While no official censorship of literature at the federal level is known to exist presently, the United States government has banned literature in the past, such as the confiscation and burning of Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s works in the 1950s.1 For the most part, today the United States government relies upon more covert forms of censorship. For example, Google has reported that in 2012 the U.S. government issued more requests for data removal than any other nation.2 The United States government, however, does engage in some forms of overt censorship, such as the ban on federal employees from accessing the whistle-blowing site, WikiLeaks.3 There has also been a major push at the federal level to create legislation, such as SOPA and CISPA, with the ultimate aim of censoring the internet.4
Perhaps shocking to some, the United States ranks 32nd of 179 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index of 2013.5 Currently the United States seems to be seeking to silence voices opposed to American hegemony, particularly the voices of journalists. In 2011, U.S. President Obama made a request to the president of Yemen that a Yemeni journalist, Abudelah Haider Shaye, remain in prison.6 Shaye had covered a story in which the government of Yemen had claimed it had carried out an attack on an Al Qaeda stronghold in Malaja, though upon investigation the journalist discovered missile parts clearly labeled “Made in USA.”6 There is also the case of an environmental activist, David McGowan, first arrested in 2005, finally released in April of 2013, but then subsequently re-imprisoned after blogging about having been held in a so-called “Communication Management Unit” (CMU) used to silence prisoners.7 Mr. McGowan reported that many of those imprisoned within CMUs were sequestered from other people sometimes merely for having views that ran contrary to those of the Department of Justice.7
1 Turner, Christopher. “Wilhelm Reich: The Man Who Invented Free Love.” The Guardian. July 8, 2011. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/08/wilhelm-reich-free-love-orgasmatron.
2 “Google Transparency Report.” Google. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/government/countries/?t=table.
3 MacAskill, Ewen. “Ban on Federal Staff Reading WikiLeaks Hampering Work, Says US Official.” The Guardian. December 10, 2010. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/10/us-ban-staff-WikiLeaks-official.
4 Greenfield, Rebecca. “Why CISPA Is Worse Than SOPA.” The Atlantic Wire. April 27, 2012. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/04/why-cispa-worse-sopa/51638/.
5 “Press Freedom Index: 2013.” Reporters Without Borders. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html.
6 Scahill, Jeremy. “Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?” The Nation. March 13, 2012. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.thenation.com/article/166757/why-president-obama-keeping-journalist-prison-yemen#.
7 Steiger, Kay. “Environmental Activist Re-Jailed After Writing Blog Post About Prison Conditions.” The Raw Story. April 5, 2013. Last accessed April 30, 2013. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/05/environmental-activist-re-jailed-after-writing-blog-post-about-prison-conditions/.