Censored in America: Post 9/11 Censorship and the Bush Administration
Censorship is not a new concept and is probably as old as the beginnings of communication itself. Governments have always kept information from the public, often in the interest of national security. Censorship has also been used to silence opposition to the government. In the past it seemed that this was common practice in other countries; usually non-democratic countries like the former Soviet Union or places with power hungry, tyrannical dictators who must take such measures to maintain control of the people. In recent years America has become the victim of this practice as our president, George W. Bush, has gone to great lengths to keep certain information, even information and records that were previously freely available to the general public, out of the mainstream. The Bush Administration has enforced a strict censorship policy via the Patriot Act and extreme limiting of the Freedom of Information Act, using 9/11 and its duty to protect the U.S. from terrorism as the reason.
Censorship is the action of any person or group controlling what can and cannot be viewed, read, or used by the public. Censorship is not limited to national or state governments, but is found in our schools, on the internet, in our libraries, and even in our families. If parents adjust settings on their televisions to prevent their children from seeing a certain program, they are censoring what their children see and hear. When schools ban a particular text from their libraries, they are exercising censorship. Those forms of censorship are usually attempted in the name of morality, whereas governments’ purpose is much more insidious. In the case of the Bush Administration there is a clear power grab—our government wants to hide or distort information to further its own agenda, which is clearly not in the best interest of the American people and which they would not approve of.
Cleverly disguised as an All-American Act of Congress, the Patriot Act is a major source of censorship in this country. Drawn up very shortly after the 9/11 incident, the Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001 in order to prevent terrorism from reaching our nation’s soil again. The hasty decision made by Congress turned out to be one of the greatest fiascos in American history, granting sweeping search and surveillance power to domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies while eliminating checks and balances that protected Americans’ basic rights from invasive government. The Patriot Act infringes on several civil rights including free speech, protection from unwarranted search and seizures, arrests without probable cause, public trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment, and equal protection and due process for all citizens and non citizens. The right to equal protection is particularly noticeable since 9/11—there have been many unjust arrests that were made around racial profiling. Public trials have been denied to thousands of these individuals, as they do not deserve this most basic right because they are a great risk to the safety and well-being of our nation. Guantanamo Bay is the site of residence for many of those held captive and many others have been sent to other countries to get around anti-torture laws. These residents to not have the same rights we do as they are not on American soil and are susceptible to “advanced interrogation techniques” (torture). This is obviously done so the government can deny its involvement or that it is even happening.
One significant case of censorship occurred when the U.S. did not allow an Iranian Nobel Prize winning woman, Shirin Ebadi, to publish a book about her struggles and the need for democracy in Iran (Democracy, human rights, and Islam in modern Iran: Psychological, social and cultural perspectives). President Bush even commended...