bye bye free speech in US?

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Mar 25 13:06:32 CST 2004


This is yet another example of "mindless application of regulations" by perhaps
well-meaning bureaucrats, although I don't believe the deliberate suppression of
exchange of ideas is well-meaning.  If the current ruling stands, then all of us
must carefully consider the consequences of communicating with scientific
colleagues in the sanctioned countries.

Perhaps we should contact our own congressional representatives to encourage
reconsideration of this policy.

Dick

carabid at MPM.EDU wrote:

>                   I was flabbergasted to recently learn from a colleague
> that the US government has decided that people in the US need a special
> license to edit or otherwise provide peer review for scientific articles
> produced by colleagues in various other countries such as Iran.
>
>                   Below is some information about this ruling from National
> Coalition for History notifications article at
> <http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Announce&month=0403
> &week=d&msg=DFGFHb2Kyf7OBzL23yD3kQ&user=&pw=>.
>
> The official U.S. ruling is at
> <http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/eotffc/ofac/rulings/ia100203.pdf>.
> Letter from Rep. Berman to Richard Newcomb, Director of OFAC to object to
> government rulings is at
> <http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/ca28_berman/newcomb_letter.html>.
>
>  My personal view is that this and possible further limitations on free
> speech will have a chilling effect upon science and indeed of course upon
> our right to speak as we please.  I believe we should be contacting our
> representatives and senators.
>
> Gerald R. Noonan Ph.D.
> Curator of Coleoptera
> Editor of Insight
> Milwaukee Public Museum
> 800 West Wells Street
> Milwaukee WI 53233
> e-mail: carabid at mpm.edu
> office telephone: (414) 278-2762
> fax: (414) 278-6100
> WWW homepage: <<http://www.mpm.edu/collect/gary.html>>
> Insight Publication Series homepage:
> <http://<http://www.mpm.edu/cr/insight/insighthome.html>>
>
> info about ruling-------------------------------------------------------
>
> Recently, the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
>
> rendered a series of decisions concluding that peer reviewing and
>
> editing of works by authors who live or work in embargoed countries by
>
> U.S. publishers is against the law.  The decisions have significant
>
> First Amendment implications and already appear to be having a chilling
>
> effect on the publication of journal articles and books by authors
>
> living and working in such countries as Iraq and Iran. In a nutshell,
>
> the rulings and policy procedures they create makes the government the
>
> ultimate arbiter of what scientific and cultural information may be
>
> made available to the American public.
>
> In 1977, Congress enacted the International Emergency Economic Powers
>
> Act (IEEPA),  legislation that enables the president to impose
>
> sanctions on countries whose actions threaten American national
>
> security and to establish guidelines to regulate trade with hostile
>
> nations.  The law seeks to insure that when economic and other
>
> sanctions are imposed by the government, actions by American citizens
>
> will not assist enemies of the United States.  The penalties for
>
> violating the law are steep: fines up to $1 million and prison terms
>
> for up to ten years may be imposed.
>
> In 1988, Congress passed "the Berman Amendment" to IEEPA.  The
>
> amendment stipulates that transactions involving "information and
>
> informational materials" (i.e. printed materials including scholarly
>
> journal articles, videotapes, CD-ROMS, and other modern communications
>
> media) are generally exempt from such sanctions.
>
> Now though, the Treasury Department has taken the position that the
>
> Berman amendment does not exempt from regulation certain types of
>
> information.  For example, OFAC maintains that editors of publications
>
> may not edit or alter the works of a scholar who resides in a
>
> sanctioned nation (i.e. Iran, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and the
>
> Sudan) as such revisions constitute a "substantive enhancement" to the
>
> originating author's work and thus create a "benefit" to a sanctioned
>
> nation. Critics maintain that on its face OFAC's interpretation of law
>
> is unconstitutional. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), who wrote the
>
> amendment exempting informational materials, characterized the Bush
>
> administration's position as "patently absurd" (see
>
> http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/ca28_berman/newcomb_letter.html).
>
> According to OFAC, the government is to make a distinction between
>
> "works in being" and "works in progress."  Scientific, technical,
>
> scholarly, and popular works originating from sanctioned countries may
>
> be published provided manuscript materials do not deviate from a
>
> camera-ready version of an article or manuscript supplied by a
>
> scholar.  If a manuscript is edited or receives any "substantive
>
> enhancement," the work may not be published in an edited form unless it
>
> is approved and sanctioned under license from OFAC.  The agency also
>
> has determined that peer review of journal articles is permitted,
>
> provided that not even a comma is altered in the original
>
> document.  Critics declare this policy "makes a mockery of the
>
> editorial and peer review process."
>
> Academic publishers also assert that OFAC's interpretation of the law
>
> (especially the provision regarding the government's asserted licensing
>
> authority) "flaunts the freedom of the press guarantees provided by the
>
> First Amendment."  According to Peter Givler, executive director of the
>
> Association of American University Presses, "No publisher should ever
>
> be forced to seek government permission to make scientific and cultural
>
> information available to the American public."  Furthermore, Givler
>
> notes the irony that the ruling does not restrict what people in
>
> sanctioned countries may learn about the United States (information
>
> that arguably may have national security implications) but rather, what
>
> people in America may learn from historians, scientists, philosophers,
>
> poets, and novelists in other countries "are to be monitored and
>
> perhaps even banned."
>
> So what is being done?  One publisher known to have applied for a OFAC
>
> license in October 2003 -- the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
>
> Engineers -- has yet received a determination on its license request
>
> (for more information on the IEEE request, tap into http://www.ieee.org
>
> and click on the OFAC ruling news in the "IEEE News" section of the
>
> webpage). Congressman Berman continues to press the administration for
>
> a "reconsideration" of the ruling and publishing and scholarly
>
> organizations are considering their options, including filing suit in
>
> federal court to force a retraction of the policy.  We will keep
>
> readers posted on this issue as the situation develops.

--
Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Notre Dame, IN 46556    | http://www.saintmarys.edu/~rjensen




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