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Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) recently penned an open letter to the organizers of SXSW, who plan to have Edward Snowden speak via webcast Monday as part of a panel regarding surveillance.  In this letter, Pompeo "strongly urge(s)" SXSW to retract its invitation to Snowden:

I am deeply troubled to learn that you have invited Edward Snowden to address SXSW on privacy, surveillance, and online monitoring in the United States. [...]

Mr. Snowden’s appearance would stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a man who ill deserves such accolades . . . . I strongly urge you to withdraw this invitation.

Pompeo's letter even includes this gem of a sentence:
Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man who was hired as a systems administrator and whose only apparent qualification is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin.
Pompeo's reference to the First Amendment is ironically amusing, considering that he presented this letter on official Congressional letterhead.  He was not writing as a private citizen but rather in his official capacity as an elected representative.

The First Amendment reads:

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.
SXSW has not been restrained by law against having Snowden as a guest speaker, nor has it been threatened with any sort of sanctions.  However, the fact remains that Pompeo, by using the weight of his office to "request" that SXSW deny Snowden a venue, has created what could be described as a chilling effect.

Pompeo may have attempted to insulate himself from such criticisms, stating, "The ACLU, which is moderating this panel, would surely concede that freedom of expression for Mr. Snowden has declined since he departed American soil."  Who knew that every time a person leaves the country he or she relinquishes all Constitutional rights?

For its part, SXSW does not seem inclined to acquiesce to Pompeo's demands urgent suggestion.

Caveat:  IANAL.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What First Amendment violation has occurred? (5+ / 0-)

    Has Congressman Pompeo tried to pass a law that would prohibit Snowden from speaking at the conference? To actually violate the First Amendment wouldn't Congress actually have to pass a law prohibiting Snowden from speaking at conferences? That would certainly be a violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment is a restriction on government, not an individual right we, or Swowden, have.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:30:06 PM PST

  •  So a congressman has to give up his fist amendment (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    novapsyche, VClib, jayden

    right upon election? It's a free country and the congressman has just as much right to voice his opinion directly to the organizers as anyone else.

    I agree he's an asshole and a blowhard who represents a lily-white Deep Red district, but that doesn't mean he can't speak his mind.

    I seriously doubt the organizers in Texas give two armadillo craps about what some nut job in Wichita has to say about the issue.

    If I wanted to read how much Obama sucks, I'd be on RedState, not DailyKos.

    by ThatsNotFunny on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:39:02 PM PST

    •  then (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      novapsyche, kharma, CroneWit, corvo

      he can do it on plain paper, not his official stationery. And if he sent it for free, instead of putting a stamp on it, then that's violation of law: franking is for official business only.

      (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

      by PJEvans on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 10:34:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My reply to VClib above (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kharma, OHdog, VClib, CroneWit

      applies here as well.  I've made changes to the diary.

      I still contend that Pompeo's actions rise to the characterization of chilling.  I fully agree that Congresspeople are people, too, and retain the right to voice their displeasure of activities and states of being in the nation.  If Pompeo had written a letter to the editor or criticized SXSW's panel in an interview, I would not have batted an eye.  But the letter, on official letterhead, sent directly to the group in question, more than raised my eyebrows.  It skirts a fine line.

      However, as my caveat states, IANAL, so I may indeed be overly sensitive as to what can and does constitute government interference with regards to protected speech.

  •  While not a violation of (6+ / 0-)

    the First Amendment,Pompeo's decision to use his official government stationary is both chilling and risible. No mean feat.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 10:14:50 PM PST

  •  May I "strongly urge" Congressman Pompeo and (6+ / 0-)

    … those like him to go jump in the lake?

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

    by lotlizard on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 10:49:26 PM PST

  •  Good diary... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OHdog, CroneWit, corvo, novapsyche

    Ignore the  naysayers they pop out of the shadows in any diary about Snowden.  The congressman obviously is doing the bidding of his master s.

    If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.

    by kharma on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:10:13 AM PDT

  •  Maybe if we wait long enough (0+ / 0-)

    Snowden will be consistent and come out against Russia's actions in Crimea or their spying on US diplomats.
    Any day now...

    •  Maybe if we wait long enough (5+ / 0-)

      you'll get a clue and figure out that this isn't an issue of "they do it too" but about what agents of our government are doing and the extent to which they are doing it.

      Maybe if we wait long enough you'll realize that if you need to make a point about surveillance in other countries then you can do so on your own and quit expecting Snowden or anyone else to speak for you.

      And maybe if we wait long enough you'll stop being so obtuse and disingenuous in suggesting that Snowden demonstrate contempt for his Russian hosts by speaking out against its leaders. Nothing he says or does is going the change what happens in Crimea and Ukraine and unlike you he most likely acknowledges the limits of his influence and the reality of the situation he finds himself in.

  •  Ask Pompeo to show up at the same time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, novapsyche

    and spring a surprise debate on him.

    I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

    by spiritplumber on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 09:58:01 AM PDT

  •  The collective response (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, CroneWit, novapsyche

    from the SXSW organizers was probably a good laugh and a few "Who the hell is this asshole?" remarks as they continued to work out the technical logistics of the event.

  •  Snowden's 'imprimatur' from the EU Parliament, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, novapsyche, tardis10

    to whom Snowden submitted written testimony at the parliament's request, carries much more weight than the upcoming conference, as the Parliament prepares to vote on their Motion regarding global surveillance this coming Wednesday, March 12.  

    This diary --

    contains a link to Snwoden's testimony (12 page pdf) and commentor Mark Lippman has provided a link to the EU's Motion (63-pg pdf).  The first three pages of the Motion's text lists the many international laws and treaties taken into consideration, followed by 4-5 more pages spelling out the 'concerns' raised by the information Snowden made available to the public through responsible journalists.

    This Kansas GOPer's attempt to prevent Snowden's appearance at an internet security conference just gives that conference -- and Snowden's upcoming statements there -- a higher profile.  Free PR.

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