Memorial Day Reflections

“[On Saturday, May 25,] more than 980 cadets became army second lieutenants at West Point’s football stadium. America’s Vice-President, Mike Pence, told them President Trump has proposed a $750bn defense budget for 2020 and said the US ‘is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.’

“ ‘It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,’ Pence said. ‘You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.’

“The class was the most diverse in West Point’s history, and Pence said he wanted to acknowledge ‘the historic milestones that we’re marking today.’ The 2019 cadets included 34 black women and 223 women, both all-time highs since the first female cadets graduated in 1980. The academy graduated its 5,000th woman on Saturday.

“The 110 African Americans who graduated were double the number from 2013. Pence said graduates also included the academy’s 1,000th Jewish cadet.

“Pence did not serve in the military but noted that his late father served in the Korean War.”

(Source: The Guardian, May 26, 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/25/mike-pence-us-military-academy-west-point)

Arlington National Cemetery - Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

Memorial Day weekend, 2019. Some go to the beach or hike in the mountains or picnic in the park. Others decorate the graves of veterans who served honorably to defend the United States. Others march in parades. Many just hang out. A few still wear poppies.

Ponder the news flow and look around the globe. On every continent but Antarctica we see strife and civil unrest. In many areas we see actual combat. In many more places we see preparations for combat. And belligerency seems to have replaced diplomacy. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” (Teddy Roosevelt, January 26, 1900) has been replaced with “Tweet loudly (using CAPS for emphasis) and be inconsistent and ambiguous.”

The spreading use of Twitter as a political messaging medium has been intensified by President Trump. Indeed, he has managed to make its use ubiquitous. Twitter is now a tool of psychological warfare. Ambiguity and confusion are Trump’s go-to tactics in this modern method of rhetorical warfare.

Technology has always been key to the waging of war, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that these days the battle front has shifted into the realm of digital devices and network security. The effort by several Western nations, including the US, to exclude the Chinese firm Huawei from the build-out of the 5G broadband network is a prominent example of that battle. Here’s an instance of an apparent transgression by Huawei against an American firm: “Huawei is a ‘national security threat’ that tried to steal my tech: Akhan Semiconductor CEO,” https://finance.yahoo.com/news/huawei-akhan-semiconductor-202413843.html . Thank you to Bob Bunting for the link.

Instruments that were originally designed for good work in the biological, communications, and electromagnetic spheres are now the underpinnings of war. All can kill. They necessitate very sophisticated defenses, and change is rapid. 5G is about speed. America’s West Point graduates are taught this lesson.

Another form of warfare is rapidly expanding in the realm of trade, with sanctions, tariffs, and other restrictions meted out as punishments in various economic forms. Money itself is an instrument of war. Since earliest times, money has played that role. Almost 2500 years ago, Athens hired mercenaries to fight against Sparta. Today, Maduro sells his national Venezuelan gold hoard in order to raise the cash to buy the continued loyalty of his key military folks. They will turn on him when the money runs out, just as the Thracians turned on Athens when they weren’t paid what was promised. In some ways, nothing has changed in 2500 years.

In America this Memorial Day we find a deeply divided body politic. The antagonists are diverse and numerous, and the rhetoric is harsh. The protagonists pledge allegiance to their rigid views above all and lack civility. Centrists have no place to hide from the storm, no source of comfort to ease their worry, no leadership backed by a moderate social-historical gestalt to guide them. America seems to be increasingly embroiled in a modernist form of civil war.

So what are we fighting for?

My friend Michael Drury has reminded me that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is number two for a reason. He argues that the numbering sequence in the Bill of Rights is quite intentional. In the American Revolutionary War, the British were headed for the armory in Concord to seize the guns kept there by the nationalist militia.

But what were the guns protecting?

It is the words of the First Amendment that set our nation on its democratic path. Those 45 words protect us. Religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition are the five First Amendment freedoms. They are what the guns defend.

Our West Point graduates, the most diverse group of graduates in our nation’s history, are taught that lesson, too.

Jon Meacham concludes his marvelous book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/554220/the-soul-of-america-by-jon-meacham/9780399589829/), with this story:

“To the veterans returning to Ohio after the battle, Lincoln made brief remarks as they prepared to go west. No one knew when the war would end; no one knew if Lincoln, who was facing reelection in November, would be president in a matter of months. He spoke not with the poetry of Gettysburg, but his words on that August day said much about why the salvation of the Union would repay any price in blood and toil and treasure. The tall, tired president, his face heavily lined, his burdens unimaginable, was straightforward.

“ ‘It is,’ he said, ‘in order that each one of you may have, through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field, and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life with all its desirable human aspiration – it is for this that the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthrights – not only for one, but for two or three years, if necessary.’ And finally: ‘The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.’ ”

Meacham concludes his book with this:

“For all of our darker impulses, for all of our shortcomings, and for all of the dreams denied and deferred, the experiment begun so long ago, carried out so imperfectly, is worth the fight. There is, in fact, no struggle more important, and none nobler, than the one we wage in the service of those better angels who, however besieged, are always ready for battle.”

I’m in Colorado. My Tuesday night speech will be hosted by a West Point graduate. Like those in this year’s class, he is dedicated to patriotism and service to our nation. I thank him for hosting me.

We hope your Memorial Day was safe and pleasant and that it honored those who serve(d) all of us in our great country.

My personal best wishes to Steve, who was a first lieutenant when I was a second lieutenant and who was my senior officer sponsor. And to Skip and all in his family, as I’m thinking of you and them and your experience on one side of the world when I was on its other side.

And I reflect today about my father, who served in the South Pacific; and my first cousin, who served in Korea; and my uncle, who served in Europe; and many others in my family and among friends. We remember you all on Memorial Day.

To all of our readers: please be safe.

David R. Kotok, captain, US Army, 1966–1969
Email | Bio


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Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 3

Defending First Amendment Freedoms, Part 3

Gretchen Morgenson delivered the keynote address, titled “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” at Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III, the annual major conference that Cumberland sponsors at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM).

Morgenson is Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at the Wall Street Journal. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist notable as the longtime writer of the Fair Game column for the New York Times. In November 2017 she moved from the Times to the Journal.

Following the conference, she signed copies of her book Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon at an event that benefited the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. The CPJ “defend[s] the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. around the world.” Learn more about the CPJ here: https://cpj.org/about/.

Here is a YouTube of Morgenson’s keynote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoFDUbQdsBo.

She then engaged with the audience in a Q&A session. Here is a YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGNxZcSV3Ss.

Financial Literacy Day III was open to the public, and the auditorium was packed. Registration cost was just 50 bucks, which included lunch. Our partners for the event were USFSM, the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), and the Financial Planning Association of Florida (FPA).

We are proud supporters of all three partner organizations and were pleased to bring this high quality dialogue to the greater Florida Westcoast region and to the rest of the world via the event livestream. From our email flow we see that viewers responded from five of the seven continents – we are not sure about the Antipodean realm or Antarctica.

Part one of our Defending First Amendment Freedoms is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms/. Part two is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms-part-2/. For future GIC program plans see https://www.interdependence.org/events/.

We hope you found the conference and the First Amendment series worthwhile.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 2

Dear Readers,

I got praise and punishment on “Defending First Amendment Freedoms” part 1. As expected, the deep and intense political division in our nation showed itself again. And there was the usual “blowback” about my writing about something more than just market analysis. For those critics who are money-only focused, I’ll start this piece with a prefatory comment that applies directly to your wallet.
Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary by David Kotok
Just think for a minute. Without an unrestricted free press, would you be able to read Gretchen Morgenson’s story on insurance regulation in the WSJ? (“A State Investigator, the Financial-Adviser ‘Heir’ and an Elderly Client: How Lines Get Blurred in Insurance Regulation,” April 6, 2019: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-state-investigator-the-financial-adviser-heir-and-an-elderly-client-how-lines-get-blurred-in-insurance-regulation-11554548401) Or could you find Heather Long’s reporting in the WAPO on Steve Moore? (“Trump’s Fed nominee Stephen Moore was found in contempt of court for failing to pay ex-wife more than $333,000,” April 5, 2019: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/06/trumps-fed-nominee-stephen-moore-was-found-contempt-court-failing-pay-ex-wife-more-than/?utm_term=.14176d11ed50)

The free press tells investors about a large aircraft maker in trouble or about a huge bank misbehaving or about an auto manufacturer’s misdeeds. First Amendment rights are the most basic underpinning of American life, our economy, and our financial markets.

Now let’s get started on free speech.


Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Part 2: Freedom of Speech

First Amendment rights are a big part of what has made America great; and yet, tragically, for most of their history the US government and the states have systematically and legally denied the fundamental rights of many of our citizens. Early American governance was white, land owning and male. Indeed, until the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, African Americans were not even recognized as citizens; and citizenship was not extended to Native Americans until 1924. Remember that women’s suffrage was ratified as the 19th amendment in 1920, and we will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year in conjunction with the presidential election.

The yawning gulf between America’s aspirations as the Land of the Free and its political realities, especially with respect to race and religion, was so obvious that when, in 1935, the German National Socialist Party sought to codify the Third Reich’s race-based legal philosophy, it dispatched a team of 45 lawyers to the US, to gain “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures.” The delegation was warmly received at a reception organized by the New York City Bar Association.

This disgraceful episode in our history is detailed in a November 2017 article in The Atlantic, entitled “What America Taught the Nazis,” by Ira Katznelson, a professor of political science and history at Columbia University. Katznelson focuses on the work of James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School and author of the book Hitler’s American Model. Katznelson writes:

“Every day brings fresh reminders that liberal and illiberal democracy can entwine uncomfortably, a timely context for James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model, which examines how the Third Reich found sustenance for its race-based initiatives in American law.”

Let’s recall that even as the Nazis were relocating and then exterminating vast numbers of Jews and other ethnic and socially marginal populations in Europe, the US, under the guise of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, was stripping tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry of their property and forcing them to relocate to internment camps (even as many of these loyal citizens enlisted in the US armed forces and went on to fight bravely against the Axis powers). Tom C. Clark, retired Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court wrote:

“The truth is – as this deplorable experience proves – that constitutions and laws are not sufficient; they must be given life through implementation and strict enforcement. Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of laws, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied under Executive Order 9066.”

And not just in shaky legal underpinnings has the US failed its citizens and given comfort and support to the forces of racial, political, and economic oppression; we have done so in the public arena as well. For instance, on February 20, 1939, 20,000 people filled Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism. This largely forgotten event is recounted in a documentary film titled A Night at The Garden, directed by Marshall Curry and produced by Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook. The seven-minute film, which consists entirely of archival footage of the event, premiered at Sundance in 2018 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/237489146. See also https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/american-nazi-organization-rally-madison-square-garden-1939/.

At this gathering, Nazi Fritz Kuhn, a German-born, naturalized American citizen, calls for America, assuredly a nation of immigrants, to be controlled by only a subset of the myriad citizens who built and defended the country:

“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Americans, American patriots, I am sure I do not come before you tonight as a complete stranger. You all have heard of me through the Jewish-controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail. We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it. If you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter, first, a socially just, white, Gentile-ruled United States. Second, Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish, Moscow-directed domination.”

There is something quite familiar today about this language of exclusion, this valorizing of one group paired with the systematic disparaging of others, including those who raise their voices to object. Do take the time to watch this short film. Then ponder this question: if American Nazis were to pack Madison Square Garden for a rally today, would their First Amendment right to free speech be protected? An article on History.com explains,

“The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what types of speech is protected. Legally, material labeled as obscene has historically been excluded from First Amendment protection, for example, but deciding what qualifies as obscene has been problematic. Speech provoking actions that would harm others – true incitement and/or threats – is also not protected, but again determining what words have qualified as true incitement has been decided on a case-by-case basis.” (Source: https://www.history.com/topics/united-states-constitution/first-amendment#section_3)

We may get a sense of the current limits to free speech by examining the Unite the Right rally that was held in Charlottesville, VA, from August 11 to 12, 2017. According to Wikipedia (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally),

“Protesters were members of the far-right and included self-identified members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and various militias. The marchers chanted racist and anti-semitic slogans, carried semi-automatic rifles, Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols (such as the swastika, Odal rune, Black Sun, and Iron Cross), the Valknut, Confederate battle flags, Deus Vult crosses, flags and other symbols of various past and present anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic groups.”

The march was allowed to proceed; but on the morning of August 12, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, stating that public safety could not be safeguarded. Then, within an hour, the Virginia State Police declared the rally to be an unlawful assembly. By then, however, the event had turned violent after protesters clashed with counter-protesters, leaving more than 30 injured. And a couple hours later, at around 1:45 PM, self-identified white supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr., deliberately drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters about half a mile away from the rally site, killing one person and injuring nearly 40 others. Readers are invited to read the rest of the documentation of this recent history for themselves. There is much political debate from all sides about Charlottesville.

Fast forward, and on March 22, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order requiring colleges to certify that their policies support free speech as a condition of receiving federal research grants. The president had promised earlier in the month in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he would do something about what he called a political climate on liberal college campuses that discourages discourse. His executive order makes research funding conditional on “compliance with the First Amendment” and directs federal agencies to ensure that institutions receiving federal research or education grants “promote free inquiry.” (Source: https://www.npr.org/2019/03/22/705739383/trump-and-universities-in-fight-over-free-speech-federal-research-funding)

Political posturing aside, we agree with President Trump’s use of the words “compliance with the First Amendment.”

It takes freedom of speech to defend the First Amendment and articulate why you are doing so. This essay is an example. And it takes freedom of the press to investigate and report. It takes a citizenry willing to think about issues and engage in civil debate for a democracy to succeed. If we, the public, are lazy or distracted, we end up with the government we deserve. History says we won’t like the government we get if most of us are passive about it.

I personally defend the rights of writers and media personalities, even when I disagree with them. I use their work in my time-consuming effort to sort out facts from opinions. At Cumberland, we constantly review all media in our daily effort to comprehend finance and economics. In the opinion category, we watch the pro-Republican Fox trio of Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham and the pro-Democrat CNN trifecta of Cooper, Cuomo, and Lemon. We see or hear Maddow and Limbaugh. We can list many others. Watching or hearing or reading all of them is to get a more holistic view of the divided America we have become.

Only a vigorous defense of the US Constitution, and the First Amendment in particular, stands between our repeating history and suffering further tragic outcomes. That is why freedom of speech and of the press are so important. George Santayana’s famous dictum applies: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

On April 11, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, is the keynote speaker at Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event in Sarasota, Fla. Gretchen champions the free press; it’s not a left-right issue. Pertaining to her Fannie Mae investigative reporting, she cited the secrecy at the Obama White House as yet another sign of a pattern that Margaret Sullivan (public editor at The New York Times) identified as the administration’s “unprecedented secrecy and attacks on a free press.”
FINANCIAL MARKETS & THE ECONOMY Financial Literacy Day III Keynote Gretchen Morgenson (Book - Reckless Endangerment)
We encourage you to join us April 11th at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and hear Gretchen Morgenson’s accounts of exercising our cherished First Amendment to uncover truth at the highest levels of government and business. Details below.


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
•    The Stock Market
•    Health Hunger and Philanthropy
•    How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
•    A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
•    Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary
Part 1: Freedom of the Press
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [emphasis ours]

Early last month we learned that journalists who covered the migrant caravan that approached the US border in late 2018, seven Americans among them, have since repeatedly been singled out for unusual scrutiny by the Border Patrol at the US-Mexico border. On March 6, NBC 7 of San Diego revealed the Border Patrol’s intelligence gathering behind extra interviews, demands to examine laptops and phones, and even instances in which two photojournalists and an attorney were denied entry to Mexico. (For that televised report, see https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.) The US government has been collecting intelligence on Americans who accompanied the caravan as journalists, attorneys, witnesses, social media influencers, and activists. Screenshots of that database of “Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media,” supplied by an anonymous source in the Department of Homeland Security, show that alerts were placed on several journalists’ passports, triggering the extra scrutiny they encountered. (See screenshots at https://www.nbcsandiego.com/multimedia/PHOTOS-Leaked-Documents-to-NBC-7-Investigates-506782041.html.)

Some journalists felt that Border Patrol agents were attempting to use them and their devices to glean intelligence on the caravan, jeopardizing confidential sources and their rights as journalists to do their jobs. Phones and laptops have been requested, along with the passwords needed to inspect their contents. In fact, there have been complaints from other Americans about similar warrantless searches going back as far as 2011, and not just those leveled by journalists and others traveling with the migrant caravan. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/us/politics/us-border-privacy-phone-searches.html.)

But laws that enable warrantless searches for Homeland Security purposes can collide head on with the work of a free press, as journalists must now resort to handling the security of their data at the US-Mexico border just as they would handle it in hostile nations, and they must plan on the possibility that they will be detained for lengthy interviews or even denied access.

In fact, it was the very fact that they were documenting the caravan’s arrival when violence broke out at the border in San Diego that resulted in alerts being placed on their passports. (See the 4:20 p.m. update in the NBC 7 article: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.)

But, according to one Homeland Security source, the dossiers created on journalists and others were, in fact, illegal. “We are a criminal investigation agency; we’re not an intelligence agency. We can’t create dossiers on people, and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.” (https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html) Targeting people according to their presence and their profession also constitutes overreach. To be targeted and tracked and profiled simply because you are in a particular place at a particular time doing your job should not be a situation any member of the press faces. To implement such a practice is effectively to discourage coverage of events at the border altogether. It is intimidation and interference, and Amendment I forbids that practice in the United States of America.

Let’s make this clear: Whatever CPB’s intentions and purposes may have been, the pragmatic effect of its actions amounted to interference in journalists’ ability to do their jobs and without compromising sources. The press cannot rightfully be impeded in its work or subjected to warrantless searches simply for witnessing and reporting. This is, however, what has been happening, though journalists are not alone. (Information security and warrantless searches are sometimes issued for business travelers, too, as one Apple employee learned last fall: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/03/apple-employee-detained-by-us-customs-agents-after-declining-unlock-phone-laptop.) Details of the experiences of journalists covering the migrant caravan have been reported in several sources. See https://cpj.org/2019/02/several-journalists-say-us-border-agents-questione.php and https://wamu.org/story/19/03/07/u-s-reportedly-compiled-database-of-journalists-working-along-southwest-border/.

After the story broke, CBP responded with a statement (which can be viewed in full at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5759650-CBP-Full-Statement.html), noting that “Criminal events, such as the breach of the border wall in San Diego, involving assaults on law enforcement and a risk to public safety, are routinely monitored and investigated by authorities. These activities could result in a more thorough review of those seeking entrance into our country. It is protocol following these incidents to collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if the event was orchestrated. CBP and our law enforcement partners evaluate these incidents, follow all leads garnered from information collected, conduct interviews and investigations, in preparation for, and often to prevent future incidents that could cause further harm to the public, our agents, and our economy.”

According to a report in the Guardian, “Andrew Meehan, CBP’s assistant commissioner of public affairs, said the agency identified individuals who may have information related to incidents where CBP agents were attacked in November and January. ‘CBP does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting,’ Meehan said in a statement.”

The CBP’s mission to investigate, however, cannot overstep its reach to trump the country’s First Amendment right to a free press.

Esha Bhandari, an ACLU staff attorney, quoted in a recent article in the Guardian, sees the practice of targeting journalists among others not only as violating freedom of the press, but as deterring free speech more broadly: “It means that the debate about immigrants’ rights, about the treatment of immigrants, about the treatment of asylum seekers, is going to be suppressed or censored because the people who are speaking out with a voice that’s critical of the government are going to be singled out for harsher treatment or punished.” Advocates for immigrants’ rights also feel this pressure under an administration particularly aggressive about curbing immigration and deporting undocumented immigrants already in the US (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/20/leaked-database-targeting-journalists-immigration-activists).

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has tracked warrantless searches and documents regarding the extent to which their overall use has expanded: “CBP figures show that over the past three years the agency has increased the number of electronic device searches from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 30,000 in 2017. This more-than-threefold increase comes as journalists report being concerned about their ability to protect sources and amid growing hostile rhetoric toward the press” https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-search-phone-press-freedom-cbp.php.

The CPJ has made a series of recommendations to Congress, to DHS, and to the media, designed to ensure that freedom of the press and the rights of journalists and others are not violated by CBP practices. Those recommendations are laid out in full at the CPJ website: https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-press-freedom-recommendations.php.

Highlights of CPJ’s recommendations follow:

Recommendations

To Congress

  • “Pass legislation that would require DHS to obtain a warrant before searching devices at the border, which is essential to protecting the privacy of journalists who are traveling into or out of the United States.
  • “Pass legislation that requires DHS to report the number of basic and advanced electronic device searches conducted at the border, along with demographic breakdowns of who these device searches affect, and the number of searches that result in evidence later used in a criminal case. These reporting requirements should include the number of people subject to device searches who object to device searches on the grounds that they are members of the media.
  • “The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs should hold a hearing to ask detailed questions of DHS about electronic device searches, including their impact on journalists, any guidelines the agency has in place regarding interactions with the media, and the number of device searches conducted pursuant a request by another agency, with statistics from each requesting agency….”

Department of Homeland Security

  • “DHS should not use secondary screenings at the border to question journalists for the purpose of intelligence gathering that goes beyond the purpose of facilitating lawful travel entry for that individual.
  • “DHS should modify its policy on electronic device searches to require a warrant and probable cause before searching digital information contained on devices. In the case of journalists, it should work with media organizations to establish clear guidelines on when a warrant can be issued to search devices belonging to a member of the media, similar to those established by the Department of Justice.”

Newsrooms

  • “Newsrooms should ensure that journalists are trained in digital security when crossing the border. They should work with legal counsel and security experts to provide guidance for how journalists should respond to questioning at the border or requests to search their electronic devices.
  • “Journalists should take steps to minimize the amount of sensitive information that they are carrying across the U.S. border and ensure that they take appropriate steps to safeguard their digital security and that they are aware of their rights.”

Warrantless searches, especially of journalists who are mere witnesses doing their jobs to document events, are a disturbing trend in the US. Constitutionally guaranteed rights do not preserve themselves. Americans must exercise vigilance and demand accountability from every agency in our government. It is, after all, a free press that affords us the reporting that enables us to hold our government accountable.

The famous words often attributed to Edmund Burke remain a riveting reminder for our times: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” (See https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/.)

To speak out against CBP interference with journalists’ work, call your Senator and your Representative:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To donate to the Committee to Protect Journalists, access this link: https://donate.cpj.org/page/28608/donate/.

Note that on April 11, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, is the keynote speaker at Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event. Gretchen is a champion of the free press. Pertaining to her Fannie Mae investigative reporting, she cited the secrecy at the Obama White House as yet another sign of a pattern that Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at The Times, has called the administration’s “unprecedented secrecy and attacks on a free press.”

If you’re a proponent of the First Amendment and its importance to our republic, please join us April 11th at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

The conversation continues at “Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 2


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address, “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/


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