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The Fight Against Government-Induced Censorship and Vaccine Mandates: Civil Liberties Attorney Jenin Younes

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“The CDC does not have rulemaking authority delegated by Congress, yet the CDC did the eviction moratorium, the federal mask mandate … It was complete abuse. And unless there’s a real change, I’m afraid this is going to happen again,” says Jenin Younes, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

Younes has been leading a number of major cases against vaccine mandates and government-induced censorship on social media platforms.

How much of Big Tech censorship is compelled or coerced by government actors behind the scenes—from the FBI to figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci? With the CDC making major changes to their COVID recommendations, will we see companies and universities relax their mandate and booster policies?

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Jan Jekielek:

Jenin Younes, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Jenin Younes:

Thank you so much for having me here.

Mr. Jekielek:

There have been many things that have happened over the last few years that have brought you to this place. Please tell me what you do now, and why it might be relevant to Dr. Fauci announcing his resignation.

Ms. Younes:

Right now I litigate cases against the government, so we really look at where the government is overreaching, and especially where administrative agencies are concerned. NCLA, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, is focused on administrative overreach. We believe that a lot of the constitutional violations that take place today have to do with agencies usurping power that they shouldn’t have. So I’ve done a lot of vaccine mandate litigation, primarily on behalf of employees of universities who don’t want to get the vaccine, and then I’m also doing some cases about government-induced censorship of people on social media platforms.

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What is your reaction to Dr. Fauci announcing his resignation?

Ms. Younes:

That’s a good question. I really do not like Anthony Fauci. He has been one of the most destructive forces in this country. I’m afraid he’ll just be replaced by somebody worse, which has seemed to be the trend, although, I don’t know if that’s possible. It’s upsetting that he’s probably going to get away with what he’s done and just go into a cushy retirement or maybe go work for Pfizer or something and make plenty of money. I’m glad he won’t be there anymore, but on the other hand, I don’t think that he’s going to get the consequences that he deserves.

Mr. Jekielek:

Dr. Fauci has been accused of all sorts of things, but you have some specific things in mind when you say you’re not happy with him. Please explain that to me. Of course, it’s connected with the litigation that you do.

Ms. Younes:

There are so many things. First of all, he pushed lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccine mandates on very bad evidence that refused to take into account the potential harm to the American people. In fact, yesterday he said that lockdowns didn’t harm anyone.

Speaker 3:

But in retrospect-

Speaker 4:

And he did that because he-

Speaker 3:

… Doctor, do you regret that it went too far, whatever your original intentions were, and it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback here, but that it went too far, that particularly for kids who couldn’t go to school except remotely, that it’s forever damaged them.

Speaker 4:

Well, I don’t think it’s forever irreparably damaged anyone.

Ms. Younes:

Kids are suffering tremendously, socially, and educationally. Deaths are up among young people about 40 per cent. Also, Fauci has really been responsible for a lot of the censorship that’s taking place on social media. A lot of people aren’t aware that the federal government is really involved in this censorship. They think that the tech companies are acting on their own when they suspend people or otherwise censor them for spreading so-called misinformation about COVID and other things. Anthony Fauci and several other officials in the Biden Administration are behind this.

Mr. Jekielek:

Let’s jump into the lawsuit that you just joined with Louisiana Attorney General Landry and Missouri Attorney General Schmitt. Please tell me about this?

Ms. Younes:

Yes. Actually, I’ll start with the earlier lawsuit. I had filed a lawsuit in Ohio in March on behalf of three Twitter users some people may be familiar with; Mark Changizi, a cognitive theoretical scientist, Michael Senger, a lawyer, and Daniel Kotzin, who was a lawyer and is now a stay-at-home dad. They had all been highly critical of the government mandated COVID policies since the beginning, but they had not been censored or suspended on Twitter until the Biden Administration took over. The Biden Administration began a public campaign threatening tech companies with regulation or other legal consequences. They even talked about criminal liability, which is somewhat absurd, if they didn’t censor people for spreading COVID misinformation.

COVID misinformation is the term that is used. It’s kind of insidious. It’s used to of discredit points of view that differ from those of the administration or those of the government. So, they were saying things like masks don’t work, vaccines don’t stop transmission, and lockdowns do more harm than good. These things that are now the scientific consensus.

So, they were all suspended. It was our contention that this was at the behest of the Biden Administration. Unfortunately, that lawsuit was kicked out. The judge basically said that we didn’t have enough evidence, that our plaintiffs were censored because of the government, which I think is the totally wrong analysis for a number of reasons. But some good came out of it, which is the Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana were considering bringing a similar lawsuit.

Mr. Jekielek:

Let me just jump in. What was the evidence that you presented? You said you think the analysis was wrong. Obviously, there’s a lot more evidence now, especially with these new lawsuits, but what evidence did you have then?

Ms. Younes:

At that time, we had a lot of public statements where Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Alejandro Mayorkas, then spokesperson for Biden, Jennifer Psaki, were going out in public and saying these tech companies are killing people by not censoring them. If they don’t do more, they’re going to face legal consequences. We’re working with them, and we’re flagging posts that they should be censoring. 

When the government gets involved in telling a private company what to do, that is no longer a private company’s action. That is a state action, and that implicates the first amendment. The argument had been the tech companies were censoring people on their own, and that it’s not a first amendment violation, but we now know that it is.

Part of the problem was, when you file a lawsuit like this, you’re supposed to be able to get to discovery. You’re supposed to be able to get documents from the government to corroborate what we suspected to be going on based on these public statements. But when the judge throws it out prematurely at this early stage, we can’t get there. Basically, you’re in a catch-22 situation.

Mr. Jekielek:

These were very public, extremely transparent statements telling these companies what they should do.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr Jekielek:

This is your contention.

Ms. Younes:

Exactly. And this is really new territory. It’s really novel because of the nature of social media. We have just never been here before. Whatever happens, and I hope it’s good, but this is all going to create new law. 

If in the 1950s the government had gone around saying the New York Times can’t print X, Y, and Z or they’re going to face legal consequences, that would have been recognized widely as a first amendment violation. I have no doubt. And a lot of this is just political. If you draw a judge who thinks that misinformation is killing people, then you might not have the outcome that you want.

Mr. Jekielek:

There is also this whole question of what misinformation or disinformation means. I’m going to jump to the Missouri and Louisiana lawsuit in a moment, but you have to deal with this as well, and define these terms.

Ms. Younes:

Right. It’s really insidious. It’s a way to get rid of people and ideas without having to engage with them. The problem is some people are saying some things that are really a bit out there, and I don’t think are true, like the vaccines have micro-chips, but where do you draw the line? That’s the issue. And once you have the government getting involved in deciding what’s true and what’s not, you run into some real problems. The framers of the constitution, the founders of our country, understood that part of the price you pay to live in a free society is that sometimes people will say things that are not true. Sometimes people will even act on that false information and it will have bad consequences, but it’s far worse when the government is deciding who gets to be heard and who is silenced.

Mr. Jekielek:

I noticed this quote at the top of your Twitter, “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.”

Ms. Younes:

Yes. I believe that was a George Washington quote, although I can’t remember exactly when he said it at this moment, but I think it’s really true. Freedom of speech is fundamental in a free society. If people don’t know that what’s going on, if people can’t openly debate ideas and policies and the science, then you don’t live in a free society anymore.

Mr. Jekielek:

Let’s jump to the lawsuit that you’ve joined with this Louisiana AG Landry and the Missouri AG. Please tell me about this.

Ms. Younes:

It’s very similar to the Ohio lawsuit, but it’s broader. This lawsuit alleges that the government is censoring misinformation of various kinds, not just about COVID. It’s about so-called election misinformation, the Hunter Biden laptop story, and even goes into abortion and climate change.

The plaintiffs that we’re representing who joined the lawsuit are Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, two of the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. Aaron Kheriaty, who was a professor at UC Irvine before he got fired for not getting the vaccine, brought a lawsuit that gained him some notoriety. And then another lawsuit was brought by Jill Hines who runs an organization called Health Freedom Louisiana.

We are alleging that their first amendment rights were violated by the government through the censorship on social media. For instance, with Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, their accounts have been censored on numerous occasions. They had videos taken down from YouTube. They were having a round-table discussion with Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, about the harms of masking children. That video was taken down. This is crazy. You have two of the top epidemiologists in the world talking about their area of expertise and it doesn’t fit in with the narrative of the Biden Administration.

We also have Francis Collins of the NIH and Anthony Fauci, who presumably everyone knows, had made public statements right after they wrote the Great Barrington Declaration. The Great Barrington Declaration, for people who don’t know, was a short document saying that the harms of lockdowns were greater than the benefits, and we should end them immediately. It was written in about October of 2020. Fauci and Collins immediately jumped on it, called them a danger to society, and are behind quite a bit of the censorship that happened to them.

Mr. Jekielek:

There were whistleblower documents that buttress this lawsuit now.

Ms. Younes:

Yes. We have a lot more evidence than we did when I filed the lawsuit in March 2022. In addition to these public statements, emails came out from DHS through a whistleblower that showed that the DHS had formed this disinformation governance board, and that it was clearly working with social media companies. They make it look like they’re working with them, but given the inherent power dynamic and these threatening public statements, there’s a level of coercion that eviscerates the argument that this is voluntary, and that this is what the companies themselves want to do. 

That’s what defenders of these policies are saying. The social media companies just want to accomplish the government’s aim. They’re also Lefties. They like the Biden Administration. They’re allowed to work together to do this. I don’t buy that from a first amendment perspective, but I don’t even think that’s true. It’s just extremely coercive, and that is a stronger first amendment case.

Mr. Jekielek:

Dr. Anthony Fauci has announced his resignation. There is also new CDC guidance that just came out, which is quite different from the previous guidance.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

What is your reaction to the new guidance?

Ms. Younes:

That’s a good question. One of the most astonishing things is that it says vaccinated and unvaccinated people should be treated the same. There’s no reason to treat them differently. They seem to be embracing focused protection, which is what the Great Barrington Declaration advocated, saying that we should protect the vulnerable and everybody else should go on with their lives.

Of course, they would say, “Things have changed with the vaccines and the virus becoming less virulent,” but I don’t think that’s true. It’s just clear that none of these tactics were working, and so now they’re coming around to the position they should have seen two years ago before they did so much damage.

The interesting thing is a number of universities are still continuing with vaccine mandates. When they’ve gone into court, their fallback has been, “The CDC recommends everyone get the vaccine.” The judges have said, “We can’t call that irrational,” because there’s something called irrational basis test. “We can’t call it irrational to rely on CDC guidance.” So now, if people bring lawsuits, it’s going to be different, because the CDC isn’t recommending this anymore.

Mr. Jekielek:

That’s interesting. Something else that came out with the CDC guidelines was the acknowledgement of  natural immunity, of prior infection to COVID conferring resistance to the disease.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

This was, at best, ignored, and at worst, called a conspiracy theory for quite a number of years.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

How does that impact your lawsuits?

Ms. Younes:

Actually, all of my lawsuits have been on behalf of people with natural immunity. While I want to say it’s good for them, it will be a question whether the courts are willing to look at the new science. This actually happened in a case I had against MSU in Michigan. We had filed the lawsuit in July of 2021. The judge ended up ruling on the motion to dismiss, and dismissed the case in February of 2022. The judge said a footnote, “If I was looking at the science today, I might find differently, but I have to look at it in July of 2021, because that’s when MSU formulated their mandate, and it was rational at that time.”

As part of our appeal, we are saying that’s not the right way to look at it. You don’t have to be stuck in the time we brought the lawsuit. You can actually look at the evolving science. Of course, all along the science showed that natural immunity was better than the vaccines. Frankly, but the CDC had been obfuscating that science. So now that the CDC has come out and said this, that makes the case much stronger.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’ve already kind of answered my question. Are you appealing this original case?

Ms. Younes:

Yes. We are appealing to the Sixth Circuit and we’re actually finishing up the briefing, so it should be heard relatively soon.

Mr. Jekielek:

You weren’t always doing this kind of litigation. In fact, you were doing something completely different.

Ms. Younes:

I was.

Mr. Jekielek:

You were a public defender.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

Please tell me a bit about yourself. How did you end up becoming a public defender in the first place? Then we can talk about how things changed for you.

Ms. Younes:

I went to law school to be a public defender. The most powerless people in our society are those charged or convicted of crimes and then face the power of the government. They often don’t get a fair shake. I was very interested in some of the inequities in the system with the fact that minorities, especially black people in New York, are prosecuted so much more, go to prison so much more, and face longer sentences. So, I really wanted to help represent those people. I worked for nine years as a public defender in New York.

Mr. Jekielek:

Why did you make a change? What happened?

Ms. Younes:

When COVID happened, as a public defender in New York, I was surrounded by people on the far Left, the radical Left, I would say. I had always had some differences of opinion. I considered myself to be on the Left, maybe almost by default, because that’s the people I was around. I grew up in Ithaca, New York, which is the most hippie place you can imagine.

But I had strong free speech ideas. I got in some debates, that sometimes turned into arguments about this. I differed from a lot of the people around me on trans issues. For instance, I did not believe that trans women should be playing women’s sports. I did not believe that we should be performing gender reassignment surgery on children. Since about 2015, I had some big differences with the left, but still generally considered myself a Leftist.

When COVID happened, I completely disagreed with everyone around me. I said, “The government cannot tell people that they can’t leave their homes, they can’t run their businesses, and they can’t send their kids to school. This is completely insane. They cannot tell people they have to wear a piece of cloth on their face for an indefinite amount of time.”  I didn’t understand why no one around me saw any problems. 

So, I started doing quite a bit of research on my own.  I didn’t have anything to do, because I was locked down. Everything was shut down. You couldn’t go out. I’m a pretty social person, and I don’t have kids. My life revolves around going to restaurants and going to bars at night, and all of a sudden I couldn’t go out

I just started doing a lot of research. I looked into the history of pandemics.  Historically, people had realized that lockdowns were not an effective means of quelling a virus that had already spread this widely, especially when it’s contagious. I stumbled across Martin Kulldorff, Jay Bhattacharya, Jeffrey Tucker, Alex Berenson, some of the biggest anti-lockdown voices.

I started following them, and I found their work very convincing. And I read the stuff on the other side too, and I checked myself a lot. I thought, “Maybe I’m crazy, since 99 per cent of the people around me disagree. Maybe it’s me who’s crazy.” But at every turn, I just realized that they were wrong.

I began to write and speak out a little bit. The American Institute for Economic Research published some of my articles. I was there for the Great Barrington Declaration, so I got to witness that. I learned that a lot of my colleagues were saying I should be fired and that what I was doing was horrible. I didn’t really want to go back to that environment. Then, at the same time, I really wanted to spend my time fighting for this cause, fighting against government overreach, and fighting for freedom, really, as cliche as it sounds.

I saw this as the most important topic of our time. Actually, Jeffrey Tucker at AIER (American Institute of Economic Research) told me about the New Civil Liberties Alliance. I looked them up. I thought, “Wow, they’re doing amazing.” At the time, they were fighting business closures. I applied, got the job, and moved to D.C. By then it was April of 2021, so lockdowns were kind of a thing of the past and vaccine mandates were the new thing, so I started on those.

Mr. Jekielek:

Were you canceled?

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

You chose to leave, but did you choose to leave under duress?

Ms. Younes:

Yes, I would say so. I was certainly canceled by my friends. I don’t talk to any of them anymore. In the summer of 2020, I had a couple of confrontations. It would start with me just saying something sort of timidly. They’d be talking about how bad it was that someone had a party. I lived in Brooklyn, and we would all go to Prospect Park and sit like six feet apart on picnic blankets. They would say, “Oh, can you believe someone had a house party? Just unbelievable.” And I would timidly reply, “You know, there are some scientists who actually think that younger people should just be going out and living their lives.” I was met with such hostility and a complete lack of interest in the ideas. We’re talking about something that’s unprecedented, is hugely important in terms of the implications it has, and there is a total shutdown of debate. You can’t even think about it. You can’t discuss it. That was a really big red flag for me.

Mr. Jekielek:

Just the idea that you might be thinking these weird errant thoughts was a problem.

Ms. Younes:

Yes. Exactly. There was this strange conformity and this labeling of people.  You were a bad person for even contemplating whether this was the best way to go about things. As I mentioned, I do have strong views about the civil liberties aspect. I also focused on the harms to the most vulnerable people, not physically vulnerable to COVID, but children, people in developing countries, and the working class, who I saw as really harmed by these policies. 

There are children from poor families, for instance, who don’t have one laptop per kid. Five of them might live in a bedroom. Shutting down schools is devastating for them and their education. We had numbers from Oxfam saying that 130 million additional people would face starvation levels of hunger, because of lockdowns caused by supply chain disruptions worldwide.

There are the working people who rely on restaurants for their paychecks. They aren’t the Zoom laptop class who just get to sit at home and get their entire paycheck and maybe go to Hawaii while they’re doing it. These are the people who are really harmed. I thought I could reach the Left with that, but I was really surprised that they did not care. It was very telling as well.

Mr. Jekielek:

This has been something very disturbing to me. Obviously, the laptop class living through the lockdown like this, that had to be created through society changing itself quite radically. But there was a whole bunch of people who just couldn’t live that way. It’s kind of obvious. Those people are left on the margins. How did people respond when you talked about these sorts of things?

Ms. Younes:

They didn’t really respond in any real way. It was, again, immediately shutting down debate. “People are dying of COVID. How can you even talk about this? If you really want to talk about the harms to minorities, it’s from COVID. Black people are dying at far higher rates than white people.” It was just deflecting the issues, and that was really what I saw.

Mr. Jekielek:

What was your reaction to this? Did you just gave up after a while and focus on your work?

Ms. Younes:

Yes, I sort of gave up. I stopped wanting to hang out with them, honestly. The friendships ended. I tended to blame them, but also, I didn’t really want to be around them, I have to admit. I saw that a lot of these people who pretend to care so much about the poor, the working class, and people in other countries, really don’t.

A lot of what motivated some of them, frankly, is that they enjoyed sitting at home. They suddenly didn’t have responsibilities. They don’t have to go to work from 9 to 5. They can go work from San Francisco or the Bahamas or wherever. Over time, I saw that’s what a lot of them were doing. I thought, “You’re so scared of COVID, but you’re traveling to Hawaii? This doesn’t make any sense.” So, I saw a lot of people for who they were and it turned me off.

Mr. Jekielek:

Based on this quote from George Washington earlier, would you call yourself a free speech absolutist?

Ms. Younes:

That’s a good question. I am not a hundred per cent sure. I’m not certain where I stand on threats and the like. Sometimes it goes far enough that perhaps the law should get involved. I would cite someone like Alex Jones as an example where he really tormented the parents of Sandy Hook victims by saying it was a fraud. He didn’t directly do anything, but a lot of his fans really drove these parents out of their home. These are the people who’ve suffered a horrible tragedy, and he went after them relentlessly with complete lies.

With something like that might be where the law could get involved. Should somebody be able to go on social media and say, “Kill John Smith”? That probably is another point where the law should get involved. But other than that, I’m pretty much an absolutist.

Mr. Jekielek:

This is a theoretical discussion. I’ve been thinking about these same exact questions. I have been radicalized, I suppose, towards the side of free speech absolutism. People will say, “Is Holocaust denial okay?” And remembering the Holocaust is an important issue to me. But whenever we start creating these caveats, I see them being taken advantage of, as they have been.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

That is my concern.

Ms. Younes:

That’s true, and let me play devil’s advocate to what I just said. The people on the other side would say, “If you say that the vaccines don’t work, you are effectively killing people.”  So, that’s just as bad as saying, “Go kill John Smith.” I would argue that you can carve out a pretty narrow exception for direct threats. If you are talking about physically harming someone directly and encouraging people to do that to a specific person or group, that would fall into this. Once you start getting into saying that this could indirectly harm somebody because they might believe it, and they might not get the vaccine, no, that’s protected speech.

Mr. Jekielek:

Why do you think your views were different from so many people?

Ms. Younes:

I don’t know. That’s a good question, and I’ve thought a lot about it. It probably was my upbringing. My mother was a very free thinker and had a strong libertarian streak, even though she tended towards progressive points of view on many things, she always did have a libertarian streak. My father grew up in the West Bank, and immigrated to the United States in his late twenties. He had lived in the Middle East under various repressive regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, as well as in the West Bank. I heard his stories and I understand what life is like when the government has so much power, and I don’t understand why people object to a government telling women have to wear headscarves, but they think it’s okay for the government to tell people they have to wear masks. It’s basically the same thing. So, I saw a lot of parallels. Once you’ve seen a repressive society, you understand how important it is to live in a free society.

Mr. Jekielek:

This is something that will be the subject of much academic work in the future. So many people really had this very, very strong opinion, which didn’t really make a ton of sense, to the point of discriminating against their friends and families. How do you think that happened? Do you have any sense of this?

Ms. Younes:

I would say it came from the top down. There was a campaign early on, and I don’t know exactly who I would blame. The New York Times and certainly media like that took the stance that if you questioned the lockdowns, you were a bad person. For instance, Trump, was not particularly anti-lockdown, but he waffled early on. He objected to masks, and he clearly didn’t want to wear one. He was so reviled by people in the progressive circles that a lot of it was whatever Trump says is obviously wrong. If you don’t like lockdowns, you’re like Trump. It was just this very simplistic, narrow thinking. 

That had something to do with why this became so politicized and why it became a moral thing. It was sort of a moralization of scientific questions or policy questions, which was very odd to me. For instance, if you believed in natural immunity, it was like a moral question, and it’s not. It’s a scientific question. Whether masks work, again, was a scientific question. For some reason, this became a symbol of allegiance to the Democratic party. You were a morally bad person if you didn’t want to wear a mask. It was very strange.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to talk a little bit about the responses to vaccine mandates. With non-genetic vaccines, pre-COVID, there were expectations that people needed to be vaccinated to travel to certain places, or to go to school. Of course, there’s various types of exemptions around that, but are these mandates any different from past mandates?

Ms. Younes:

Hugely. First of all, there have never been vaccine mandates for such new vaccines. Vaccines that are mandated typically have been tested for decades. These vaccines started being mandated before they had even been around a year, and certainly before they had been tested or widely used on a population.

Another difference is that it’s for a disease that doesn’t pose a risk to most people under 70. So, you’re mandating a vaccine for people who don’t really face a risk from the virus itself. Mandates in the past were for a very narrow range of the population. There would be some for school children. Maybe you would get a yellow fever vaccine if you were going  to Zimbabwe. I’m sure you’re aware living in New York, for a while you had to show a vaccine card to go to a restaurant or a theater. We’ve never had that before. Never. Such broad mandates that affect so many people and with such a new vaccine are totally unprecedented.

Mr. Jekielek:

Yes. A common response was, “Hey, vaccines have always been mandated.”

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

It often would take a bit of research for someone to figure out how to talk about these things.

Ms. Younes:

Yes, we’ll see. The jury is still out on exactly how dangerous these vaccines are. We know they have side effects. We know they’re causing myocarditis in young men. They’re having effects on women’s reproductive cycles. We know that. We don’t know the long-term effects. We don’t know the effects of giving endless boosters. It looks as though that may actually have a negative effect, especially after having too many. There was a study from Israel showing that at the fourth booster you actually started to have less immunity. I don’t know if you saw this clip which I tweeted . 60 Minutes had interviewed Fauci in 1999 about a potential AIDS vaccine. He said something like, “You wouldn’t want to mandate it,” or, “You wouldn’t want to mass vaccinate the population, because it might look fine after a year. It might look fine after two years. But then maybe after12 years, you would start to see side effects manifest.” This is something that we have always understood—side effects can take time to manifest.

Speaker 4:

Well, if you take it and then a year goes by and everybody’s fine, then you say, “Okay, that’s good. Now let’s give it to 500 people.” And then a year goes by and everything’s fine. Say, “Well, then now let’s give it to thousands of people,” and then you find out that it takes 12 years for all hell to break loose, and then what have you done?

Mr. Jekielek:

The vaccines that are in use in the U.S. are all still emergency use authorization.

Ms. Younes:

It’s a complicated question. The Pfizer and Moderna now have ones that have been fully approved. Emergency use authorization is typically for treatments that haven’t been fully approved by the FDA, but people can get them. It was really about patient empowerment. If you’re dying of cancer and there’s some experimental treatment, we don’t want to prevent you from getting that if it’s your last hope. But weirdly, this was used in the opposite way, to force people to get this vaccine. Well, it’s EUA approved. Now you have to get it.

There’s a weird twist to it. With both Pfizer and Moderna, the exact brand that’s approved is not the one that’s in distribution. With Pfizer, Comirnaty is fully approved, but it’s the BioNTech they’re using. Comirnaty not widely available for distribution for some reason. There are theories about why that is, maybe having to do with liability, and it’s unclear whether they’re exactly the same or not. The fact sheet says that they’re legally distinct, but formulaically the same. Apparently, that could involve different inactive ingredients which can affect the safety and efficacy, so we’re not sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

There are just so many complications.  It’s almost like this fog of complication that prevents you from being able to just sit down and make good decisions for yourself.

Ms. Younes:

Yes, that’s absolutely right. People understandably don’t think that they’re getting accurate information. Ashish Jha, the COVID czar in the White House, just said the other day, “The vaccines have no adverse effects.” That’s absolutely ridiculous. All vaccines and all medical products carry some risk of adverse effects. We know that people have had adverse effects from these. Now, whether that outweighs the benefit or risk analysis for any particular person, we don’t know. That doesn’t mean that nobody should get them. But to claim that there are no adverse effects at all is a lie. That’s misinformation. I would not call myself Right-wing. I don’t know how to define myself.

Mr. Jekielek:

I’m joking when I say this, but it seems like everyone who takes a position that’s not the current mainstream position is called a Right-wing person now.

Ms. Younes:

Yes. And that’s another insidious tactic that’s sort of used to discredit people. They put something before your name; Koch-funded, right-wing, or conspiracy theorist. Then, when people Google you, that’s what they see. You are automatically dismissed and it’s highly effective. I actually noticed this.

I Googled somebody the other day who’s on our side of things. What they put before his name was something like, “Trump defender, conspiracy theorist.” I had a moment where I thought, “Oh, this person’s not credible.” And then I was like, “No, I’m just falling for this. They do the same thing to me and to so many people I know.” But it’s highly effective. Again, it’s a way of discrediting you and making sure the public doesn’t take you seriously without engaging with your views at all.

Mr. Jekielek:

I feel like the Rubicon has been crossed with these new CDC guidelines, which I would argue most of which were known a couple of years ago, and then also, of course, with Dr. Fauci resigning. I don’t think it’s by accident that it’s happening now. The question is, are you seeing a shift in the way the information is being narrated in the mainstream?

Ms. Younes:

No. I mean, this doesn’t make me hopeful at all. First of all, the CDC has not said, “We made a mistake,” or, “We should have listened to Doctors Kulldorff and Bhattacharya.” They’re just pretending. They’re doing this about-face, but of course, if they were pressed on it, they would say, “Oh no, it’s just with the vaccines, and the variants aren’t as bad, and that’s why we can go back to normal life, and that’s why we don’t need mandates and masks.” The acknowledgement of natural immunity is a little bit hopeful, but I think the fact that they haven’t had to account for their deceit and the lies to the American public is really troubling.

Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, has been talking about the reason the CDC went wrong is because they didn’t do enough. They didn’t lock people down harder. She didn’t use those words, but that’s reading between the lines. They should have really consolidated their power and done more, which they already abused. The CDC does not have any rule making authority that’s delegated by Congress, yet the CDC did the eviction moratorium, and the federal mask mandate. They don’t have this authority, yet they just did it. It was a complete abuse of power, and unless there’s a real change, I’m afraid it’s just going to happen again.

Mr. Jekielek:

What do you think that change would need to be?

Ms. Younes:

The courts need to start recognizing that the CDC doesn’t have this power. The CDC eviction moratorium basically said landlords couldn’t evict people during COVID, because it would spread COVID. This sounds really nice and warm and fuzzy, but a lot of landlords are mom-and-pop landlords. This really harmed a lot of people who are lower middle class. We’re not talking at all about really rich landlords. Then, there were people like lawyers and doctors who said, “Oh, I don’t have to pay my rent. I can just go to Abu Dhabi and have a nice trip on that money.” The CDC simply doesn’t have the authority to do this. It’s really important for separation of powers reasons that agencies don’t just run amuck and start making laws that they don’t have the authority to make.

So people sued. My organization sued, actually, before I joined. We ended up going up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said, “Yes, the CDC can’t do this,” but they got away with it for like a year and a half because that’s how long it takes the court case to play out. If someone said something at some point like, “Yes, we know we can’t really do this, but we’re just going to do it until the court tells us we can’t,” I mean, that is unconscionable for government officials to say that. They’re abusing the system and abusing separation of powers. There has to be some accountability, and I don’t exactly know what it looks like.

Mr. Jekielek:

I remember seeing a tweet from you where you had put up a screenshot of how long the CDC or HHS was going to take to get you your FOIA request on something that you would need pretty quickly.

Ms. Younes:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

I don’t know if you remember what I’m talking about.

Ms. Younes:

I do. Yes. We have a FOIA request pending. This is sort of related to the lawsuit in Ohio, the Changizi lawsuit. We asked for documents related to this, and specifically for their names to see if they had been targeted. We also asked for correspondence between the government and Twitter to see what had gone on there. We made the FOIA request and they said it might take two years. Well, they really only have 20 days to respond. They can ask for another 10 days for complex requestshey are just violating our statutory FOIA rights and being brazen about it. So, we sued, and that lawsuit is pending.

Mr. Jekielek:

Just so many lawsuits.

Ms. Younes:

Yes. But they keep getting away with it.

Mr. Jekielek:

As we finish up, please tell me about this organization that you’re working for. Where did it come from?

Ms. Younes:

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, as you can tell from the name, is seeking to fill a gap that has been left by organizations like the ACLU. Philip Hamburger is the founder. He’s a professor of law at Columbia University, and a number of years ago he identified this problem of administrative agencies infringing on Americans’ rights. A lot of people don’t even realize how far it goes.

For instance, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has a lot of proceedings where the Constitution gives you a right to a jury trial in criminal cases. The idea is, if you’re going to suffer severe adverse consequences, you get a jury, not one judge. They have these administrative proceedings where you don’t get a hearing, but you can lose your entire livelihood, and your entire savings. It is tried by a judge in the SEC, so they’re all within the agency. There are  various other ways in which agencies exploit the power that they have. COVID kind of made that writ large, I would say. I hadn’t realized this before, and when I looked at it I said, “Oh my God.” So, I really like what the organization is doing. We have been at the forefront challenging a lot of these—I don’t even know what you call them—rules, laws, and mandates.

Mr. Jekielek:

Given the reality you have just described, what do you think like-minded individuals should be doing at this point?

Ms. Younes:

That’s a good question. You should be writing, speaking, and talking to the people around you. What I see from a lot of my friends and relatives on the Left is that they want their policies in place, and they don’t really care how it gets there, whether it’s abortion or climate change. That’s the wrong way of looking at it, in my opinion. The fundamental principles we have for free speech and for separation of powers are more important than any particular policy. That’s what makes us America, and that’s supposed to bring us together. That is actually what caused me to reassess a lot of my ideas about things. There were points where I would have actually advocated for that. I wanted my policy in place. I would’ve been okay with whatever it took to get there. Now  I have realized that’s wrong. The most important thing is to maintain the principles that are intrinsic to our Constitution, and that’s an important message to get out.

Mr. Jekielek:

What’s next for Jenin Younes?

Ms. Younes:

I’m sure the government will keep me busy. Right now, I’m really busy with these censorship cases, and unfortunately, college students. I’m getting a lot of messages from college students about the booster mandates, so I might be doing some of that. I was contacted by the family of a 19-year-old kid at MSU who had got the two doses of Pfizer last fall because he had to in order to go to school as a freshman. He got a blood clot in his leg two months later. So, we don’t know. I don’t want to jump to conclusions. It could have been caused by the vaccine. Maybe not. Had been healthy with no health problems prior to that. He got an exemption for the booster mandate for the spring semester, but now they won’t let him onto campus or take his classes unless he gets the booster, which is absolutely absurd. There are these sorts of scenarios.

Mr. Jekielek:

And not to belabor this, but even under this new CDC guidance?

Ms. Younes:

Yes. MSU has said that they’re not planning to change. For the lawyers out there, this makes for some good lawsuits. One of the reasons for finding against us has been, “Well, we can’t say the CDC recommendations are irrational.” Now, it’s not the CDC recommendations, so what are they going to fall back on? There should be some lawsuits forthcoming, if these universities want to keep this up and keep oppressing these young people like this.

Mr. Jekielek:

Jenin Younes, such a pleasure to have you on.

Ms. Younes:

Thank you so much.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you all for joining Jenin Younes and I on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

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