The other day, AP’s Matt Lee called out State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki’s suggestion that Edward Snowden is not entitled to free speech.
QUESTION: Okay. Then I just don’t understand. I think this is an incredibly slippery slope that you’re going down here, that the U.S. Government is going down here, if you are coming up and saying to us that you’re trying to prevent an American citizen – albeit one who has been accused of serious crimes – from exercising his right to free speech. You don’t agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that what I’ve conveyed most proactively here is our concern about those who helped facilitate this event —
MS. PSAKI: — and make it into a propaganda platform.
QUESTION: Right. And —
QUESTION: Or a public asylum —
QUESTION: — the propaganda platform aside, free speech covers propaganda. Last time I checked, it covers a lot of things. And I don’t see, unless he’s somehow violated U.S. law by speaking at this – at the Russian – the transit line at the Russian airport, I don’t see why you would be disappointed in the Russians for, one, facilitating it, but also, apparently from what it sounds like, tried to discourage them from – tried to discourage this – them from allowing this event to take place in the – to take place at all.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this isn’t happening, clearly, because we wouldn’t be talking about it, in a vacuum. And this is an individual, as we all know, who has been accused of felony crimes in the United States. We have expressed strongly our desire to have him returned —
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. PSAKI: — to face those charges. This is all applicable context to these circumstances.
QUESTION: But as you have also said, he is a U.S. citizen.
MS. PSAKI: He is, yes.
QUESTION: He remains a U.S. citizen, and he enjoys certain rights as a U.S. citizen. One of those rights, from your point of view, is that he has the right to come back and face trial for the crimes he’s committed. But the rights that you’re not talking about are his right to free speech, his right to talk with whoever he wants to, freedom to assemble. I don’t understand why those rights are – why you ignore those and simply say that he has – that he’s welcome to come back to the United States to exercise his right to be tried by a jury of his peers. Why is that the only right that he gets, according to this Administration? [my emphasis]
As it happens, I read it about the same time i read this passage, from the government’s opposition to Basaaly Saeed Moalin’s challenge to the FISA-derived evidence against him (see this post for more background).
Moalin claims he was fargeted for FISC-authorized surveillance in violation of FISA’s stipulation that no United States person may be considered a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment. Docket No 92 at 18-19 (citing 50 U.S.C. §§ 1805(a)(2)(A), 1824(a)(2)(A)). Although protected First Amendment activities canot form the sole basis for FISC-authorized electronic surveillance or physical search, not all speech-related activities fall within the protection of the First Amendment. See infra at 70.
That is, when faced with limitations on surveillance based on First Amendment activities, the government claimed that not all speech is protected.
(Note, I’m not certain because the page numbers listed in this unclassified motion are to the pagination of the classified motion, but I believe that reference to speech that is not protected is redacted.)
That’s important because of the narrative the government presented in this motion (which is different from what Sean Joyce presented to the House Intelligence Committee — I believe both narratives are in fact badly misleading).
In the materials presented in this case, the government suggests FISA-authorized surveillance on Moalin’s calls with al-Shabaab warlord Aden Ayrow started, out of the blue, in December 2007, several months before al-Shabaab was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. I’m not aware of any evidence it presents that precedes these calls. Yet these early calls show no evidence of criminal behavior.
Thus, the evidence suggests that merely calling someone considered a terrorist but whose group was not yet officially designated as such by the government makes one an agent of a foreign power.