While few would expect the National Security Agency to have a sense of humor, one would at least hope that they respect citizens' constitutional rights. But in the case of Dan McCall, owner of novelty goods company LibertyManiacs, the NSA is applying the sort of censorship one might find in China, North Korea or other less-democratic societies.
McCall is fighting back, suing for his right to mock the spy organization as well as other government departments.
LibertyManiacs sells shirts featuring the NSA logo with the caption “The NSA: The only part of the government that actually listens.” Other items include mugs with slogans like “Department of Homeland Stupidity.”
The government sent a cease-and-desist order against against distributor Zazzle in 2011, after which the company stopped selling McCall’s products. Zazzle explained, “Unfortunately, it appears that your product, The NSA, contains content that is in conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines. We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.”
McCall joked about the issue, saying, “Well, on the positive side I could get the unenviable honorific of being ‘the 1st man to receive a cease and desist from the National Security Agency for telling a joke.’”
But McCall, represented by Public Citizen, is not joking with his lawsuit against the DHS and NSA for violation of First Amendment rights.
Said attorney Paul Alan Levy, “The agencies’ attempts to forbid McCall from displaying and selling his merchandise are inconsistent with the First Amendment. It’s bad enough that these agencies have us under constant surveillance; forbidding citizens from criticizing them is beyond the pale.”
Public Citizen posted a statement on their website saying, “Public Citizen is asking the court to declare that several provisions of the National Security Agency Act cannot be enforced to forbid McCall from displaying his merchandise, and that two other laws are unconstitutionally overbroad because they violate the First Amendment by saying no one can “mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States.”
Although Zazzle dropped McCall’s wares, they are still available at CafePress.com.