Supreme Court hears United States v. Alvarez

« Previous story
Next story »
Supreme Court hears United States v. Alvarez

I've been pretty clear from the start that I felt this was an uphill battle for us in the Supreme Court.  *I* think that the SVA is within the scope of appropriate congressional action, and does not run afoul of the First Amendment, but have always been worried that the Supremes wouldn't see it that way.  After hearing the arguments yesterday, I remain fearful of our prospects, but less so.  Say the trek will be less Everest, and more like Mt. Washington.

It is dangerous to read too much into the questions posed by the Justices in oral arguments.  It's like reading tea leaves…you might get it right, but chances are it was accidental.  That said, I am about to do just that anyway, in the hopes that perhaps some of you keen legal minds out there might read these passages differently, or may have noted other things I missed. 

I will say this at the outset, although I thought it went very well, the guy I consider to be the sharpest JAG I ever knew sent me an email this morning that read:

Predictions based on the justices' questions are not an easy matter, but I don't think SVA is going to prevail. Kennedy seems to think that it is too broad.  

Meanwhile, the Washington Post had an article today that said:

It seemed from the general tenor of the arguments that the justices were looking for ways to agree with [Solicitor General] Verrilli that the exception to the First Amendment’s speech protections was narrow.

He seemed to have one sure supporter in Justice Antonin Scalia, whose comments were uniformly protective of the government’s interests.

“When Congress passed this legislation, I assume it did so because it thought that the value of the awards that these courageous members of the armed forces were receiving was being demeaned and diminished” by those who falsely claimed them, Scalia said.

And Verrilli had one clear skeptic in Sotomayor.  “I thought the core of the First Amendment was to protect even against offensive speech,” she said. “You can’t really believe that a war veteran thinks less of the medal that he or she receives because someone’s claiming that they got one

 Just picking up Scalia is a good thing from my point of view, since we need 5, and I had labelled him as a likely opponent.  As is his custom, Thomas remained silent, but I suspect he is with us.  In order to get to 5, we need Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and then two out of Kennedy, Breyer and Chief Justice Roberts.  Like I said, beforehand I gameplayed us needing all 3, now we just need 2/3.

 Anyway, here are some passages I found interesting.  (Click here to read full transcript.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: I believe that there is no First Amendment value in -- in falsehood.

This was a good sign right off the bat.  Like I said above, I was concerned about Scalia.

 CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What is -- what is the First Amendment value in a lie, pure lie?

After a convoluted answer that cited "personal autonomy" which Roberts rejected, the lawyer went on to Mark Twain, which Roberts pointed out was only a story, a book.  And then Alito weighed in...

 JUSTICE ALITO: Do you really think that there is -- that the First Amendment -- that there is First Amendment value in a bald-faced lie about a purely factual statement that a person makes about himself, because that person would like to create a particular persona? Gee, I won the Medal of Honor. I was a Rhodes scholar, I won the Nobel Prize. There's a personal -­ the First Amendment protects that?

MR. LIBBY: Yes, Your Honor, so long as it doesn't cause imminent harm to another person or imminent harm to a government function.

The "imminent harm" thing was used repeatedly, although Libby (Alvarez's counsel) eventually backed away from imminent after he was challenged on it.  He really couldn't explain what he meant by imminent.

 Anyway, the important issues in this case from my reading of the lower courts rulings (9th and 10 circuit opinions) were whether someone was "harmed" and whether allowing the law to stand would create a "chilling effect" on other protected speech.  Assuming that they find harm and no chilling effect, the court would also look at whether there was a less restrictive way to accomplish the goal.  The remainder of these clips deal with those issues.

On harm, Solicitor General Verrilli (who is now one of my favorite people, he was amazing) laid it out thusly:

GENERAL VERRILLI: And this -- this is a case in which one of the harm that justifies this statute is the misappropriation of the government-conferred honor and esteem, and that is a real harm and a significant harm, and there is also the particularized harm of the erosion of the -- of the value of the military honors confirmed -- conferred -­ by our government; and those are particularized harms that are real; and the kind of speech that this statute regulates are a genuine threat to those harms in a way that, looking backwards, looking and anchoring this argument in the tradition of this Court's precedents, this is a type of calculated factual falsehood.

 I mentioned in an earlier post how much I liked the VFW Amicus, and their bring up the Olympic case.  Others disagreed with me that this was a good argument to make, but Justice Kennedy, often the deciding vote in these cases seems to have agreed with me.  (Golf clap for VFW on this one, I commend you guys.)

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, it seems to me your best analogy is the trademark analogy, Olympic case, et cetera. You put that in a rather minor -- not as an afterthought, but it's a secondary argument in your brief. It seems to me it's the strongest one. The whole breathing space thing almost has it backwards. It presumes that the government is going to have a ministry of truth and then allow breathing space around it, and I just don't think that's our tradition. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that this does diminish the medal in many respects.

 As noted above, Sotomayor was clearly hostile to the act, and made it clear she doesn't feel that the harm is sufficiently laid out.

SOTOMAYOR: What I'm trying to get to is, what harm are we protecting here? I thought that the core of the First Amendment was to protect even against offensive speech. We have a legion of cases that said your emotional reaction to offensive speech is not enough. If that is the core of our First Amendment, what I hear, and that's what I think the court below said, is you can't really believe that a war veteran thinks less of the medal that he or she receives because someone's claiming fraudulently that they got one. They don't think less of the medal. We're reacting to the fact that we're offended by the thought that someone's claiming an honor they didn't receive. So outside of the emotional reaction, 3 where's the harm? And I'm not minimizing it. I too take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I'm dating makes a claim that's not true.

Justice Scalia countered that by asking if Congress felt there was harm.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Do we give some deference to Congress as to whether there is a harm to governmental purposes or do we make it up ourselves? When Congress passed this legislation, I assume it did so because it thought that the value of the awards that these courageous members of the armed forces were receiving was being demeaned and diminished.  By charlatans. That's what Congress thought. Is that utterly unreasonable, that we can't accept it?


And Justice Kennedy just flat out stated his belief regarding the harm to the reputation of the medals.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, it's a matter -­ it's a matter of common sense that [the actions of phonies) seems to me that it demeans the medal.

Likewise justice Alito leaped into the fray on harm. 

JUSTICE ALITO: You acknowledge that the First Amendment allows the prohibition or the regulation of false speech if it causes at least certain kinds of harms. And the problem I have with your argument is determining which harms you think count and which harms don't count. Would you go as far as was suggested earlier to say that only pecuniary harm counts? 

...It seems to me what you're arguing is that we should determine that there are certain harms that are sufficient to allow the prohibition of a false statement and there are certain harms that are not sufficient, irrespective of what judgment Congress made about the significance of those harms. Is that -- is that accurate?

MR. LIBBY: That's certainly part of it. I mean, we believe that there needs to be imminent harm, that it needs to be targeted harm to an individual or to -- to government function, that it can't be the type of diffuse harm that the government goes to place here.

 And finally, Justice Breyer also weighed in.  (This one I found the most exciting, since he hadn't been on my list of being in play on this one.)

JUSTICE BREYER: My theory is that it does hurt the Medal, the purpose, the objective, the honor, for people falsely to go around saying that they have this medal when they don't. Okay? So I might be wrong about that. I just ask you to assume that for purposes of argument, because what I'm trying to get to is I want as big a list as I can to think about of what the less restrictive alternatives are, or might be.

The answer he was looking for never fully materialized.  Mr. Libby didn't really put forth a compelling "less restrictive alternative".  He tried to argue that more speech was the answer, but got somewhat ridiculed by the suggestion that perhaps the DoD could start up a "Medal of Dishonor" and start awarding that to these clowns. 

As I said before, the chilling effect part was intricate and important to this case.  Right up until Libby seemed to take it off the table, in what has to have been the most startling admission against interest I have ever seen in a Supreme Court case…  Clearly it caught Justice Kagan by surprise as well.

JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Libby, let's suppose that I agree with Gertz that there is no constitutional value in a false statement of fact, and the reason why we protect some false statements of fact is to protect truthful speech. So if, if that's so, is -- how is it that this statute will chill any truthful speech? What truthful speech will this statute chill? 

MR. LIBBY: Your Honor, it's not that it may necessarily chill any truthful speech. I mean, it's -­ we certainly concede that one typically knows whether or not one has won a medal or not. We certainly -- we concede that point. 

JUSTICE KAGAN: So, boy, I mean, that's a big concession, Mr. Libby.

 Further, the big fear on a "slippery slope" seemed uncompelling to Justice Roberts.  There was a fear specifically mentioned that there could be certain truth squads set up to make sure political candidates statements were accurate.  However Roberts points out obliquely that the court rules on the case before it, and that fear is not entire germane to this case. 

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I suppose it might have something to do with, whether called collateral or not, I mean, I would think the concern in the midst of a political campaign is you have the U.S. attorney or the deputy district attorney bringing a -- filing a prosecution of someone 2 weeks before the election saying, you lied about this or that and maybe there would have to be a deposition or maybe there would have to be a trial. Nothing like that is involved here.


 One last argument I found interesting had to do with Congress' authority under the constitution to regulate the rules for Armies and Navies etc. and resulted in a sort of interesting 3-way colloquoy... 

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Did the military -- did the military act for this? You're claiming there's a special interest in seeing that a military honor is not debased.

GENERAL VERRILLI: It did not, Justice Ginsburg, but under Article I, section 8, Congress has substantial authority to regulate our armed forces, get substantial deference. It's not unlike the statute that the Court evaluated in the FAIR case in that regard, which was not a statute that the military -- that the military asked for, but Congress nevertheless was given substantial deference.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Did the Commander in Chief sign that, that legislation? 

GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes, he did, Your Honor.

 Anyway, there is a ton more in there if any intrepid readers wish to point out what they see, I would love to hear it.  Let me know what you guys think.

Posted in the burner | 48 comments
« Previous story
Next story »


* To comment without a Facebook account, please scroll to the bottom.


For those that pretend Valor with big talk have made an in-justice to themselve and devalued the Honorable combat field. They make up stories or repeat stories of men who have been on the field of horror and had rejected serving this Great Nation for Freedom. Being in the military is no joke but a very serious personal commitment and those that skirt their opportunity to serve but want the honor of those that made the sacrifices should be brought forward for disgrace in the public. Common sense is the order of the day and rebukes those that dare cross the line of lies and fraternization to make them a center of attention on merit not deserved.

I think it is a travesty that some one can claim that they earned a military medal when they did not. It should be a criminal offense to claim such an act. Like Mr. Wilson said about impersonating a police officer or government official, that would not be tolerated. So why should impersonating a medal recipient be any different. They put you in jail for impersonating a police officer or government official. It is degrading the value of the medal awarded to thous that deserve it.

I'm as offended as any other veteran when someone claims an honor not rightfully earned - whether it's the medal of Honor or simply saying they served in the military when they didn't. But I don't think the honor or a medal is demeaned by liars - if I tell someone I played high school baseball when I didn't, that doesn't take away from the achievement of Hank Aaron or even my high school friends who played. What bothers me most about this case is that, if approved, it puts the government in the position of deciding what is truthful speech - in which case most politicians would be breaking the law. It might be used against anyone who pads a resume, says they did anything they didn't actually do - "I roofed a house," "I caught a 20-pound bass" - or even be used against actors and actresses who play military people - George C. Scott, John Wayne, Tom Hanks, none of whom, I think, served in the military, but who pretended to be heroes on-screen.

I've retired from the military. My comment is this; if the US Supreme Court doesn't uphold the SVA then I sincerely hope that they would uphold our right to call the perpetrators exactly what they are when found out...liars! I would also hope we would be able to shout that from the highest mountain to the entire country without fear of prosecution just as the perpetrator could not be prosecuted for "stealing honor". At least we'd be telling the truth!

Antonio Sandoval, RMC, USN, 1958-1968. It should be a matter of state law, it is fraud. Anyone claiming medal status who is using it to further political ambition, other recognition or reward, is attempting fraud and should be prosecuted at the state level. Personally, I don't recognize the value of being awarded a medal beyond the recognition of your peers for heroism, a great honor. However, the medal does nothing to further the financial condition or the rank of the recipient and in my service years, even at the rank of E-7, I was beyond welfare level. My thoughts are that even though the recipients have no expectation of receiving anything but recognition, it should be more; there should be attached a permanent pay increase commensurate with the value of the medal and it should figure into elevation of rank. Given the conditions which I served, incompetent officers, overbearing and demanding and incompentent commanders and the no win rules of engagement, superiors who were ignorant or indifferent to the eligibility of medals, I would have declined any medal awarded.

I have stated this many times in the past. If a person claims to have been awarded a medal but didn't and does nothing to gain any value from it then it is a benign action. Granted as some people have said, it may take away from someone who was actually awarded a medal for whatever reason. But not really.... I was engaged in battle in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive and I saw many guys who deserved a medal but didn't get one while others did. It was apparent that medals being awarded was sometimes in the eye of the beholder... I would never want a buddy of mine in Vietnam, who didn't get a medal, be accused of a crime for claiming he did get one. During Tet I was in Ankhe when our perimeter was breached and the Viet Cong caused much damage to our vehicles and planes before we stopped them all, I was one of the first men to the scene and along with a few others received various medals ranging from Bronze stars to purple hearts. The other men who were mechanics, chefs and such ran to the scene and forified the air strip without hesitation. Crash and rescue had a fire fight with the cong.... No one retreated. They all deserved medals but didn't get them. The CO put in for medals of those he saw in action but there were others. If any of those others later claimed to have recieved a medal I would back them up and for that matter they could have mine. But as I said, just don't try to get monetary gain from the story. And finally of course if they weren't even in a war zone then I say that is a crime against all the men who were. Lets keep this real.

I agree with Gene Wilson what's the difference between Military Medals and a Badge? Impersonating a Police Officer is a federal crime why shouldn't impersonating Military Valor. I guess I could change my name to George Bush and say I was President since he was the Commander And Chief of the Military.

My first amendment rights: These are not men of honor. They are cowards, idiots, frauds, not true Americans. They in my opinon have spit on true Americans. But, that is just one woman's opinon

Semper Fi

I don't think it has anything to do with free speech. I think it's an issue of plain falsehood. There are laws against impersonating a police officer or a doctor, why not a decorated hero? When liars use falsehoods to further their gains, no matter what it is, they should be prepared to suffer the consequenses.

This whole thread is teaching me something new about my government and how it works. Thank you for this education. And as a Vet, I would never consider wearing a medal or ribbon or badge that I did not properly earn. I proudly wear what I have earned, and no more.

Excellent article; SOTOMAYOR argument doesn't hold any legal logic.... Even with the Act there is still free speach to be critical of any medal(s) or be critical of/or belittle anyone who has earned the medal(s)...The only limitation to Free speach is fraudulent representation of having earned a military medal!

Sotomayer's argument is OK as far as free speech is concerned. However, my point (above) states that it is not so much free speech as it is fraud - a lie to further self enrichment. If the argument centered on that issue. I believe the case could be strengthened considerably.

Sotomayer's argument is OK as far as free speech is concerned. However, my point (above) states that it is not so much free speech as it is fraud - a lie to further self enrichment. If the argument centered on that issue. I believe the case could be strengthened considerably.

Those of us who served should be considered a protected class against those who pretend to be what they are not. If we are not careful the First Amendment will no longer have any meaning. It is time for Congress to step forward and call for several Constitutional Amendments to be sent to the States for ratification. One is to protect the American Flag, the second, if needed, is to protect men and women who have honorable served, and the third is to reinforce the Second Amendment rights oh honest American Cityizens

Those of us who served should be considered a protected class against those who pretend to be what they are not. If we are not careful the First Amendment will no longer have any meaning. It is time for Congress to step forward and call for several Constitutional Amendments to be sent to the States for ratification. One is to protect the American Flag, the second, if needed, is to protect men and women who have honorable served, and the third is to reinforce the Second Amendment rights oh honest American Citizens

What about the harm this does to actual Medal Honories? If these "wanna bes" are blantantly allowed to make medals claims then we are headed to the point where we doubt all actual honorees and challenge them to provide proofs of their claims. Is this how we are to treat and support our Military for their extraordinary actions? It appears to me that the Supreme Court is more concerned that we protect the right for "politicians" to lie to us in order to get elected as well as stay in office! We can easily see where that "right" has gotten us in political circles both Federal and Municipal. Our news papers and broadcasts are filled each day with these lies and financial crimes committed against the very society that elected this class of liars. Let's have a country and society that is know for Truth and Justice not lies and tretchery!!

Of course, anyone that would falsely claim to have earned (implies something of value) a medal is doing so for personal gain. Perhaps it is monetary and perhaps not. It could also be for political gain, or even self agrandizement or for other gain. Whatever the SCOTUS decides, the people who do these things remain very small people indeed.

This is so typical of what's wrong with this country that someone can outright lie about service and/or valor in service and they are protected and permitted to say it as a matter of free speech. Why can't I go into a theater and start yelling "Fire!"? Is that not also free speech in terms of my right to yell it out? Good God, this country is so caught up in every manner of political correctness it's ludicrous. I realize the Supreme Court is supposedly deciding this matter on constitutional grounds, but again, there are so many things you can't do that could easily fall into the same "free speech regardless of how offensive" category. Yet, you can't do them, but lying about service ostensibly is perfectly permissible because nobody is directly injured by it. What about "it's just not right" and the fact our founding fathers would be horrified by such behavior being condoned under their 1770's mores. In those times people never would have done something this outrageous, which is why the first amendment was unduly broad. Evaluating and justifying 21st century lascivious behavior using 18th century logic just seems wrong-headed no matter the sanctity of the constitution.
Any anyway, who says nobody is injured in these situations? If I vote for a person who had made false claims and that person winds up taking action that directly affects me in a negative manner am I not hurt by that? Chances are I never would have voted for the person had I known them to be an outright liar.

So, If someone represents he is Law Enforcement, Firefighter, Senator, Crongressmen, Governor, School Administrator----ITS OK????

I'm am sick and tired of hearing that everyone has the 1st Amendment rights to do anything including tramping all over my rights. Lying is just plain lying and should not be upheald in any court . Stealing any HONOR is wrong and the Justices of the United States of America, a country founded on truth, justice and liberty under GOD, had better get it or get off the bench.

As a Vet, I do take great offense when some jack-ass falsely claims that he or she earned a military award. But the understandable reality is that I cannot sue that person based solely on my sense of disguss and outrage caused by that act alone – freedom of speech. What matters here is the motivation behind the claim. I do consider such false claims as disrespectful to those who earned and respect the award, but I don’t believe false claimants make such statements solely for offending. They do it in order to obtain some kind of unfair advantage over their peers for personal or financial gain. That is beyond offensive, people are harmed.

We have been fighting several wars for over a decade. Countless awards have been given to so many veterans during that time that is easy for almost any phony to try to blend in the crowd. What really needs to happen is that a more reliable way must be available for agencies and institutions to verify a veteran’s status who’s trying to obtain preferential consideration for a service or employment based on their military record. The law already provides actions against imposters who willfully commit fraud, but I think “special” penalties should be imposed on individuals using non-earned military honors to advance their position - is about the principle.

I’m no law expert and I could be wrong. But I once heard that the ideas of “honor”, “respect” and “reputation” aren’t specifically protected by the Constitution. It is my understanding also that the Court’s duty is to interpret the law, not to enforce it. Now, if we are expecting the Court to render a decision that would consequently allow the law to enforce respect to the military and potentially infringe on the first amendment so to protect the reputation of military awards then good luck; I don’t see it happening.

I have no problem in calling-out someone if I feel he/she may be making inconsistent claims behind a military award, and expose the lie if fact. I believe the 1st Amendment gives me that right. My bottom line is that every good American has the responsibility to show a degree of respect for decorated veterans and the spirit of the decoration itself, but with a good sense to detect phonies and not be fooled by them. My rule of thumb, a true decorated veteran is humble and modest about his/her accomplishments, qualities I think aren’t common in phonies and show-offs who sound like novel writers.

The US Constitution protects freedom of speech, but it does NOT give anyone the right to fabricate lies!!! Stolden Valor is based mupon lies!!! PERIOD and is NOT protected "Freedom Of Speech" nor should it be!!! The First Amendment was written for the purpose of me being able to critize my government without fear of reprisal - whether spoken or written! Now we have come to the point where the high court has to decide whether lying is protected as well. What has this country come too??? If this is the case; then I declare myself the next President of the United States of America, and challange anyone to to tell me I'm wrong!!!

One often over looked point about stolen valor is that beyond the accolades that are unmerited, some of these people will go as far as accepting donations and gifts that rightfully should go to real war heroes. This is not just an issue about stealing fame, but one that involves fraud, these impostors collect speaker fee's and often will travel at the expense of an organization or private individual whom are placing their trust that the individual claiming to be a war hero is truly who they claim to be. So in addition to making audacious claims about supposed acts of heroism many of these individuals end up defrauding charitable organizations and people who may have given them monetary gifts. Last time I checked defrauding a charitable organization is illegal in most states yet, little is mentioned about this fact. This is not just another case of violating someones first amendment rights, because when these people make these claims they are also committing a form of Identity theft, which in most states is also a crime.

Identity theft was on top of the Federal Trade Commission's yearly list of the top ten consumer grievances of the year. It has topped the list each of the last 12 years, and 2011 was not different. Source for this article: The top ten consumer complaints of 2011. These people should be apprehended for the unlawful thing that they are doing.

What you stated is true! (FTC report) Responsible Citizens have to be on guard! (the price of freedom
is eternal vigilance) There must a echo in here because I have heard this tune for the last 14 years! I
wonder how many people had their lives disturbed, interupted, credit rating destroyed (if you have one), houses lost, ect....Maybe its time to focus on what's positive (solutions) rather than feeding the
negativity (problems)! Anyone can get a copy of the report at

The way I have seen judges give great credence to liars & cheaters, I believe the Supremes will side with the liars & cheaters. Remember Obama does not like military people. So his two Supremes will vote for the liars & cheaters. Then, they only need three more and Ginsberg hates the Constitution and will find something in Sharia law to justify voting for the liars & cheaters. Guess who they will be.

I'm a retired enlisted service member. It is against the law (Federal) for anyone to publically wear a military garment that displays the Branch of Service and, or the Unit insignia because it degraded the military organization and the unit. Yet, is it not against the law for a person who has never serviced in the military to parade around in a complete military uniform with insignia and wards? The reason this has become an issue with the Supreme Court is because Service Organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion and the Active Military has said "enough is enough". "We" the members who make up these organizations are calling for this to be law. Many imposters over the years have made it to Prime Time News because of a serious crimes committed while portraying themselves as a military member. Mainly the crimes were committed for personal gain. This presents a negative image of the Military to the public. Many people relate to uniform and what it represents. When they see a person in uniform in the news, they don't see an imposter, they see a person in uniform and that’s what they relate to. I agree with everyone that has said that it is against the law to impersonate a Law Enforcement Officer, or any Federal Law Enforcement Agent. It should be against the Law to impersonate a person of Federal Military Service. Our military is returning home after serving their country during a time of war. By implementing this as law, we are preserving their valor and honoring those who have served at anytime in the military.

I am an HONORABLY Discharged American Combat Veteran. I am 100% Service Connected - Totally & Permanently Disabled. I volunteer as a Veterans Benefits Officer, not just in the area of benefits and/or claims; I run a program funded solely by myself and through donations. This is a program I started where I and my wife collect donated PC's - laptop & desktop - and then I rebuild, clean, replace parts and generally make ready for these to be distributed to returning Warriors, disabled or not. Those with disabilities do come first however.

All that formality out of the way. I believe that entirely TOO much time has already been expended on this idiotic and blatant erosion of free speech. You read that right. Look, when we raised our arms and took the oath, do you recall an expiration date? NO! That oath whether you realize it or not, is and was for LIFE. The SVA is a complete sneak flank-attack on our freedoms. It has already been accomplished with the passage of the Patriot Act (more of you should be outraged that this act that allows warrant less searches, wiretaps, drive-by sneak and peeks and more - carries the very word PATRIOT) Have you read it? As well as with the creation of Homeland Security. Nonetheless, we imbecilic sheeple swallowed the bait and it became law and was just recently re-upped without so much as a complaint from the majority of the Veteran community.

COME ON! This is merely one more way to erode what little we have left by means of freedom. I could care less about the fruit salad wearin' war heroics declarin' wannabe. He impresses only himself and those blind and unwilling to ask a simple question or two. These actions in some cases are very sad in that they come from actual Veterans. Veterans with lengthy HONORABLE service history that have somehow became convinced that - that alone is not 'good enough'. I say the moment any person has raised his or her hand and swore the oath, believed it, felt it and then conducted themselves accordingly - whether or not that person was ever deployed downrange - deserves recognition from all who have not the same and from those of us that have.

As I stated above, I distribute computers free of charge to ALL returning Warriors. I DO NOT even ask if one has lived the s**t. I don't care. I do care that someone has at a time in their life, decided to wear the Nation's cloth of battle by taking an oath wherein that person's life is promised if needed, in order that all and everything protected by our oath remains so protected. These sworn promises to protect do NOT come into effect ONLY in times of war. No, the protection is accomplished each and every time the Uniform is put on.

Anyone that has seen war, was decorated for his or her actions as a result of actions (sometimes in-actions) thereof - IS NOT wearin' fruit and bragging in ANY arena. Be it in a private drunk dive to impress the local medal bunnies or in more public and open venues. IT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Indeed, most Veterans that have fought and have been decorated for actions resulting, are hesitant to even accept the honor, most feel they were just doing what they've trained for and what was expected of them. Also, most medal recipients (especially those receiving honors for personal actions while downrange resulting in any award where Valor attaches) feel guilty that they alone are being rewarded and NOT all else involved.

Remember Vietnam? How many medals were handed out to those who NEVER saw a second of combat? To those that never so much as fired a weapon? Answer = THE MAJORITY OF THOSE MEDALS PRESENTED!

You want to spot a wannabe, just look and listen, they themselves expose their indecency. I don't believe ANY taxpayer money should be used in exposing and or imprisoning these sad pathetic idiots. Hell, life in their own skin is jail enough! (There being one and only one exception, those Veterans reading this know what I am writing about.) Not one cent should be wasted to even bring charges, if that money comes from the taxpayer pocket. Now, if newspapers want to donate space in order to list the wannabe, then so be it. For any of us, especially we Veterans, to support and condone this not so hidden erasure of free speech, is not in keeping with our EVER LIVING OATH to protect and defend the Constitution. The oath we took is not a one taken with, nor are there any exceptions for politically motivated attacks. Our oath is uniform, overt and precise. Now, get to work! You all been skatin' round here for to long!

I understand your and to some degree empathize with your perspective, but what happens when the phony's use their "fake" acts of heroism to defraud charitable organization and private citizens who give believing that the individual they are aiding is being genuine. That said, these men are not just bringing discredit to themselves, but to he community of veterans that may actually be in need. For one lie many people pay the price.

My thoughts exactly! "for one lie many people pay the price" sometimes in blood! Lincoln stated at Gettysburg "It is for us living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who
fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."

I agree and support that punishment is warranted for ANY person that willfully defrauds another, regardless of the method used. FRAUD IS FRAUD.

I am speaking about the skates that are merely bragging about and or, even wearing unearned medals for the purpose of "stealing admiration". How many slackers fill the VFW and Legion posts getting liquored up and living the glory daze <(intended) of war? Far too many.

When ANYONE, be they Veteran or Civilian, crosses over the line from braggart wannabe to thief via fraud - FINES AND OR JAIL is most definitely the proper and just rewards.

Keep in mind however; that when we allow the tiniest fractional amount of any freedom that we served, with risk of our very lives to protect, to become taken from us as a result of cowardice WORDS of slackers - who has really won? Who has ultimately paid the full measure of those WORDS of false machismo?

How are we Veterans protected by such action? How are we Veterans protecting those we SWORE AN OATH to protect, providing said protection when we not only allow FREEDOM to become damaged to ANY degree, but we screamed high for it to be taken?

If any freedom is chipped at, fractured and taken from us, we all lose. When such loss of freedom becomes so taken by WORDS of COWARDS and that action of taking is held out to be a PROTECTION afforded all while in the course of protecting the HONOR of TRUE HEROS & VETERANS - I say, more damage is heaped upon the backs of we that have already carried our load.

Personally, it bothers me more to think that I should lose ANY amount of freedom and in the process of that loss, fail to uphold my STILL LIVING OATH & OBLIGATION to all Americans - due to the blatant guise of POLITICIANS PROTECTING ME from such putrid filth and the lies they live. It is demeaning and belittling. It is an assumption that I think so little of my 27 years of service that it can be damaged by the likes of these that have not and will never sweat point. It sickens me. I need no such protection if the result means Americans will indeed lose the slightest amount of FREEDOM! No sir, thank you, but NO!

I'd much rather lose my freedom downrange at the hand of one hostile to our country and the freedoms it provides. To give up our rights, freedoms and protection for what? So the politicos can PROTECT US from the ignorant ramblings of such idiotic and unimportant individuals? PLEASE!


I find it more damaging that politicians would wrap their HIDDEN AGENDA in the Colors of the United States, claiming they are PROTECTING VETERANS - DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THIS!

I had to drive to Oklahoma City with a Veteran to explain that his legs were NOT BLOWN OFF ON PURPOSE in order to get a damn service connected rating! You want to discuss real injustice and damage done to Veterans? You need only look towards the Department of Veterans Affairs.

STOP WASTING MONEY ON THIS! Put the funds in the VA, and no, DO NOT ALLOW OR MAKE THE WANNABE go serve at the VA Hospital or Clinic. Let them bury themselves, it will always catch up to them. Be it public exposure or at the end of the cruise when that puke is setting alone in a darkened little room with no more "friends" to impress, no more that will listen to the BS. A faded memory of NOTHING!

If they ARE actually causing harm other than "hurting my feelings and my Honor", then let them do the time so justified by their action(s). This is merely another method of enslaving the masses and this time doing so by purporting to be protecting those whom did actually serve with Honor. Do you not see this?

Trust me, many, very many Veterans and Civilians do understand what is at stake here. Of course, obtaining (even if not wearing or displaying) an unearned MEDAL OF HONOR is a crime in and of itself. No, you can not legally buy it on the Internet or anywhere else in America. Those found to be in possession without proper authority (ie: earning it, inheriting it from a relative that earned it etc..) should be adjudicated in accordance with the law and with a degree equal to the matter of that persons use thereof.

Seriously, my HONOR has never been damaged by any damn wannabe! I care not. As long as there is man, there will be war. As long as there is war, there will appear the wannabe.

Now get to back to work you skates! Too much grabassin'! TURN-TO! ALL HANDS, NOW TURN-TO! COMMENCE SHIP'S WORK!!

Jes' kiddin' ya, go ahead and knock off. Be safe everyone and be very careful of motive, it more times than not, is far worse than the overt offensive action displayed.

The problem here is that most of those of concern use their stories and purchased medals (many of which the unauthorized purchase of has already been illegal for decades) tor personal gain that discredits the military they claim to have done well in.

Many of these people, like many of John Kerry's buddies in his VVAW "Winter Soldier" who told stories of atrocities, have NEVER been in the services and of those who actually did serve many were booted from boot camp or shortly after getting to their first TOE unit as unfit for service. You, yourself, made this statement - "As I stated above, I distribute computers free of charge to ALL returning Warriors. I DO NOT even ask if one has lived the s**t. I don't care. I do care that someone has at a time in their life, decided to wear the Nation's cloth of battle by taking an oath wherein that person's life is promised if needed, in order that all and everything protected by our oath remains so protected. These sworn promises to protect do NOT come into effect ONLY in times of war. No, the protection is accomplished each and every time the Uniform is put on." I immediately note that you do care that your computers only go to those who actually served as opposed to those who didn't but claim to have done so.

There is another Stolen Valor Act working its way through Congress that changes the wording of the original act to stress that it is aimed at those who do what they are doing for gain of some value as opposed to those who tell stories in a bar just to make themselves "look good". Sort of keeps their stories on a level with those claiming sexual prowess that isn't apparent.

Alvarez made his claims for personal gain and his conviction should be upheld. This isn't really about "speech" it is about FRAUD!

"Allons" to edodaniel. One Blackhorse trooper to another and to all veterans, their familes and America. Perhaps the most basic question we need to ask- why would Alvarez claim to be a CMH recipient? As I perceive this- because he acknowledges the incredible value that most Americans have for this honor and the prestige that preceeds those who have been so bestowed . This is exactly why it is an act of congress for each military service individual nominated and presented by the President of the United States. Truth be told- more CMH's have been awarded posthumous than to living receipients for sacrifcing their lives above and beyond what is expected in combat. Does Alvarez really envision himself as an equal in this consideration? We need to contemplate an underlying concern here- when an individual - like an Alvarez, lies and utilizes false claims to acquire an elected office, what will he do, how will he conduct himself for the taxpayers if elected? That is the real problem and in my opinion- there is no constitutional issue for individuals like him. By the way- readers may realize that I have not included a "Mr." when I wrote Alvarez. My family values, my education, my experinces have taught me that a "Mr." connotes respect. Alvarez has no respect, for values, for America, for himself.

Not being a lawyer it is dishonorable. Lawyers deal with law as to how they read the statutes, which is why this is before the U.S. Supreme Court. Why it is before the Supreme Court is beyond me? If you misrepresent yourself it should be embarrassing enough for the offender. I served in Vietnam and it is noted in my military record. When someone claims to have one the Medal of Honor he/she should simply be asked to present it. How many have won this and/or the Silver Star, Bronze Star etal. As to the MOH I do not think you can order it on line. Yes, they should be held in contempt but unfortunately they cannot be prosecuted for fleecing admiration. The offender/s should seek psych help for how they feel about themselves. If they made money from the misrepresentation there should be a required reparation. If hate is a crime thru speech, then this form of speech is worthy of a similar consideration.

Mr Vasquez;

Why don't you just come out and say you don't really believe in the SVA and get it over with? You seem to beating around the bush on all you replies to other comments, just say you don't believe in it and move on.

Hello James

I agree with many that lying shouldn't receive constitutional protectionI and for that I trully believe in the intent and spirit of the SVA; I would make part of the law of the land If it was up to me. My intent was to point out the sad and pathetic reality that there are technicalities that pinheads are taking advantage of so they can missuse/abuse the 1st ammendment.

It should be a felony criminal offense to lie about a medal or award you did not earn. Without protection these items are just plain worthless. Saying you won a Medel in the service when you did not needs real punishment and not just a silly slap on the wrist.

First. let me point out that Delores V Charles, about 50 comments up, hit the heart of the matter. For the Supreme Court to facilitate lying and cheating as part of the law of the land, negates all the rest of our laws. Mr. Libby says "no harm, no foul", but then plays umpire and states that there was no harm when indeed there was. The harm was to the existence of truth. Personally, if the Supremes come down in favor of lying, I guess we can all add "Former Supreme Court Justice" to our resumes, and see how THEY like it........ Even a guy who comes out with only an NDSM and a good conduct, most probably because they never got around to sending him into harm's way, has something those who did not serve didn't earn, and he deserves respect for that.

Mr. Alvarez lied to obtain and further his status of employment. He has demeaned the
military men and women who have served in war zones. They are the heros to me and
the country... Lying has no Honor! You think he will not lie again when employed?
I served during VietNam but I was not in COUNTRY! Therefore I am not eligible to
belong to the VVA . They asked me but I declined ; why? It would degrade those who served
and put their lives on the line, whether they are recipients of Valor or Not.

What value could come from a lie like I won the Medal of Honor? The value is buying votes from a fraud. Mr. Alvarez wouldn't have lied if he didn't believe there was some positive value to being awarded the medal. That's the value he stole from every medal winner. That is substantial value and that value is lowered by false claims. If the Supreme Court finds for Alvarez then anyone who claims the award must be doubted. Justice should always seek the truth. A lie subverts the truth, that fact alone should be enough to condemn Alvarez. Outright lies in any form should not be protected by the law!

The damage Mr Vasques did was to try to garner votes through a lie. I believe he was perpetrating a fraud to the very people he was planning to represent.

I know a guy, Ed Boucher, who had his Broze Star upgraded to a Silver Star. He received the Bronze but not the Silver. He helped carry nine Marines down the side of a mountain in Korea while the Chinese were shooting at him. Should be be prosecuted for trying to get the medal he deseves?

If the Supreme Court finds that lying about recieiving a high medal for service is OK then they are endorsing lying. Then any purgery done in open court is ok since it is only lying. Endorsement of this case means to me that lying about another has become an acceptable atribute and no one is hurt by it. Well not in my book. Lying has hurt others and it has hurt the USofA when politicians lie about each other. How that is done is that since we the voter do not and cannot know the truth of what is said of others during campaigns we tend to accept what we want to believe is true because it sounds quite possible and even probable and usuallly vote on that basis. That hurts the whole country deserving candidates are deprived of office. That harms the whole country. We have experienced that in every election since way before my time and there are far to many suffering because of that fact. We do need a responsible congress and will not get that because it is permissible to lie during campaigning.

I do not believe that the Supreme Court should have heard this case, because I do not believe this to be a constitutional issue. To elevate this matter to the level of a Federal law means that it has to be enforceable--that is impossible unless the person admits to it, and who willingly admits to lying?

Supreme Court US vs Alvarez

Endorsement of the U.S. vs Alvarez case would mean that lying about persons or events is an acceptable attribute and no one is hurt by it. For the Supreme Court to facilitate lying and deception as protected by the First Amendment, then that ruling negates all the rest of our laws based on truth. Mr. Libby says "no harm, no foul", but in reality the Alvarez lies were deliberate to create a deception of fraud which inflected harm to those involved. The harm and foul of deliberate lies are directly related to the loss of truth and the validation of fraud to gain self-reward. There was indeed “harm and foul” Mr. Libby, you lose.
If the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the Alvarez lies, then the Supreme Court would be protecting lying as an acceptable standard throughout our great country. In other words; any perjury (lies) stated in open court is acceptable and not punishable, since it is protected by the First Amendment; false statements (lies) to the police and other agencies are acceptable and not punishable, since it is protected by the First Amendment.
How can a country survive when the law of the land is based on lies? Not well by my standards, lying has hurt others and it has hurt this great country when politicians lie about each other and distort facts to gain votes. Political lies are brushed off as “just media hype”, and “I did not endorse that ad,” but the lie is there just the same. Those lies are easily done since we the voter may not know the truth of what is said of their opponents during campaigns, we tend to accept what we want to believe is true because it sounds quite possible and even probable and usually vote on that basis. That lie hurts the elected position and the deserving candidates that are deprived of those offices, and it harms the country. This country has experienced lying in almost every election and there are far too many suffering because of those lies. We the people do need a responsible congress and will not get that because it is permissible for “others” to issue false ads during campaigning without fear of prosecution, so do we want to make lying, deception, and fraud, the acceptable standard across our great country? The Supreme Court should easily recognize their error in recent changes to election law that has allowed the “Supper Pac” ads of today. Talk about good intentions gone wrong. Be careful, the U.S. vs Alvarez case may become the downfall of justice as we know it today, if lying is protected by the First Amendment. This is not a narrow issue about military service or the stolen valor act; this is about legalizing deception and fraud under the First Amendment.

I have no problem in calling-out someone if I feel he/she may be making inconsistent claims behind a military award, and expose the lie if fact. I believe the 1st Amendment gives me that right. My bottom line is that every good American has the responsibility to show a degree of respect for decorated veterans and the spirit of the decoration itself, but with a good sense to detect phonies and not be fooled by them. My rule of thumb, a true decorated veteran is humble and modest about his/her accomplishments, qualities I think aren’t common in phonies and show-offs who sound like novel writers.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Have a tip for us? A link that should appear here? Contact us.
News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.