally — three federally coordinated mass arrests occurred
between April 2005 and October 2006. In an unprecedented move, more than 30,000
"fugitives" were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation’s
history. The operations, coordinated by the Justice Department and Homeland
Security, directly involved over 960 agencies (state, local and federal) and
are the first time in U.S. history that all of the domestic police agencies
have been put under the direct control of the federal government.
Finally, believe it or not, the term "terrorism" has been dangerously
expanded to include any acts that interfere with, or promote interference with
the operations of animal enterprises. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, signed
into law on November 27, expands the definition of an "animal enterprise"
to any business that "uses or sells animals or animal products." The
law essentially makes many protesters, boycotters or picketers of businesses
in the U.S. potential terrorists.
Most people in the United States believe in our Bill of Rights and value our
personal freedoms. Yet, our corporate media in the past year failed to inform
us about serious changes in our civil rights and liberties. Despite busy lives,
we want to be informed about serious decisions made by the powerful, and we
rely on the corporate media to keep us abreast of important changes. When the
media fails to cover these issues, what else can we call it but censorship?
A broader definition of censorship in America today needs to include any interference,
deliberate or not, with the free flow of vital news information to the American
people. With the size of the media giants in the United States, there is no
excuse for consistently missing major news stories that affect all our lives.
Peter Phillips is a professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and
director of Project Censored. He is co-editor with Andrew Roth of "Censored
2008" from Seven Stories Press to be released in September. Censored story
summaries are available on-line at www.projectcensored.org.
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