First Amendment

Most people roughly know what the First Amendment means.

They tend to think of it as giving them the right to tell their neighbor he is a big dumb jerk for driving over their property and gives him no recourse. (It doesn’t.)

A few people know that there are some limits to First Amendment rights, such as crying FIRE in a crowded theater when there is none. That example of a rare exception was from Oliver Wendell Holmes in a Supreme Court decision around 1900.

Newspapers and other forms of journalism believe correctly that the First Amendment confers on them not only the right, but also the power, to learn and disclose what citizens have a need and right to know about what government, the for-profit, and not-for-profit sectors are doing which might have impact on their lives.

The area where the First Amendment may be the least understood is the right of government officials to speak out about the actions and/or inactions of other public officials—including in particular their superiors.

Our Constitution is clear –no one, including and perhaps especially the President, is above or exempt from ‘the law’.

In the case of former CIA Director John Brennan being unilaterally stripped by Trump of his security clearance, all Brennan was accused of was criticizing Trump. There are established procedures by which certain appropriate officials can remove a security clearance for cause, such as if the holder has violated the rules of national security. None of those procedures were followed in the Brennan case.

If the Congress does not sanction and reverse Trump’s action, we will be one step closer to losing a constitutional freedom and one step closer to an authoritarian society.

If that is making America great again, I will eat my dirty socks in Times Square on New Year’s Eve!


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