All Subversive Organizations Now Must Register in South Carolina

This appears not to be a joke:

The state's "Subversive Activities Registration Act," passed last year and now officially on the books, states that "every member of a subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign control, every foreign agent and every person who advocates, teaches, advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States ... shall register with the Secretary of State."

There's even a $5 filing fee.

By "subversive organization," the law means "every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States [or] of this State."

Wow, is that idiotic or what?

Here's the form.

Does the Republican Party count as an organization that "directly ... advocates ... controlling ... the government"? I think it does. I think all political parties count under that definition.

How about we all fill in a copy and send it to them.

EDITED TO ADD (2/9): I misquoted the statute: "(1) 'Subversive organization' means every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means;"

It's the last clause that rules out most of us.

EDITED TO ADD (2/11): And it seems that this is from the McCarthy era: 1951.

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM • 99 Comments

Comments

nFebruary 9, 2010 12:16 PM

At $5 a pop, it's much more price conscious entertainment per hour to submit the dozens of organizations that qualify and watch them deal with the results.

Maybe this is a very clever tax on internet pranksters.

ParatrooperJJFebruary 9, 2010 12:18 PM

I guess you don't hold a professional license? To renew a license one has to to submit a DMA (Designation of Material Assistance to Terrorists) form. This states that you don't provide any assistance to terrorist groups. The kicker, they plainly state that the list of groups they send with the form is incomplete and that the online list may also be inaccurate also but you are still responsible for complying.

anonFebruary 9, 2010 12:20 PM

The purpose is simple. Suppose there are two people who get together and talk about overthrowing the government. They don't actually intend to do it, it's just talk. Before, this wasn't a crime (Freedom of speech etc). Now, it is, because they won't have filled in the paperwork.

They didn't outright ban talking about overthrowing the government, because that probably wouldn't have stood up to constitutional scrutiny.

It's yet another law to selectively enforce against people they don't like.

By the way, anyone who does fill in the paperwork will instantly find themselves on the no-fly list, and hassled by law enforcement.

jgrecoFebruary 9, 2010 12:32 PM

I am tempted to fill one out for myself, and claim that my subversive act of choice is filling out frivilous subversive agent registration forms.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 9, 2010 12:37 PM

@ Bruce,

Ann gives you the tip via her post at 9:34. You have it as a thread at 12:09.

Say 2 1/2 hours is this a record ;)

Geoffrey KiddFebruary 9, 2010 12:38 PM

Huh? I thought the very *definition* of "citizen" included "directly advocates controlling the government."

CalvinFebruary 9, 2010 12:38 PM

Can we cancel the panic? I think the last few lines of this definition would rule out most groups.

(1) "Subversive organization" means every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means;

Last I checked the Republican and Democratic parties weren't advocating control "by force or violence or other unlawful means".

DavidEFebruary 9, 2010 12:43 PM

The part of the regulation you quoted defining subversive organization does not end in a period as you indicated inside the quote marks; was that a deliberate misquote?

Here is the rest of the definition, which invalidates your remarks about political parties qualifying. "of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means;"

Notwithstanding the misquote, I agree that this regulation is idiotic...

Clive RobinsonFebruary 9, 2010 12:46 PM

The thought occurs about the $5 charge, is it going to cover the cost of processing or not...

Let us say it actually take $50 to process the form (actualy for most burecratic types it's more likley to be $150).

Therefore just filling in the form could be considered an act that would be of,

"necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States [or] of this State."

As you are attempting to bankrupt the idiots...

jerry shenkFebruary 9, 2010 12:56 PM

Controlling the government - I believe that's a constitutional duty of us all and specifically all three branches of government. The founding fathers were concerned with the growth and power of an uncontrolled government so they specifically built in checks and balances for that purpose.

not a lawyer, but neither are youFebruary 9, 2010 1:00 PM

If the qualifying phrase is "by unlawful means", then the statute is worthless, as it contradicts the Fifth Amendment clause against compulsory self-incrimination. Registering under the statue can't be used as evidence:

"... nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself ..."


Nick LancasterFebruary 9, 2010 1:00 PM

@Calvin:

Apparently, you can light your privates on fire, and that qualifies as seeking to overthrow the government around these parts.

But seriously, there were more than a few people yelling 'KILL HIM!' and 'TERRORIST!' at McCain/Palin rallies.

AnnonFebruary 9, 2010 1:06 PM

The U.S. Government has a similar form for registering as an agent of a foreign power so spies can comply with Title 18 USC 951. Usually when spies like Ames, Montes, Nicholson, etc. get nabbed, one of the charges included in the indictment is 18 USC 951, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power.

BF SkinnerFebruary 9, 2010 1:20 PM

No joke and the subject is getting much play on the Alex Jones fringe. Virginia is suppose to have one and Alex frothes "other states are considering them." Still looking for the VA ordinance

It won't stand a court challenge. The president of the First Ammendment Coalition told me it's flatly un-constitutional. SCOTUS found in 1968 that calling for violent overthrow of the US is protected political speech under the 1st ammendment.

BF SkinnerFebruary 9, 2010 1:25 PM

@Robert "Have you ever been or are you now "

This isn't as lame as it seems as Annon points out. There's a significant fine/jail for making false official statements. That can provide enough justification for arrest while evidence for other charges is gathered.

The question is what is SC intent with this law? Jones & co. believe that anyone on a hate speech list (he cites the JDL and the SPLC as sources of the names on this purported list) will be required to register and if they don't know about it are automatically in breech.

John CampbellFebruary 9, 2010 1:28 PM

Didn't Heinlein explain this? "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity"?

Maybe the governor of South Carolina thinks that his mistress (or plural?) may be considered as subversive.

ALL news-papers and TV News organizations qualify, don't they?

John Adams gave us the first attempt at a gag order during his Presidency which directly drove the Bill of Rights. How is this different?

jgrecoFebruary 9, 2010 1:28 PM

"Unlawful means" could potentially include anything upto and including passing the Patriot Act, or nonviolent civil disobedience. The last clause certainly does not make this at all ok, nor would it prevent most political parties from being classified as subversive organizations.

Any politician who ever broke a law while preforming their duties could fall under this, and that means _every_ politician.

FuzzyFebruary 9, 2010 1:28 PM

every... group... composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly... teaches... the... propriety of... overthrowing the government of the United States... by force or violence....

So, basically, anyone teaching the Declaration of Indepedence would
be forced to register, since the United States Declaration of
Indepedence speaks directly to the propriety of overthrowing a
government by force.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute
Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such
Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

-- http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html


And we have to abolish Patrick Henry from our list of topics when
studying the "founding fathers".

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone
who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it
but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are
inevitably ruined.

-- http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/patrickhen101581.html


And we need to abolish any coverage of the U.S. Civil War, since that
would teach about the propriety of overthrowing the government of the
United States.

[Our situation] illustrates the American idea that governments rest
on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people
to alter or abolish them whenever they become destructive of the ends
for which they were established. (Jefferson Davis)

-- http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/Jefferson+Davis


Has our own history become sedition and subversive?
What a sad, sorry, state of affairs.

Nick PFebruary 9, 2010 1:30 PM

@ BF Skinner

Good to know. It should be this way: most of the constitution was written to protect people from government. This includes the 2nd amendment, which is why most gun control debates are kind of side-stepping the issue focusing on crime. Government always trying to overstep their bounds, but at least Supreme Court is on our side here and there.

@ Clive Robinson

It seems you never fail to catch such little details. My mind filters out too much unneeded information to have noticed that. It's why I get people like you to peer review my work: "Well, Nick, it would have been secure but you typed = instead of == and now they have root. Aren't you glad this isn't production?" Typos... grr....

John CampbellFebruary 9, 2010 1:35 PM

Actually, stepping back a bit...

"Unlawful means", eh?

Manipulation of election results will qualify, won't it? So both political parties are in the jam...

Dirty DaveyFebruary 9, 2010 1:39 PM

Certainly it would seem that anyone who presents the Confederacy in anything other than a negative light is teaching the propriety of overthrowing the government of the United States.

SeanFebruary 9, 2010 1:40 PM

Hmm, so does my ultra-patriotic neighbor whose bumper stickers proclaim "My Country, Love It or Leave It", "First the Soap Box, Then the Ballot Box, If Nothing Else Works, the Ammo Box", "Get the US out of the UN", "Nuke Iran", "Ban the Trilateral Commission" et.al. come under this ruling?

What's their stance on Posse Comitatus, and the John Birch Society?

Petréa MitchellFebruary 9, 2010 1:53 PM

This would also seem to cover the Tea Party and most pro-gun organizations, as one of the more popular arguments lately is that they need their guns just in case it's ever necessary for the citizenry to rise up and violently overthrow the federal government.

CraigFebruary 9, 2010 1:54 PM

It seems like this is similar to the marijuana stamp laws that some states have passed. Even though the state clearly outlaws possession of the drug, it is often difficult and costly to prosecute offenders. However, it is almost a procedural issue if someone does not having the appropriate stamps affixed to his drug stash. And the penalties for not having the stamp can be significant. So even though it is counter-intuitive, the stamp serves its purpose effectively. It saves the government significant prosecution resources, while still punishing perpetrators.

The South Carolina law could have a similar purpose.

ChrisFebruary 9, 2010 1:55 PM

Count me among those who think it's just for charge stacking. They can use it to (selectively) harass people by forcing them to defend themselves even when the police doesn't have enough evidence to support a more serious charge and even though the law will inevitably be overturned when the first person with the money to do so fights it.

BTW this law reminds me of the (Colorado-only?) marijuana tax stamp from decades ago. It was a separate offense if you didn't have a $100 stamp for every ounce of pot and of course they were always "just out" of the stamps if anyone actually tried to buy one. The law was eventually overturned as unconstitutional since you can't be punished for failing to obey a law that the state itself makes it impossible to obey.

DavidFebruary 9, 2010 2:01 PM

So, that would include any discussion in South Carolina about possibly violating any election law, including those relating to contributions. Interesting.

kiwanoFebruary 9, 2010 2:06 PM

@Clive:

By filling out a frivolous form in order to bankrupt the government, you're not actually committing an act subject to regulation. See, you'd be seeking to control/overthrow/etc. the government of South Carolina, whilst the law is demanding registration of such activities directed against the federal government.

EdFebruary 9, 2010 2:12 PM

not much different than the SACB from the 50's when the scare was communists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subversive_Activities_Control_Board), which I think was determined unconstitutional in '65 (?).

dragonfrogFebruary 9, 2010 2:16 PM

@ Fuzzy

I was going to say - you could have fun with that in the press, if you could pin down some S.C. politicos.

- Read the text of the act
- Read the text of the declaration of independence
- Ask them whether their parties and constituency organizations have duly registered themselves, and if not, what exactly it is about the declaration of independence they don't agree with

There just is no right answer - anything they say would be embarassing...

Joe in AustraliaFebruary 9, 2010 2:32 PM

This sort of thing looks very silly to non-lawyers, but it's actually an artifact of the legal system. The form that Robert referred to, for instance, is there to modify the legal rights of foreigners. Taking the question about Nazis as an example: a foreigner can be refused entry to the USA by administrative action (the decision of an immigration officer) if they admit to being involved in Nazi persecutions. If they falsely deny being involved then they the fact that they have lied is a legally valid reason to deport them. The standard of proof required for this is much lower than for a criminal prosecution, and the USA typically doesn't even want to prosecute them - it just doesn't want them in the country.

On another website I said:
I suspect it's a way to do one of the following:
1) Avoid a defense based on the First Amendment, by claiming that an investigation was aimed at tax avoidance and not suppression of free speech;
2) Adding a State charge to potential Federal ones, thereby giving the State jurisdiction;
3) Lowering the standard of proof necessary to show that an organisation has breached the law.

BF SkinnerFebruary 9, 2010 3:05 PM

@Nick P

Interesting thought. If advocating violent overthrough is a protected constitutional right then forbidding actual violent overthrow would be inconsistent.

I'm sure SCOTUS will end up agreeing with the people with guns to their heads.

Oh...PS everyone contributing to this discussion thread ALSO self-identify's under SC's subversive law.

RandomFebruary 9, 2010 4:24 PM

I'm going to work with American friends to funnel my next GST cheque to a few SC politicos. By my reading, that makes them "members of an organization subject to foreign control", by dint of the "indirectly recieves funds from a foreign government" clause.

LouisFebruary 9, 2010 4:34 PM

Someone in that state's government is a very disturbed individual... with power. And the people around are probably going "Yes Sir! No Sir!, You are absolutely right, Sir"

Harry JohnstonFebruary 9, 2010 4:36 PM

Looks to me like the definition of "subject to foreign control" would cover anyone working for the UN, just as an example. It might also cover companies that sell products or provide services to the UN.

Unless I'm misinterpreting the wording, anyone subject to foreign control needs to register, regardless of whether they intend to overthrow the US government or not.

o.s.February 9, 2010 4:36 PM

Unbelievable!!!!! Doesn't this crush the 1st amendment? Who defines what's subversive? I know they mentioned some definitions but if you listen to some of the most breathless politico idiots out there they would insist that Pokemon and the Teletubbies would have to be registered as members of a subversive organization. South Carolina makes me ashamed to be an American. When will the whole country realize that it's no longer the 1800's? I wish that I didn't know that this law was on the books but it's too late now. Dang.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 9, 2010 5:01 PM

@ kiwano,

"you're not actually committing an act subject to regulation. See, you'd be seeking to control/overthrow/etc. the government of South Carolina"

I don't get you.

To activly conspire with others to make "a person legal or natural" bankrupt, would be an act of "control" or legaly neutering such that they cannot function which would effectivly be "overthrow".

Yes it's aimed at S.C. Not the Federal Gov, but then as quoted above,

"necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States [or] of this State"

The last part of which "[or] of this State" I think means SC itself.

So to fill out the form knowing that it is going to cost the state of SC more to process than you pay is arguably a crime (ie the intent is to do harm against another).

In the UK there are laws to prevent this sort of behaviour after one or two "Smart Alec's" realised that they could write out a cheque to the tax man on the side of an animal, and that not only could the taxman not refuse to take it (ie it was lawfully presented payment for a debt owed refusal of which negated the debt), but the taxman was also required by law to preserve the original and return it to the owner in good order once payment was cleared. Thus the taxman would have to lookafter the animal through the clearing process and present it back to the owner in good order or else be sued.

Sadly the change in law also appears to have stopped the presentation of payment in small coins shortly before the tax office closed at the end of the day (another trick designed to rub the tax authorities nose in it).

A friend of mine however found a way to rub there snouts in it. They made the mistake of requiring (as he put it) "to attend a meeting under duress".

When he got there the first thing he did was put a tape recorder on the table and then present an invoice for travel expenses for which he required immediate payment. The tax officer made the mistake of refusing it. My friend then got up quietly and started putting stickers on the furniture and other items in the office including the tax man's briefcase and coat. Shortly there after my fried informed the tax officer he had put a notice of distraint on the objects as he was lawfully entitled to do as a bailif, and that if the debt was not paid immediatly he would be back with a van to take the items to auction. The tax man rather stupidly made other comments and my friend duely called the police so that action could be enforced.

At a later stage the taxman started proceadings against my friend who chearfully counter sued and pushed for Malfeasence In Public Office. When he played the tape recording to more senior taxmen and their legal representatives they agreed to drop proceadings and reach a setelment on my friends "equitable terms"...

Again sadly since then a Judge has decided to change the meaning of the law (see BCCI case against the Governor of the Bank of England) which makes a charge of Malfeasence in public office more than somewhat difficult in the UK these days by the inclusion of "wilfully" and "Without reasonable excuse or justification" into the previous definition 8(

LibertarianFebruary 9, 2010 5:43 PM

@Bruce

Nice snipe at the republicans, but then again, maybe you should actually take a second and look at the democrats.

Not that you're a political hack or anything, or maybe you are.

nooneofconsequenceFebruary 9, 2010 5:54 PM

The Declaration of Independence suggests it is not only our right, but our duty to overthrow the government when it's being particularly abusive.

The democrats have a lock on the living impaired vote in almost every election. Does that count as "unlawful means"?

BF SkinnerFebruary 9, 2010 5:58 PM

@Clive "inclusion of "wilfully" and "Without reasonable excuse or justification" into the previous definition"

Interesting ...the strong control of soft words.

Albatross February 9, 2010 6:04 PM

The problem with the "unlawful means" amendment is that it is very difficult to determine what is actually lawful or unlawful anymore. One tactic of a police state is to make the laws so Byzantine that you can almost always find a charge to level against someone.

For example, if you are an organization that seeks to encourage low income people to vote, but you are the subject of a "sting" operation in which someone dressed absurdly like a caricature pimp accosts your receptionist and asks ridiculous questions, you can have your funding slashed even though that same "pimp" goes on to attempt to wiretap a U.S. Senator.

Oh, wait, sorry, bad example, that organization didn't break any actual laws.

B.H.ObamaFebruary 9, 2010 6:04 PM

Name of Subversive Organization: United States of America Executive, Congressional & Judicial Branches
Name of Chief Agent(s) of Organization Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Roberts, Jr.
Address of Chief Agent 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SCOTUS, The Capitol, all in Washington D.C.,

Check the appropriate box.
Do
you [x]
or your organization [x]

directly [x]
or indirectly [x]

advocate, [x]
advise, [x]
teach [x]
or practice [x]

the duty [x]
or necessity

of controlling, [x]
seizing
or overthrowing

the government of the United States, [x]
the state of South Carolina
or any political division [x] thereof? [x] YES [ ] NO

If yes,
please outline the fundamental beliefs. Read: The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, UCMJ.

If applicable,
attach a copy of the bylaws
or minutes of meetings from the last year. See the Congressional Record

Please name all other members of the organization located in South Carolina. If the space on this form is not sufficient,
please attach additional pages referring to this section. See the CENSUS of the United States

Signature of Chief Agent
B.H. Obama

Peter E RetepFebruary 9, 2010 6:07 PM

Well, what do you expect from a place that thinks Edwards was a good leader?

ToBeOrWhatFebruary 9, 2010 6:12 PM

I just filled out 10 of them - along with fake minutes and will be sending them over the next few days. Of course, I used the names of several people whom, I think, will enjoy the joke. If they dont, oh well.

This should be fun..

B.H. ObamaFebruary 9, 2010 6:31 PM

AS REVISED - the Form, presumably trying to be enforceable while not conflicting with 5th Ammendement Protections, does not specify illegality, so - ::
Name of Subversive Organization: United States of America Executive, Congressional & Judicial Branches
Name of Chief Agent(s) of Organization Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Roberts, Jr.
Address of Chief Agent 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SCOTUS, The Capitol, all in Washington D.C.,

Check the appropriate box.
Do
you [x]
or your organization: [x]
any corporation,
society,
association,
camp,
group,
bund,
political party, [x]
assembly, [x]
body [x]
or organization, composed of two or more persons [x]

directly [x]
or indirectly [x]

advocate, [x]
advise, [x]
teach [x]
or practice [x]

the duty [x]
necessity
or propriety [x]

of controlling, [x]
conducting, [x]
seizing
or overthrowing

the government of the United States, [x]
the state of South Carolina
or any political division thereof? [x] YES [ ] NO

If yes,
please outline the fundamental beliefs. Read: The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, UCMJ.

If applicable,
attach a copy of the bylaws
or minutes of meetings from the last year. See the CVongressional Record

Please name all other members of the organization located in South Carolina. If the space on this form is not sufficient,
please attach additional pages referring to this section. See the CENSUS of the United States

Signature of Chief Agent
B.H. Obama

BCSFebruary 9, 2010 6:47 PM

I'm taking a guess here but it looks to me like this is one of those "make it more illegal" or "in case we can't charge them with anything else" things. Sort of like how tax evasions law are sometimes used to nail criminals who can't be touched any other ways: "If you report illegal earnings as income, we can track that and nail you. If you don't report it, we nail you for tax evasion"

SubversiveFebruary 9, 2010 7:34 PM

I just formed an bund called "The United Front Against South of the Border", which advocates the overthrow of the government of South of the Border or Dillon, SC, a political subdivision of South Carolina. We stand against SoB for the many crimes they have commited against humanity and good taste.

Earl KillianFebruary 9, 2010 7:50 PM

Your update that says, "It's the last clause that rules out most of us," would still allow an affirmative answer to "Does the Republican Party count as an organization..." because of the "unlawful means" clause; one need only consider the 2000 Florida election result, where unlawful means were used to exclude Democratic voters from voting.

FooFebruary 9, 2010 8:19 PM

I think the point of this is so you have something to charge people who are just talking. If you can't prove they've been up to something, you can always say "well hey, you failed to register". It's basically a way to suppress sedition.

Nicolas MartinFebruary 9, 2010 8:23 PM

All governments are controlled by violence, which goes by the name of taxation.

Rick AuricchioFebruary 9, 2010 9:23 PM

Their use of the German word "bund" shows the stupidity of the statute. Why didn't they include all other translations? Spanish? French? Swahili?

AlobarFebruary 9, 2010 9:23 PM

Back in the early 1970s, when college graduates I knew applied for jobs which required signing a loyalty oath, they were perplexed. They honestly thought the phrase about not overthrowing the US government by subversion or violence was supposed to be a multiple choice question.

NickoFebruary 9, 2010 10:19 PM

It would also appear that any Muslim organisation which calls for the introduction of Sharia law, of which there are many but doing so would be illegal under the 1st Amendment, would fall under this category. Way to go...

DonFebruary 9, 2010 11:33 PM

Right. so Campus trotskyites. Otherwise harmless millitia types (The ones not actually racing around beating up hispanic immigrants). Anarchists. All of those are now required to register?

Surely this wont pass constitutional muster.

blakeFebruary 9, 2010 11:49 PM

This is a legend from one of my favorite bottles of wine:

In 1954 the village council of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was quite perturbed and apprehensive that flying saucers or "flying cigars" might do damage to their vineyards were they to land within. So, right-thinking men all, they adopted an ordinance prohibiting the landing of flying saucers or flying cigars in their vineyards. (This ordinance has worked well in discouraging such landings.) the ordinance states further that any flying saucers or flying cigars that did land would be taken immediately to the pound.

nobodyFebruary 9, 2010 11:59 PM

>Is it any more absurd than the I-94W immigration form that has to be filled in before entering the USA?

The I-94 form got even more dumb recently - it used to say 'against the USA', but they dropped that clause.

So involved in 'intelligence gathering' = a reservist in Canadian naval intelligence or an undercover RCMP officer should now announce that on entering the US.

Conceivably anyone who has ever been a conscript in any army with a field course in intel gathering is included.

Trevor StoneFebruary 10, 2010 12:05 AM

Given South Carolina's history as Civil War instigator and prominent Confederate flag display, I find South Carolina passing a law shunning using arms to take control of a subdivision of the United States to be very culturally surprising.

invisible slime repelled by JesusFebruary 10, 2010 12:27 AM

Sites like davidicke.com/forum and prisonplanet.com's forum will be illegal in time, just wait...

hwKeitelFebruary 10, 2010 3:17 AM

Is this the first step to legalise subversive organizations?

I think the USA has as much "subversive organizations" as any other country. Think about the KKK.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 10, 2010 3:49 AM

@ nobody,

"Conceivably anyone who has ever been a conscript in any army with a field course in intel gathering is included."

Or trained as a sniper or observer or... the list is quite long.

Oh and then there are the civilians such as police officers, anybody doing customs/imigration work, journos... again the list in most countries is quite long.

Then you come to the UK where just about anybody is spying on somebody else be it a "British National" or otherwise. Local Council Officers are amongst many collecting data on Nationals from other nations and puting it in Gov DBs used amongst other things for agtivities against another sovrign state or it's people.

So maybe the form needs a simple question,

Are you a UK national paid from the public purse either directly or indirectly?

jdlrFebruary 10, 2010 4:09 AM

Newspapers and anonymous government officials. Put them out of business. Don't be an anonymous government official. Some gave all, so we have freedom of speech in this country.

uk visaFebruary 10, 2010 5:45 AM

We need to look beyond the idiocy and see who's paying for this... where the 'thin end of the wedge' is:
South Carolina's major business sectors top 3 are:
Aerospace, Automotive and Biotechnology/Pharmaceutical
http://www.sccommerce.com/locateinsc/businesssectors.aspx
I think it's fair to assume that the only one throwing cash about is the Biotech/Pharma industry.
Take a step back and remind yourself that no politician in the US does anything without being paid, so I think it's fair to say this is the Pharma businesses protecting themselves; possibly from the likes of PETA or other organisations looking at direct action.
All it takes is to add a few words to the law that says:
"(1) "Subversive organization" means every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or [business/industry of strategic importance] of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means"
I've added the words in [ ] as an example of just how quickly a 'stupid' law turns into 10 years in prison for the people who don't condone your business.

BF SkinnerFebruary 10, 2010 6:50 AM

@uk visa "Official Subversive ID Card"

That would be cool...and to be a recognized subversive by South Carolina (as noted by Trevor above) would kinda be a thing to be proud of I think.

Never being able to set foot in the state again would be no inconvience. Though to get to Florida would mean flying or a long detour through Tennessee.

JonFebruary 10, 2010 7:31 AM

I suspect the idea here is that any group which doesn't register, but
later voices its intent to overthrow the government, can promptly be
tossed in jail for breaking this law.

Bit like the "have you now, or have you ever been..." bit on the visa
waiver. They don't seriously expect terrorists to answer truthfully,
but lying on the form is a crime, giving the government leverage to
lock you up, toss you out, investigate you further, etc. That's my
understanding of the theory, anyway - I've no idea whether it actually
works.

QFebruary 10, 2010 8:22 AM

@B.F. Skinner
>It won't stand a court challenge. The president of the First Ammendment
>Coalition told me it's flatly un-constitutional. SCOTUS found in 1968
> that calling for violent overthrow of the US is protected political speech under the
> 1st ammendment.

And how much would you bet on which way the current SCOTUS would rule?

ChrisFebruary 10, 2010 8:54 AM

Same note from upstream - you can talk all you want, within one restriction. It's taking the first specific action that makes it a crime.

The restriction is that you can't 'incite' others to take action. That's a soft word that can cover a lot of territory, of course, but it's the difference between an impassioned rally and a "let's get 'em!" rallying cry.

(Okay, there's also the usual time/manner/place restrictions, e.g., the ban on using amplified voices in a residential area at 2 am. But that applies to all speech.)

KirkFebruary 10, 2010 9:16 AM

This is actually a time-tested law enforcement strategy. Proving all the elements of a complex crime, such as conspiracy, is hard. Proving someone didn't get a license is easy. Several states did something similar to this years ago with so-called "pot stamps", stamps you had to purchase to be in possession of illegal drugs. Proving intent to sell is hard, proving you didn't have a tax stamp is easy.

SpookFebruary 10, 2010 9:22 AM

@nobody
>[i94w form] So involved in 'intelligence gathering' = ...

The form doesn't include intelligence gathering.

Andre LePlumeFebruary 10, 2010 9:45 AM

Given that February is Black History Month in the US, it is somewhat interesting to contemplate how this law in SC might have been used prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

paulFebruary 10, 2010 10:55 AM

That "indirectly" thing will get you every time, particularly if you count linking to someone as advocating them. Link to Google, and you're indirectly advocating the entire intertubes.

But of course the SC legislature is the first organization that has to register, because insofar as any statute they've passed has been invalidated by a court they've been advocating the conduct of government by unlawful means...

CG - ConfusedFebruary 10, 2010 11:23 AM

I am interested by some of the comments here, along the lines of this gives Law Enforcement a catch all to get you for.

Try this scenario: You are a member of a group which is believed to have expressed an intent to violently / unlawfully overthrow the Government.

If Law Enforcement can prove said organisation is a subversive organisation then surely its members can be arrested?

Having this added layer doesnt add much as far as I can see, because if you CANT prove the org is subversive, how can you prosecute members for not being registered?

Have I missed something important? (Its been a long day and I am very tired)

Clive RobinsonFebruary 10, 2010 11:50 AM

Here is a thought for you.

I belive in Democracy, not the namby pamby chimps tea party / mouth piece to rent "representational democracy".

So as I activly encorage others to find the technology and will to switch from "CrooksRus" does this make me a subversive.

After all in effect I'm asking for not just the overthrow of the "elected members" of Government, I'm arguing that they are actually harmfull to the interests of the American people and should like any other blood sucker be removed in what ever manner is appropriate (personaly I'd like to see a "none of the above" box on ballot papers along with a proper 50%+ of votes before any clown can take office).

aristos_achaionFebruary 10, 2010 12:46 PM

It actually makes sense...of course, just having a subversive organization isn't illegal (under First Amendment free speech and assembly rights), but those groups would be unlikely to register and their membership even less likely, especially if it in involves even a nominal fee. However, if a court case comes up involving tricky first amendment rights (say, a neo-Nazi rally that from the police point of view was a near-riot and a disturbance of the peace and the participants' point of view was a peaceful assembly), the state can avoid a long and costly court battle using a cut-and-dried "unregistered subversive" charge.

aristos_achaionFebruary 10, 2010 12:58 PM

@B.F. Skinner

The elegant thing about this law is that it doesn't forbid the speech, it merely requires registration of the organization and its members. You can still speak in an unorganized manner, and you can still form an organization, as long as you register.

@Andre LePlume

I was thinking that myself, but I'd bet that non-violent black groups would have the fairly cut-and-dried defense of not advocating the "controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing" the state gov't, but merely advocating changing state laws, often to conform to SCOTUS rulings (remember, a lot of the demonstrations were asking for the *enforcement* of Brown or Morgan). They'd fare badly in state court (that's a given), but would probably do very well in federal court.

phred14February 10, 2010 2:47 PM

I seem to remember that they put away Al Capone on tax evasion - not racketeering. The tax evasion was easier to prove than the racketeering, and had sufficient penalties to lock him away. One could imagine that this could be (not likely, but could be) a similar ploy. "You can try to dodge the terrorist activities conviction, but we've GOT YOU on failing to register." Now the questions is, "What's the penalty for failing to register?"

AlreadyonthelistFebruary 10, 2010 7:15 PM

@Subversive--LOL does that include the Blenheim's ginger ale SOB makes or did you exclude it?

South Carolina is behind the times, other places just have your Conservative local Congressman put you in a database when you write asking him to oppose any bill that might be considered data collection worthy say torture, Patriot Act, animal rights, etc. Then you'll get harassed to no end by citizen observers.
Its really an awful experience and you can't get help when the observers break the law either.

Scott LahtiFebruary 10, 2010 9:18 PM

There's a state whose fill-out forms grow stranger
You'd think secession'd not pose it a danger
With every form it takes, another five it rakes
Odds are fives aren't near its needs to borrow

Subversive - Agent Man! Subversive - Agent Man!
They've asked all your friends' numbers, and taken down their names

Beware of orn'ry traces in your mind
An orn'ry trace can kill our State-bound kind
So, you best STFU
If you hope to keep a few
Freedoms we hope to take too, tomorrow

Subversive - Agent Man! Subversive - Agent Man!
They've asked all your friends' numbers, and taken down their names

Joe HealeyFebruary 10, 2010 10:45 PM

Apparently this dates back at least 30 or possibly 60 years, and has only recently been made available on the internet. The firestorm associated with the law is interesting, in and of itself. (Of course, they haven't been able to repeal it.)

JimFebruary 10, 2010 10:55 PM

It appears that a bill to revoke an old law has been mis-reported.

From The Volokh Conspiracy:

Did South Carolina Pass a “Subversive Activities Registration Act” Last Year?

That’s what Raw Story reports, but I don’t think that’s right. According to Westlaw, the cited statute dates back to 1951, when a lot of anti-Communist statutes were enacted nationwide. Please let me know if there is some factual evidence I missed.

http://volokh.com/2010/02/10/did-south-carolina-pass-a-subversive-activities-registration-act-last-year/

RogerFebruary 11, 2010 3:36 AM

This appears to be just another internet myth in the making.

The act in question was actually passed in 1951, with the principle intention of preventing local communists from supporting Soviet agents. It was emasculated by a SCOTUS decision in 1957 and has not been enforced for decades. There have been several attempts to repeal it; what actually passed at the most recent session was a successful repeal.

Thanks to the magic of crowd-powered media, the whole internets now thinks this is a new law just passed in S.C.

Anonymous Herbert FonzerelliFebruary 11, 2010 7:27 AM

Wow. It took about 90 comments before somebody debunked this (thank you Joe and Jim!).

But at least it was a good run of some fear mongering, and a shot directed at those stooopid South Carolina Republicans. I guess the bias confirmation caused many to drop their shields of skepticism.

And I'm guilty as charged, too.

I won't say this site has jumped the shark -- Bruce does a lot of good work that we should all appreciate -- but this post certainly went up the ramp and looked into the water at the big fish below.

Erik GreggFebruary 11, 2010 9:50 AM

"...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

- Dec. of Independence

Time to register a new subversive group. Size: 304,059,724.

John ThackerFebruary 11, 2010 5:26 PM

it is somewhat interesting to contemplate how this law in SC might have been used prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

And indeed the law existed before 1964. It actually apparently dates to 1951 (many other states had similar laws then). Doesn't make it less stupid, but it's unenforceable due to rulings since then.

The "passed last year" meme is completely wrong.

http://volokh.com/2010/02/10/did-south-carolina-pass-a-subversive-activities-registration-act-last-year/

RobFebruary 16, 2010 8:49 AM

Remember, that even though in the middle of the 20th century there were Communist parties across the planet involved in violent revolution, the Communists here in the US were just peaceful folks who liked to read and talk. None of them would ever have pulled a gun.

That is why the HUAC and Sen. McC were at best misguided, and at worst evil.

On the other hand, when the HUAC was coming down on Fascists in the USA, then they were doing good work and supporting justice.

Communism==Peace
Fascism==Imperialism==Capitalism==Bad

It is important to keep this distinction in mind when looking at 20th Cen. history.

Steven FrueneAugust 18, 2013 7:51 AM

I think you missed the qualifier. It's in the last line;"by force or violence or other unlawful means." They may as well require a license to deal illegal grubs. - Sounds like some juvenile minds in the South Carolina legislature.

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