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posted by Dopefish on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the tell-me-it's-true dept.

Gaaark writes:

"The First Amendment has been upheld in the United States!

Dan McCall has been making T-shirts and mugs that parody the National Security Agency as "the only part of government that actually listens" for over a decade. In 2011, he got a cease-and-desist letter from the NSA and from the Department of Homeland Security. Last October, McCall filed a lawsuit saying his shirts and mugs parodied the government agency and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

'Citizens shouldn't have to worry whether criticizing government agencies will get them in trouble or not,' said Public Citizen's Paul Levy, who filed the suit on McCall's behalf. 'This settlement proves the First Amendment is there to protect citizens' rights to free speech.'

Now, the NSA has admitted: McCall is right ."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by EventH0rizon on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:06PM

    by EventH0rizon (936) on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:06PM (#3370) Journal

    I can't imagine the NSA being so conciliatory in the pre-Snowden climate....

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:27PM (#3617)

      You're right, and the timeline is proof. They started this whole affair before Snowden, and now, only after Snowden, are they dropping it. Clearly if they didn't want to pursue it they never would've pursued it in the first place back in 2011. I'm buying his stuff just to show my support for his backbone. It's still an asshole move by the NSA, to threaten and harass someone who dares to speak. The impudence! Snowden was known to wear an NSA-parody hoodie while at work in Hawaii.

      • (Score: 2) by GeminiDomino on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:42PM

        by GeminiDomino (661) on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:42PM (#3823)

        I'm buying his stuff just to show my support for his backbone.

        Where are you buying it from? My google-fu must be weak, I just keep finding sites talking about the lawsuit.

        --
        "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture"
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21 2014, @09:00PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21 2014, @09:00PM (#4541)

          You don't need google-fu if you just RTFA:
          http://www.cafepress.com/libertymaniacs [cafepress.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:08PM (#3772)

      We need new terms. I propose:

      P.Sn - pre-snowden
      A.Sn - after snowden

      or perhaps..
      Pr

      P.Sn
      omfgwtfputsnowdenbackinthebottle

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by BsAtHome on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:14PM

    by BsAtHome (889) on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:14PM (#3373)

    The government, agencies and the courts missed an opportunity to enforce their illegal acts using doubtful decisions and hidden agendas. There may be a glitch in the system.
    However, the producer of the parody may very well find himself in the situation that his life will be tracked to excruciating detail to the extent that they "know where to get him" in the coming period of awakening. /sarcasm

    It does show that you need to go to court to (re-)establish your constitutional rights. That _is_ a sad thing.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Hyper on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:33PM

      by Hyper (1525) on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:33PM (#3383) Journal

      At least you can still go to a court to have constitutional rights confirmed.

      In many countries he would be sitting in a deep dark dank deserted dungeon cell. No doubt the NSA have an oubliette waiting for him for when he crosses the law and gives them an excuse.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Deflagro on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:41PM

        by Deflagro (1978) on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:41PM (#3626)

        This is true. All you need is a suspicion of terrorism and you can be held indefinitely without trial or any need for evidence. Go Patriot Act!

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by number6x on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:53PM

      by number6x (903) on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:53PM (#3467)

      That is sad.

      Whenever a politician mentions our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day and notes how they 'died for our freedom', I always ask "Then why are you, figuratively, pissing on their graves by destroying those freedoms?".

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by mcgrew on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:54PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:54PM (#3469) Homepage Journal

      I'm surprised a civil rights suit wasn't filed. Does a civil rights suit only have to do with race? This guy's rights were violated and he almost certainly lost some sales. Just reimbursing him for legal fees seems pretty damned unjust.

      And I'd like to see someone from the NSA in prison for it. Actually, I'd like to see James Clapper in prison.

      --
      mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:32PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:32PM (#3622)

        No shit, people who abuse power almost ALWAYS get away with it in the US (the country I'm most familiar with). Why the Hell didn't the judge sanction the lawyers and report them to the bar? Why isn't anyone held accountable? I mean other than the poor guy who made the joke, which clearly can't be tolerated. But hey at least he got $500 for years of trauma and lifelong tracking and scrutiny by the FBI, NSA, IRS, etc.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:15PM (#3374)
    No.. I don't see that as the correct response..

    I'd rather we got the rope out and fixed the problem.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by janrinok on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:31PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:31PM (#3413) Journal

      What? You want to tie somebody up? How cruel and heartless!

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Yog-Yogguth on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:56PM

      by Yog-Yogguth (1862) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:56PM (#3523) Journal

      I used to "parody" the NSA and AC is right. "Parody" is not the answer.

      Pretty much anyone and everyone anything like me who knew about anything (public stuff is plenty, it's all I knew) and gave them some slack because some slack is always needed could cough up a cheerful "parody" or two to make light of what was unsavory necessities.

      And we did.

      In addition to using the word "we" in the general sense meaning all of us I'll also risk speaking on this group's behalf and thus also use "we" and "our" in that sense. There used to be a few of us, some haven't woken up to reality yet. Not that it will do any good, it's too late now and if you think that's defeatism then I would say you haven't been paying attention or that you don't know how this old and worn story always goes.

      Unsavory necessities does not describe what they started to do, if the shit we know about thanks to Snowden is necessary then everything is lost anyway and maybe, just maybe, some future generation will manage to take back their freedom. Maybe not. Because there's no reason to think it will be us seeing what has happened so far.

      We always assumed there would be thousands like Snowden because that's how we thought we would act ourselves, there weren't. There was one Snowden and a handful of other honorable people who tried to do it by the book. That we know about that is, because everyone should realize how easy it is to stop people without anyone any the wiser if they're stopped fast enough and as long as you're willing to do pretty much anything.

      Anything.

      By now we should assume such things to be somewhat common events, and they seem to be, in fact you --any of you-- really ought to be able to name a few deaths that fit the mold. High visibility examples that are fairly unrepresentative of the average "wet" job.

      Because that's the kind of organizations we now have in the US and elsewhere as well, when they're off the leash (and they sure are) there is no longer any reason to think they're any different from the horrors in history books. There used to be a difference but now there isn't but everyone including most critics want to pretend otherwise in some lame hope --the ultimate curse-- that it just isn't so. Nobody in power seems to have learned anything at all from World War II and the Cold War, they seem to not comprehend the American Revolution, or the French Revolution, or any of the myriad of constitutions they inspired. Some of them are that stupid, and some of them are that evil, but that deafening silence you hear should be the sound of feigned ignorance from people desperately thinking "not this shit again... I'll just close my eyes and stop looking in mirrors".

      We gave them slack because we thought there would be oversight.
      We thought there would be oversight because we lived in democracies be it representative republics or parliamentary constitutional monarchies.
      We thought there would be democracy because the populations were supposed to be in charge.
      We thought the populations were supposed to be in charge because that was what our various constitutions said.
      We thought those constitutions said that because people sacrificed their lives and well-being to make it so and continued to do so.

      But no. That's long gone.

      And by the way we did not assume perfect or infallible oversight but decent enough oversight to keep "the kids" under control. Because anyone who has been in for example any armed services knows how it can be; people are people and will always run rampant in due course even if they were saints at the beginning. It's that old thing about power, any kind of power. So when they're out of line you tell them, or if they did bad enough or think they'll get away you use the law as needed (that's how all law is used no matter what lawyers or politicians pretend) and if that's impossible but something truly bad took place (or continues) then you revert to "illegal" natural law.

      Now we know there was no oversight, and there doesn't seem to be any democracy either, and the constitutions are rotting organic matter. It is system failure, it's never visible unless it's endemic and it sure is visible now.

      So please; no "parody", our wounds are already filled with salt and pepper.

      I don't mind if people think this is way over the top, I don't think it is and I personally can't do anything significant about it. Maybe nobody can, that doesn't seem unlikely to me at all considering how much I feel this "challenge" is being underestimated.

      I hope I'm wrong ...oops there's that curse again.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by jcd on Thursday February 20 2014, @04:59PM

        by jcd (883) on Thursday February 20 2014, @04:59PM (#3565)

        I agree with a lot of what you're saying here, but I have a lot of contact with the younger generation, and I have some very bad news. They have no concept of what the Constitution was about. Or of what the Revolution was trying to accomplish. Or what the founding fathers believed in (or who they even were - I showed a picture of Jefferson to a room full of high school seniors and they guessed Edison and a couple of other wildly unrelated names). So let's not count on the next generation.

        I know that makes the situation all that much more dire, but it's the truth. The next generation has an even smaller idea of what this country stands for, and "freedom" is just a word you say when you're talking about the US, it no longer has any real meaning. It's just patriotic to say it.

        --
        "What good's an honest soldier if he can be ordered to behave like a terrorist?"
        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:34PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2014, @06:34PM (#3624)

          My daughter will never know the freedom of privacy. :( She'll never even miss it.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21 2014, @05:18AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21 2014, @05:18AM (#4095)
      I wasn't going for 'funny'.

      I was going for "yes, we should get the rope out and find a big tree and string the scumbag traitors up. And then set fire to their corpses so we make a clear example of what is NOT allowed in our country."

      None of that is funny.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by everdred on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:59PM

    by everdred (110) on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:59PM (#3433) Journal

    I'm looking forward to more feel-good stories about this kinder, gentler NSA.

    "In a poll, 87% of Americans named the NSA the government agency they'd most like to 'just sit down and have a beer with.'"

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Taibhsear on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:05PM

      by Taibhsear (1464) on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:05PM (#3437)

      "In a poll, 87% of Americans named the NSA the government agency they'd most like to 'just sit down and have a beer with.'"

      With a little pinch of iocane powder, perhaps.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Litron286 on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:23PM

      by Litron286 (2272) on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:23PM (#3491)

      Well, wouldn't you be friendly with someone that has naked pictures of that girl next door?

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by SpallsHurgenson on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:36PM

    by SpallsHurgenson (656) on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:36PM (#3456)

    I think the fact that this was even an issue shows the ever-widening gap between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to protect; increasingly it is becoming an "Us versus Them" issue. There has never been a problem taking the piss out of government agencies in this country; in many ways, it is the very thing on which this country was founded. That the NSA somehow thinks they are exempt from parody is an alarming confirmation of how out of touch they are with their primary mission.

    Every law enforcement officer - be they NSA, CIA, or the local beat cop - needs to take a refresher course as to what their job really is about and for whom they really work.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Hombre on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:21PM

    by Hombre (977) on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:21PM (#3719)

    I travel a fair bit for work. Maybe a 3-4 day trip every 3 weeks or so. I always wear my NSA Is Listening t-shirt thru the checkpoints. The stoves haven't said anything yet, and only once did I get glared at. Fellow travelers frequently notice and I've had some neat conversations.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by rumata on Friday February 21 2014, @12:35AM

    by rumata (2034) on Friday February 21 2014, @12:35AM (#3910)

    Well, skimming the actual settlement agreement I don't see this as a big victory for freedom of speech. The first few sections go on about how the NSA and DHS don't admit to any wrong-doing/liability whatsoever, then there is a bunch of obligations on the plaintiff to not bring this up again in any way shape or form.
    By agreeing to all of this, the plaintiff gets 500 bucks and special dispensation for his particular case, no compensation for lost income (cease-and-desist was in 2011).

    I don't think this would set a precedent for the next guy (ianal).

    Cheers,
    Michael