An unexpected victory for the First Amendment occurred late this evening when a Virginia Circuit Court Judge ordered the release of Brandon J. Raub, a former Marine detained for psychiatric evaluation after he posted several “anti –government” messages on his Facebook page.
Raub, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has received overwhelming support from the public since his arrest last Thursday. Raub was arrested without charge after being questioned about his posts by the FBI, Secret Service and Chesterfield County, VA police.
The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated, quickly came to Raub’s defense.
John W. Whitehead, founder and defense attorney for the Rutherford Institute said yesterday in a statement, “For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon.”
The larger concern should be that of the American people whose online activities are being unknowingly monitored by a number of government agencies who have continually denied such activities despite a series of unclassified government documents that prove that they are engaging in sweeping, national systematic surveillance on U.S. citizens.
A recent article by Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars, revealed that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been instructed to produce reports for the Department of Homeland Security specifically to track posts such as the ones Brandon Raub wrote on his Facebook page.
A manual, entitled Department of Homeland Security National Operations Center Media Monitoring Capability Desktop Reference Binder, was obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center via a FOIA request, clearly states the second of its three primary missions is “To constantly monitor all available open source information with the goal of expeditiously alerting the National Operations Center (NOC) Watch Team and other key Department personnel of emergency situations”.
The “other key Department personnel of emergency situations” often includes but is not limited to the TSA, FEMA, NSA, FBI, CIA and a host of other government agencies tasked with “keeping the country safe”.
Watson’s article also goes on to say that 300 documents were released in January 2012 that detailed how DHS hired General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, to monitor social media outlets along with a list of websites, on a “24/7/365 basis,” in order to uncover “any media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government and the Department of Homeland Security.”
In January, two British tourists visiting the U.S. were arrested for making jokes on their Twitter page about “destroying America”, despite the obvious knowledge that the term “destroy” is British slang for “party”. Earlier this year, Welsh soccer player Daniel Thomas was arrested for tweeting anti gay remarks.
One of the canons of the First Amendment was to protect everyone’s right to free speech and the press regardless of whether or not that speech was deemed “controversial” by the government.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Some might qualify Raub’s posts anti-government while some might say that he was exercising his First Amendment right in its purest modern day form.
“Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys,” Whitehead said. “These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies.” As government monitoring and surveillance of everyday activities becomes more commonplace, one has to really question what kind system we are under and where we are heading.