- - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The First Amendment has taken a brutal beating during President Obama’s time in office, despite the fact that the familiar text “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” is one of our most cherished rights as American citizens.

The Obama administration, threatened by even the slightest opposition to its agenda, has cracked down - mercilessly, at times - on political expression. Even as far back as the summer of 2009, the Obama White House was already attempting to rein in free speech. As Congress debated Obamacare, White House officials asked Americans to become citizen informants, reporting “rumors” they were hearing about the health care bill. The White House even set up an email address, flag@whitehouse.gov, and the ominous text on the White House website asked Americans to help the government “keep track” of the rumors and “casual conversation” about the bill.

During the same timeframe, the Obama IRS implemented a systematic targeting of conservative individuals and organizations. “Tea Party” and “patriot” groups subjected to the IRS’s targeting were intimidated with abusive audits that lasted for years. The purpose of all of the IRS shenanigans was simple: silencing the opposition.

These are only two examples of the Obama administration’s hostility toward the First Amendment and the free political speech it protects, but they serve as powerful reminders that political dissent is not tolerated in the Obama era, and that this administration is more than willing to use federal agencies, including the IRS, as weapons to enforce the new restrictions on speech.

Now, if only the Obama administration had the same zeal for tracking, flagging and monitoring terrorists’ speech.

In the past week, it has come to light that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not, as a matter of practice, review the social media posts of visa applicants seeking entry to the United States. John Cohen, a former under-secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, says that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has refused to make any changes to the agency’s policy that disallows social media accounts during the screening and vetting process for visa applicants.

If it were not for this inane policy at DHS, it is quite possible that this month’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, could have been prevented. One of the shooters, Tashfeen Malik, came to the United States on a fiancée visa, but prior to entering the country, she posted regularly on Facebook about jihad and her hatred for America. Her social media rants suggest she was precisely the type of person who should be excluded from immigrating to the United States.

Mr. Cohen is not the only high-ranking former DHS staffer to describe the folly of Mr. Johnson’s policies. Philip Haney, an investigator who worked at DHS for 13 years, is speaking out against the department’s policy to protect the “civil liberties” of radical Islamist foreign nationals. Writing in The Hill newspaper this past week, Mr. Haney describes how he conducted numerous investigations that uncovered more than 300 terrorists. The Obama administration shut down those investigations, says Mr. Haney, because the “Islamist groups in question were not Specially Designated Terrorist Organizations.” Essentially, the Obama administration, which proactively tramples on the civil liberties of American citizens, seems intent on protecting the “civil liberties” of foreign nationals affiliated with “peaceful,” radical Islamist groups.

National security, it seems, is the latest casualty of the Obama administration’s religious fervor for political correctness.

We are left to sort out the many paradoxes of the Obama government:

On the one hand, the Obama administration spends taxpayer resources to “track” and “monitor” the casual conversations of everyday American citizens. But on the other hand, the federal agency charged with protecting the homeland, will not - for the sake of political correctness - even view the social media accounts of terrorists seeking to enter our country.

Again, on the one hand, our government is so intrusive that it forced conservative groups to hand over their reading lists, their members’ names and business taxpayer ID numbers, as well as the content of their prayers. But on the other hand, the federal government institutionalized the practice of turning a blind eye to foreign nationals spewing anti-American hatred on their Facebook walls.

And again, the government that has mowed over the First Amendment in its pursuit of obsessively collecting information about law-abiding citizens is the same government resolutely refusing to glance at the Facebook pages of visa applicants from countries with jihadist movements.

We can only hope our next president will be someone whose allegiance to the U.S. Constitution is as great as President Obama’s adherence to political correctness.

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