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Wed Jan 18, 2012, 09:36 PM

 

The Pentagon Papers and PIPA/SOPA..

The Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act threaten to make it acceptable for the Federal government to censor the internet based on a claim not of terrorism, war or even blatant criminality but rather on the basis that someone's intellectual property rights might be threatened - something for which someone would normally sue civilly to recover damages.

Moreover these bills would lead to wholesale prior restraint on freedom of speech through blocking of whole internet domains using DNS blocking technologies - Never has prior restraint on freedom of speech ever been tolerated in the United States outside of the realm of operational military security during a declared war.

In the famous "Pentagon Papers" case in 1971, (NEW YORK TIMES CO. v. UNITED STATES, 403 U.S. 713 (1971) ) the Supreme Court held 6-3 against prior restraint to prevent the Times' publishing of information contained in thousands of pages of documents marked "top secret" regarding the on-going Vietnam War released by Daniel Ellsberg to the New York Times that showed that for quite a number of years the government knew the war was unwinnable.

In that case in a per curium decision, the Court concluded that "The United States, which brought these actions to enjoin publication in the New York Times and in the Washington Post of certain classified material, has not met the "heavy burden of showing justification for the enforcement of such a [prior] restraint." If the United States failed to meet the burden necessary for prior restraint in a matter of national security, why should it be acceptable to do so over mere private sector profits?

SOPA and PIPA threaten that near absolute freedom of speech and press guaranteed to us by the First Amendment and affirmed by the court in the NY Times v. United States case. The Congress should reject and the President should veto this fundamental assault on our liberty.

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