Republican Committee Chairman Muzzles Freedom of Speech and Press; Arrests Journalist for Recording Controversial Public Hearing on Fracking

Republican Committee Chairman Muzzles Freedom of Speech and Press; Arrests Journalist for Recording Controversial Public Hearing on Fracking:

Your right to watch the government and record what you see is a natural right that is protected by the Constitution, and it cannot be taken away by the government.

-Judge Napolitano (State of the Police State)

When President Obama spoke of transparency on the 2008 campaign trail millions of his supporters believed that his election would usher in an era of no more closed doors, no more covert deal making, and no more lies. Contrary to his promise, however, the Executive and Legislative branches are now more secretive than ever, refusing in many cases to even allow video and audio cataloging of important Congressional hearings and negotiations.

While the President and democrats in Congress often take the brunt of the criticism for restricting Constitutional protections like freedom of speech, they are far from being alone in their efforts to quash the voice of the people and the dissemination of information to the public.

The latest Constitutional transgression comes to us from republican Andy Harris (MD), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, which recently heard testimony on the controversial issue of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and its effects on ground water. Attending the hearing with camera in hand was Josh Fox, producer of Gas Land, a documentary that was highly critical of the oil and gas industry’s fracking procedures. In it, Fox highlights the growing environmental and health dangers posed by fracking, which not only uses some 3.5 million gallons of water per well, but dumps 80,000 pounds of chemicals into the ground, 65 of which are believed to be hazardous for human consumption and the majority of which remain in the ground once fracking has been completed.

The latest hearing involving discussions about EPA confirmed groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, included evidence that unsafe levels of benzene and methane had seeped into public water supplies and private wells. When Fox attempted to record the proceedings of the public hearing (which was being simultaneously broadcast on the committee’s web site), he was met with significant resistance from Representative Harris. Though Fox cited that the First Amendment to the US Constitution restricts Congress from creating laws that prohibit or abridge the exercise of free press, the committee Chairman invoked an often ignored rule that Harris was not a ‘credentialed journalist.’ When Fox stood his ground and refused to leave he was arrested by Capitol Police and charged with unlawful entry.

The Arrest:

Josh Fox Responds to Charges After His Release:

In a statement following the hearing, Andy Harris said, “The Capitol Police treated Mr. Fox the same way they would any other individual violating the rules of the House or a House committee.”

Fair enough, Mr. Harris. But how, then, should the American people treat an individual, a member of Congress no less, who would strip away the First Amendment protections of an American citizen?

Also See: Gasland (Trailer below)

Sidenote: Did that faucet water just combust?!?! And, seeing as he believes there are no harmful side effects to fracking, would Representative Andy Harris willing to swap out his favorite $2-a-pop bottled water for this instead? Just curious.