January 09, 2004

An Unamerican Secret Service?

Donald Sensing and Bill Hobbs are debating Secret Service established "free speech zones". Unfortunately, both seem to be somewhat taken in by a bit of SS sleight of hand so the debate is a bit unreal. Donald Sensing is taking the protesters' side here and here. Bill Hobbs' side of the argument is here. Now for the sleight of hand that both of them are missing.

The First amendment grants recognition to several rights. Congress may make no law respecting these rights, and without a law, the Secret Service, as part of the executive, has no right to do anything regarding these activities either. Two of these rights are apparently at stake in the debate over free speech zones, free speech and the right to petition the government.

The Secret Service, by making a time, manner, and place restriction, is not violating the free speech rights of anybody. You can't exercise your free speech by protesting in a blockade, for instance. The police (executive branch of government) have the right to let people go about their business. And the SS would really like you to concentrate on that aspect of the 1st amendment.

But if the government agent that you want to address cannot be addressed because you are kept away from him, you are being kept from petitioning him. Your petition may be ignored, but it cannot go unheard, even if it's "crawl under a rock and die" or "resign!" When you have a grievance, you have a special right to petition the government for redress that goes beyond normal first amendment free speech rights. As long as you are peaceful, you cannot be restricted. Maintaining the peace is the only thing that the executive may do.

By talking exclusively about free speech rights, the Secret Service is adopting a false 'frame'. This is an effective psychological tactic of putting the debating terms on friendly ground to your side. But once the frame is exposed, the trick no longer works. What's the point of including the petitioning clause if your petition, no matter how rude or improbable the chance it will be granted will never be heard because government agents discriminatorily keep you away from the President, to whom you wish to address your petition? The petition right must give you additional freedom beyond free speech.

The grievance ridden protesting Left has many faults but they deserve their right to petition for redress as well as free speech. The Secret Service violates the Constitution when they prevent those petitions from being heard.

Posted by TMLutas at January 9, 2004 12:05 AM