The United States Bill of Rights, within the Constitution, is what protects our most fundamental liberties. It’s a living document engineered to safeguard the democratic freedoms of the citizens and adapted to the issues of any era.

Yet surprisingly, during Barack Obama’s presidency, our First Amendment rights – the right to free speech – had been severely tested. Representing the ten most outrageous examples of these challenges, this essay aims to demonstrate how the Obama administration’s policies imposed severe restrictions on free speech, thus diminishing the sanctity of the Bill of Rights.

All this coming from a president who is a constitutional lawyer, the irony!

The Ten Most Outrageous Free Speech Restrictions during the Barack Obama Administration and the Diminishing Impact on the Bill of Rights:

1) The Indiscriminate Collection of Telephone Records: The Obama administration, through the National Security Agency (NSA), perpetuated the warrantless surveillance programs in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The mass collection of phone metadata curtailed our right to free speech as people began self-censoring their communications out of fear of potential surveillance. This was a clear deviation from the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

2) The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):The NDAA, signed into law by President Obama, included provisions allowing for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial, thereby hindering the freedom of speech by cultivating a climate of fear and uncertainty.

3) The IRS’s Political Targeting Scandal: Under Obama’s watch, the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, particularly the Tea Party, for tax scrutiny. This blatant politicization of bureaucratic structures suppressed political speech and used tax status as a tool to silence opposition.

4) Espionage Act Prosecutions: The Obama administration, more than all previous administrations combined, has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to convict people for whistleblowing. By doing so, they have created an environment where the fear of punishment for speaking out against government-generated intimidation.

5) Operation Choke Point: Through this initiative, the Department of Justice sought to discourage banks from doing business with so-called “high risk” industries to coerce compliance with administration values, indirectly tampering with free speech rights of entire industries.

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6) Criminalization of Investigative Journalism: Journalists covering animal abuse cases, particularly in the agriculture sector, faced legal repercussions under the Obama administration. By casting investigative journalism as a criminal act, Obama’s administration curtailed freedom of the press, one of the First Amendment’s central components.

7) Excessive Prosecution of Cybercrimes: The Obama administration was aggressive in prosecuting cases under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It turned privacy researchers and activists, like Aaron Swartz, into felons, stifling digital rights and freedom of speech in the digital realm.

8) Failed Transparency: Barack Obama pledged a commitment to the ‘most transparent administration in history’; however, the overuse of the ‘state secret privilege’ and a record of delaying responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, undermined transparency, hampering the free flow of information to the public, thus impeding free speech.

9) Silencing Military Critique: Obama’s administration didn’t take kindly to criticism from military personnel, revealing a trend of disciplining officers for speaking their minds publicly, thereby stifling free speech within the ranks of the nation’s armed forces.

10) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Overreach: Under the guise of ‘net neutrality,’ the Obama administration’s FCC advanced sweeping new regulations that opened the door for increased government control over internet content, placing future free speech in a precarious situation.

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My Take

Though many argue that these actions were in the best interest of national security, the chilling effect they have had on free dialogue is concerning. We have illustrated ten of the most egregious examples of free speech restrictions under Barack Obama’s administration.

These indicators suggest a trend away from the protection of the Bill of Rights towards policies that subtly, yet unequivocally, restrict freedom of speech. Protection of the First Amendment is not a partisan issue; it’s an American one. We must remain vigilant and hold our leaders accountable to ensure our rights persist in maintaining the essence of what it genuinely means to be an American citizen.

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About the Author

Big John

I have an Associates & Bachelors Degree in Criminology with a minor in Political Science. I've been blogging since around 2017, my work has been viewed by 800,000 people, and I am a registered Libertarian. My work has been talked about on many of the largest news outlets in the world from Reuters, USA Today, Politifact,, The Quint and many other outlets.

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