Federal Government

Forget Free Speech

This is a disturbing story which should strike fear in the hearts of any patriotic American.

Before we stoop to terms like “jackbooted thugs, big brother, Gestapo, Nazi, KGB,” and all those other hot-button inflammatory terms, here are the facts as we know them now.Speech 2.jpg

Dwight Scarbrough is a liberal patriot, anti war, fiercely independent, military veteran, peacenik who wears his feelings in the form of posters against the war in Iraq taped to the side of his Ford Ranger pick up. He is also a federal employee.Sign 1.jpg

While Idaho National Guardsmen are ostensibly “defending democracy and free speech” in Iraq, Homeland Security Agents are working to take it away in Boise.

The BOISE WEEKLY. has a great story by reporter Nicholas Collias in the current issue detailing a frightening encounter Scarbrough had at his federal office on Overland Road near WalMart a week ago.

Homeland security agents called Scarbrough at his office and asked him to meet them in the parking lot by his truck which is festooned with the anti-war signs, bumper stickers and magnetic “support the troops” yellow ribbons.

Instead of being intimidated, Scarbrough brought along a colleague and a tape recorder. The agents ordered him to remove the signs or face prosecution. He ended up moving the vehicle for a day until a bunch of lawyers–alerted by the ACLU–jumped at the chance to represent him free of charge.

Marc Haws of the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the GUARDIAN he could not comment on this case–no one has formally presented anything to him–but he explained it is illegal to post signs on federal property or facilities. He also acknowledged the HATCH ACT protects the rights of federal employes to have bumper stickers on private vehicles parked on federal parking lots.

Bottom line seems to be that size matters. There is no law defining what is too big to be protected by the Hatch Act. We hope this doesn’t get as detailed as Boise’s stripper ordinance.

Meanwhile the Boise office of Homeland Security sent us to a Public Affairs office in Dallas. That spokesman said the agency was awaiting a determination by the U.S. Attorney in Boise regarding the signs. When the GUARDIAN ventured this whole thing was pretty silly and was quickly deteriorating into a “size matters” case, he bristled a bit and explained the situation.Home Security Logo.jpg

The concern among those protecting the homeland is that if the guy in Boise is allowed to have signs on his truck, other federal employes may be emboldened enough to place even bigger signs on their vehicles.

Imagine a federal parking lot full of vehicles covered with anti war signs. Free speech could ruin the country!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. My only observation / suggestion is that Mr. Scarbrough really should look for work in the private sector. When he works for the federal government, an independent observer might get the impression that he’s biting the hand that’s feeding him.

  2. Thanks Guardian for bringing this to the attention of all.Kudo’s to Dwight and to any American that stands up for what they know is real democracy and freedom of speech! It takes a lot of personal courage to do that but in these very dangerous times for our country when it seems our federal government is trying to destroy everything America has stood for over 200 years we must not be afraid to fight !

  3. Because one is employed by a particular agency does not mean one has to agree with everything that agency does. Federal employees, unlike Micron or HP, bring their constitutional rights to work with them. I am still missing what’s wrong with terms like jack booted thugs. More than 40 years ago my father was fired from a job because he put a bumper sticker on the back of his truck supporting a certain candidate for Sheriff of the small county he lived in. The incumbent Sheriff was a good friend of the owner of the company where he was employed. When my dad refused to remove the bumper sticker, he was fired, after 15 years of loyal service. The sad part is if they can’t get him “legally” they’ll make his worklife so miserable, the stress alone will be reason enough to leave. “One, two, three what are we fightin’ for?” ring a bell with any jack booted thug wannabes out there?

  4. As a person who can talk for half an hour to a wrong number I admit I am speechless. Is it time for us who believe in freedom to move to Canada? Our country has been moving in the wrong direction for some time. It makes me sick.

  5. BoiseCitizen
    Feb 16, 2006, 8:06 am

    I guess it is no news but good news for the department of “What Hurricane?” In Bush’s America fear is the rule and spin is king. Where the ruling elite are above the law, and free speech is only for members of your party and quashed at every opportunity. Check this out. It is about a woman at a Dick Cheney rally who made the mistake of uttering the words “No,no,no,no. http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2006/02/09/coverstory.html

  6. Lest anybody misunderstand my previous statement… I sincerely believe Mr. Scarbrough has a right to display his opinions in whatever size he chooses on his pickup truck. And he should be allowed to park it on public property without reprisals.

    HOWEVER… it seems somehow inconsistent that he works for the entity he so strongly objects to. His convictions would ring more strongly if he weren’t a government employee.

    Consider: A friend interviewed for two jobs – one was working for a local food-related industry; the other was working for General Electric. He chose the food industry, and said he “preferred to work for a company that makes food, over one that makes atomic bombs.” It would seem inconsistent for a radical environmentalist to work for Weyerhauser, or for a PETA banner-waver to work for Fred’s Mink Ranch, know what I mean?

  7. I don’t find this in the least bit “scary.” Hopefully, the
    government has the right to check out kooks like this to determine
    whether or not they’re a threat to our safety and national security.

  8. That’s pretty funny, FC. One would hardly think someone going to such lengths to call attention to himself would actually be a danger to the community. And having feds making a public confrontation about it seems pretty creepy. I would expect that all kinds of investigations have already been done since he has a federal job. It surprises me that everyone is not outraged by this incident.

  9. FC,
    The real kook lives in in the White House but people like you probably don’t get the issue we are trying to discuss. It is about freedom and the US Constitution. Males and one female from every generation in my family going back to the American Revolution have fought or died defending what people like you are willing to give up so easily. Guess what, terrorisim is out of the bag and everyone knows that the most powerful nation in the world can be crippled and scared by a few nut cases with bombs, assault rifles and cell phones. That includes the terrorists who live among us (Timothy McVeigh types) and the bottom feeders that thrive on the fear they create. Terrorists need men like Bush, like parasites need a host. Do you really think if muslim terrorists decide to quit someone else will not take their place?

  10. Agent Whynotski
    Feb 16, 2006, 1:59 pm

    Sometimes you have to work from within the system to reform the system. Standing on the sidelines is not always effective in bringing reforms. There is nothing like someone on the inside who knows the policies to kick it to “the man” when “the man” needs a good kickin’. Good for Mr. Scarbrough for not being intimidated.

  11. Whoa Steve, thanks for the clarification but just because he disagrees with the current stance of the administration doesn’t mean he’s against the United States. He’s a vet and served this country. I truly resent having my patriotism questioned every time I point out that we should re-examine the direction the party in power is taking the country. Further the Hatch Act was designed to assure that government employees could enjoy all the benefits of citizenship despite tactics by the very heavy hand that feeds him. I don’t think it diminishes the message at all.

    As for FC, do you have some basis in the report to think somehow this person who served in the military for this country is a threat to the U.S.? In fact can you think of anyone more worthy of delivering this message than a vet who has seen the potential for war like the one into which our country is currently sending soldiers?

    Our system of democracy fails when its citizens are compelled to silence.

  12. So it’s free speech when a government beauracrat is allowed to break laws and use the bully pulpit his position in the federal government to intimidate others? What if this guys truck had ‘kill the sand ni****s’ painted all over it, and DHS ordered him to move it. Would you be standing up for his ‘free speech’ then?

    ED NOTE–Scarbrough never used his “position” at all and he broke no law. And reluctantly, yes, I would support free speech regardless of the message. That said, I run the GUARDIAN to my own standards of good taste and even “censor” libelous, illiterate, and crude postings. It is MY site and it is HIS truck.

  13. Now I’d like to see someone put even bigger signs on his truck, saying things like: Support the troops. Help bring democracy to Iraq. Defeat the insurgents. It’s worth fighting for. Etc.
    And then park it in the same lot.

    Let’s see whether the H.S. gestapo come to tell him to get his signs off federal property. In other words, are they really upholding a rule agains displaying messages on federal property, or are they just harassing someone who doesn’t agree with what’s going on?

    And if it really was a question of whether the signs violated a rule about posting signs, why would H.S. cop-types be sent instead of just his boss telling him about the rule? Doesn’t H.S. have anything better to do …. like, say, guarding borders or tracking down missing uranium, dynamite and other potentially dangerous materials? Or is freedom of disagreement considered the most perilous WMD?

  14. It reminds me of an Edward Abbey quote; “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

  15. While I vehemently disagree with Mr Scarbrough’s opinions, I must just as adamantly support his right to express them.

    Patriot Act antics or are we headed for a rerun of Kristallnacht?

    ED NOTE–For non-library types KRISTALLNACHT (night of broken glass) marked the 1938 turning point in Germany history which saw Hitler pass “anti-Jew” laws.

  16. Not all messages enjoy absolute protection by the first amendment. I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who noted that it doesn’t give a person the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater and not be liable for the consequences of the ensuing panic. In fact I believe there is a legal distinction known as the fighting words doctrine which makes people legally responsible for the damage caused by the words they utter.

    This exception to free speech is something perhaps Mr. Krause and the Danish newspapers should study up on. There are also time, place and manner restrictions on free speech which may come into play in Mr. Scarbrough’s case. I’m sure that the Hatch Act has been scrutinized to comply with those judicial distinctions however and it looks to me like Mr. Scarbrough complies with the Act.

  17. I think Sisyphus makes good points. I’d just feel so much better if I could be sure it’s still acceptable to yell “FIRE” in the middle of a three alarm blaze. For some of us, this is what Mr.Scarbrough is doing. Methinks if he really was a kook, the HS boys wouldn’t be concerned. Aberrations are easy to deal with….a not so silent majority is a far bigger threat.

  18. Tam is right. What kind of potential terrorist has the nerve to plaster his car with anti Bush agenda stuff and park in a Federal building parking lot and then go work for the man? What they really want is for Americans to stop thinking, give up the first amendment, pray out of fear, and go shopping like right after 9/11. (preferably at your neighborhood Wal-Mart that depends on Communist China slave labor for it’s profit.) Oh sorry, I forgot, that’s the “good commies ” over there.

  19. I’m going to make a second comment on this most important issue. Yes, we are headed for a ” Kristallnacht” and yes, America does have it’s own version of Hitler’s Gestapo mis-named Homeland security. America ,now ,is where Germany was in 1939 and it is getting worse. Every American needs to become actively involved in challenging the destruction of our Constitution and Bill of rights and Their governments genocidal wars for greed that GW Bush & company hide with a cloak of false patriotism.

    This is a great nation and American’s are a great people but our federal govt. and it’s lackey’s on a state and local govt. level are using our military and resources to accomplish their own very un-American goals.

  20. Anyone know if this story has been covered by any other local media entities besides the BW and Guardian? I haven’t seen it anywhere else…

    ED note–Statesman staff is well aware if it and refuse to cover. Channel 2 KBCI has done several storeis.

  21. A matter of time...
    Feb 20, 2006, 10:28 pm

    Joe, you are spot on – unfortunately.

    When I was a youngster I was very aware of what was happening when the Nixon thing went down. We all knew they were dirty and most of us believed it would never happen again.

    Then we had Ronald Reagan and Bill Casey. Those folks brought us Iran Contra. You remember? Arms for hostages. Sweet deal.

    Now we have the Bush adminsistration selling us everything from bogus weapons claims to the massive screw up that was and still is Katrina.

    Bush has taken the Nixon thing to a whole new level. We now have the most secretive White House ever. And it will get worse.

    When you all were young, did you ever think you’d live to see the day where our civil liberties were junked? Did you ever think you would ever see the day where control of our ports would be given over to foreign companies? Did you ever think you’d ever see companies treated better than citizens?

    I’m not ready to give up, but I am getting close.

  22. lib.Redneck
    Feb 21, 2006, 9:06 am

    That is it!!! All your names will be put on the list at my next HUAC meeting. Can’t you see we are fighting an invisible enemy. We can’t trust anyone. Heck, the next terrorist cell could be living the trailer next door to your tip-out. You are either for America or you are against it!!!!

    I have a list here of potential terrorists living right here among all of us real Americans. These people argue with the basic necessity of spying on Americans to see who is helping or hurting this once beautiful nation.

    Get on the ball people. If we don’t help our government fight these terrorists and bring freedom to people all over the world, well, what kind of world will our kids live in? A terrorized one, thats not the kind of world I want for my kids.

    Remember, Freedom ain’t free. And if you ain’t doing nothin wrong, whatta-ya got to hide from?

    I just can’t believe that Scarborrow guy would put those unAmerican Stickers on that American Truck.

  23. “The concern among those protecting the homeland is that if the guy in Boise is allowed to have signs on his truck, other federal employes may be emboldened enough to place even bigger signs on their vehicles.”

    OMG, could you imagine? Signs advocating something everywhere we look? Next thing you know buses would have signs on them urging me to eat at McDonald’s. Then, they would construct huge signs on the roads urging me to watch the crappy local news. It would be mayhem.

  24. A matter of time...
    Feb 21, 2006, 11:21 am

    “And if you ain’t doing nothin wrong, whatta-ya got to hide from?”

    Question is; Whose definition of,”doing nothin wrong” will be used?

    Since moving to this state, I have been told several times the things I am doing are “wrong” even though I am breaking no laws whatsoever. Those “wrong” things include not going to church.

    Since we don’t know, because of intense secrecy, what is and what isn’t wrong in the eyes of this Whitehouse we really have no way of knowing just what the government is listening to or whom.

  25. Reading through these comments has restored some of my faith in my fellow Idahoans. I’m worried that some hard times are coming, and we’ll need to display our courage via our words and deeds.

  26. I assume that’s sarcasm dripping from the previous two posts. It doesn’t come across on the printed page that well.

  27. Come now! This has nothing to do with the nature of mr. Scarbrough’s messages. It’s about keeping federal property free of unsightly signage. Do we want to turn the federal courthouse into “Taco Bell Courthouse”? Of course not.

    I hope to there’s a crackdown on violators. Any and all cars with bumper stickers, windshield decals, logos, emblems, etc. should be ticketed and/or towed.

    It’s up to all of us to help protect freedom by reporting violators to Homeland Security. After all, you’re either with us, or you’re against us.

    ED NOTE–For you non library types, this post is dripping with sarcasm too!

  28. I belive KIDO has covered this story as well and took call on it last week in their 9 am talk show.

  29. It’s great to live in a country where we are free to declare our opinions on our pickup tailgate… and where we can peaceably debate the issue with one another on the Guardian Blog!

    Compare with the Danish cartoon reaction. What’s the current head count over a cartoon that some people found offensive? At least 50, I believe, not to mention the injury and destruction.

    Until there’s evidence to prove otherwise, I’m going to assume the pickup-truck signage controversy to be an overreaction from some gung-ho local yokel bureaucrat, and not an ominous sign of the sinister Bush Administration’s plot to take away our civil liberties.

    IMO, Bush has a pretty tough job. He’s being accused of taking away our freedom, spying on us, and various other flavors of heavy-handedness… and much of the criticism is from the same people who blamed him for not doing more to prevent 9/11. (You’d have to be INSANE to want to be president!)

  30. I wonder how the Boise Homeland Security thought police would have reacted if Scarbrough instead of anti war, had signs on his truck promoting management of US seaports on the East Coast by an Arab government agency.

    In Idaho, it’s all about the “R” in “patriotic”.

  31. I dont see how you support the troops by protesting and making signs like that. Those innapropriate signs make the troops feel hated and like they are doing bad. We don’t want vientam all over again now do we. If i were to drive by you and i saw that on you vehicle i’d give you the bird. I’m ashamed that you live in this country were we fought for our freedom

  32. “We don’t want vientam all over again now do we.” You’re right, we don’t want Vietnam all over again.

    I’m ashamed that you don’t support other people’s freedom that we fought for.

  33. lib.Redneck
    Feb 24, 2006, 9:09 am

    Hey there Bob Sue— Dwight is a Cold War Vet. He chose to do that job and serve his country in that capacity. His signs are not inappropriate, just as your opinion of his signs is not inappropriate…only misguided. The signs on his pickup are simple issues of free speech. Referring to your statement about his stickers translating into troop hatred. Terribly slippery slope. I’m certain the troops can differentiate between support of the troops and not supporting the War in Iraq. You say “We don’t want Vietnam all over again…” The wars do have a similarity. We are fighting an “ism.” In Vietnam it was CommunISM; now we have an apparent fight on TerrorISM. Can you really win war against an “ism”? Remember Bob Sue, this isn’t a defensive war for our freedom. History will be the judge of this colossal error we call “The War in Iraq”.

    Or Bob Sue, you need more practice in creating successful sarcasm in print. Check out previous posts for examples.

  34. A matter of time...
    Feb 24, 2006, 11:03 am

    Bob Sue, I disagree with you entirely. The signs are not a signal of innapropriate speech.

    The simple fact is; Our troops are fighting in a foreign land that never attacked us, period. The invasion was based on lies.

    Our young men and women are not fighting for our freedom. Our freedom was never, ever, threatened by Iraq.

    Our freedom IS threatened by our continual borrowing from COMMUNIST China, the leasing of our port security to foreign, any foreign, countries and by the regimes in control of a handful of other countries like North Korea which do have weapons of mass destruction.

    The internal threats to this country are myriad as well. Just take a look at how often the US Constitution is threatened here in Idaho and in Congress.

    Please, don’t cherry pick big problems. Iraq is a terrible mess and our troops would be better off having never gone there in the first place. That statement says nothing about support or derision, it is a simple fact of life.

  35. If I may be so bold as to try and divine what Mr. Scarbrough is thinking, he would probably respond that he is supporting the troops by advocating to bring them home from an ill planned and badly prosecuted war.

    I certainly don’t think that the content of Mr. Scarbrough’s speech should be stifled because it might give the troops the wrong impression, will deprive them of the proper motivation, or is otherwise impolite because doing so would essentially suppress debate on whether our continued presence in Iraq is in America’s best interest. Moreover as a vet I assume Mr. Scarbrough’s opinion on the subject carries some weight. Are you saying you would flip off this veteran for exercizing his constitutional rights? Then what was he laying his life on the line for? If you would do such a thing I guess I would have to question your patriotism.

    However I must agree nobody wanted another war without a clearly defined enemy, no clear objective, and no exit strategy, especially not the troops.

  36. Please BobSue – you don’t support the troops by sending them to another country, where they cannot distinguish the enemy from the regular citizens, to be shot at and bombed. When my grandson said “well, these people volunteered” I reminded him that the troops don’t get to vote on which war to support. A bad war is a bad war.

    The Vietnam war was also started on false premises and that disaster forced a president out of office. Those guys were my generation, many were drafted. I supported those veterans, still do. That didn’t make the war right.

    Try to separate these issues. The current president of the US is a criminal and our troops and the Iraqi citizens are his victims.

  37. Literacy…never overrated!!! A mind really is a terrible thing to …waste?

  38. BoiseCitizen
    Feb 24, 2006, 6:55 pm

    Why would the troops feel hated? The signs do not say anything about them personally. With enough Americans willing to stand up to Bush and his cronies,(almost all of whom DID NOT SERVE in the military), perhaps we will be able to bring the troops home. Sorry, but the constitution allows those with differing opinions to speak out. If we all thought the same then we would be living in a place much like Iran? Germany in 1939? (As noted above) Get over it. America is a land of many diverse people and when you have a war started for the flimsiest of reasons there will be lots of questions and protests. That is what makes America great. Don’t be afraid of differing opinions.

  39. A friend who did a tour in Baghdad tells me he hates those “support the troops” ribbons.

    Who has more reason to want the troops home, than someone who has a lot of comrades over there? Who hates war more than someone who’s in it?

    “Support the troops — leave ’em there” (huh???)

  40. Being a Vietnam Vet with four tours, I’ve seen all this before.

    Whether or not you agree with what this guy has done has nothing to do with it. The fact is that everyone should have freedom of speech and especially the ability to express how they feel about a war their country is involved in.

    So express away my friends, you all have the right (including Dwight Scarbrough), but remember many have paid a heavy price so that you can.

  41. Oh, I am SO tired of people who cannot understand how we can support the troops but NOT support the war. These men and women DID volunteer, yes, but they volunteered with the understanding that America would not abuse their service, committment and loyalty. WE LET THEM DOWN. We have learned that the Vietnam vets were victims of the administration of that time… and so is our current military. How many people volunteered to serve our country to fight terrorists and now find themselves in Iraq? (Oh, please, don’t tell me that you still think 9/11 and Iraq are connected??) Isn’t that called “bait and switch” or something? And if they DO find themselves in a war they don’t support, then what choices do they have? I know that if I were in their position, I would be praying as hard as I could for American citizens to come out of their comas and to bring me home alive.

    In addition, why do people believe that these men and women, the best-trained military in the world, who deal with bullets and bombs and God knows what else, are unable to handle the concept that some American citizens do not support the war? Dear God, let’s blow these boys to bits but don’t hurt their FEELINGS? They are SOLDIERS, they are TOUGH… I’m more worried about their limbs being blown off and PTSDs than I am about their feelings being hurt.

    In addition, I have not seen ONE negative comment anywhere that criticizes the troops. Bush, yes. Rumsfield, yes. Rove and Cheney, yes, yes. BUT NOBODY HAS CRITICIZED THE MEN AND WOMEN SERVING OUR COUNTRY. Surely, they are able to tell the difference? It’s only when people twist our message and portray anti-war sentiments as anti-troop sentiments that it seems as if the troops are being criticized. That message is not coming from us, people.

    As for attacking those of us who are not willing to sacrifice our loved ones for an illegal and immoral “war”, that is reprehensible. If this war is so important to you, instead of using your hand to flip someone off, please use it to sign your name up at the nearest recruiting office.

    Be proud that you live in a country where we have the freedom to express our opinions. If you cannot accept that America was built on those freedoms, then there are other countries which may be a better fit for you. Iraq is one of them.

    If I rememember my history lessons correctly, America was settled by immigrants who were leaving their home countries where the king/dictator/etc. forced them to worship and think the way they decreed, to fight their selfish wars for financial gain, and so on. Have we really improved much?

  42. All you young punks should quit fighting with each other and figure out who the enemy is.

  43. The enemy is Osama bin Laden and every day that goes by while he walks the earth a free man is a failure of the party in power.

  44. soldier boy
    Mar 5, 2006, 6:57 am

    As a US soldier over in iraq right now i may disagrgee with the anti war part BUT i agree he does have freedom of speach and many other thing s which as a vet he him self fought to keep. as a few people above stated… i understand it is posible to suport the us troops and not the war it self. some deem this a nessacary fight others dont see it that way. as long as we all agree support for the MEN AND WOMEN who are here doing the job everyday is very important. Hooah.

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