October 27, 2011
On October 27, 2011, Dina Temple-Raston of NPR’s Morning Edition reported on a case regarding a Boston man brought up on charges of terrorism whose trial is expected to begin today (October 27). According to the report, Tarek Mehanna, the defendant, was arrested in 2009 and charged with seven different crimes, including “conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.”
Mehanna is alleged to have travelled to Yemen and Somalia in search of terrorist training camps, conspired to kill soldiers in Iraq, and, upon his return to the United States, planned to orchestrate a terror campaign involving a shopping mall shooting spree.
When announcing the charges two years ago, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks stated:
It is alleged that there were multiple conversations about obtaining weapons and randomly shooting people in a shopping mall. This mall assault planning consisted of the logistics of a malls attack, the coordination of an assault from different entrances, weapons needed for such an assault and the possibility of attacking emergency responders.It should be noted that Mehanna is an American citizen who was born in Pittsburgh and was raised in an affluent suburb of Boston known as Sudbury. He also holds a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Although individuals accused of terrorism by virtue of less-than-substantial evidence are no longer a rare sight to behold in the Orwellian America of 2011, many of the cases brought before the courts, such as this one, have gradually moved further and further in the direction of prosecution not only for direct acts (aided and guided by the intelligence agencies as they almost always are), but also for indirect acts and, now, apparently, for pre-crime.
That is what makes this specific trial somewhat more special than the others.
Indeed, the facts surrounding Mehanna’s alleged activities paints a somewhat different picture of the method of prosecution and the implications for free speech that would result from not only a conviction but the very fact that an arrest and prosecution have taken place to begin with.
First, Mehanna never found his terrorist training camp. So, essentially, he is being prosecuted for the fact that, if he could have found a terrorist training camp, he would have enrolled himself in it. It is hardly a testament to the rule of law and the land of the free when one can be prosecuted for what one would have done possibly done, might have done, etc.
Second, as Temple-Raston reports, the shooting spree plan never materialized either. In fact, it never got past the planning stages. In fact, in this case, “planning” is a word that is used quite loosely. The alleged plot was apparently only briefly discussed as opposed to a well thought out plan that was only killed at the last minute. Furthermore, there is little evidence to say that Mehanna was even involved in the “planning” of the plot in the first place as NPR notes.
Unfortunately, as bad as this case is, there is nothing unusual about the conduct of the U.S. government and the judicial system thus far. Fear mongering by government “officials” over terrorism has been in force for some time and so have poorly constructed, weak prosecutions that largely rely on the alarming level to which the public has been propagandized.
However, the case is different in the sense that Mehanna is being prosecuted for “discussing” (or as the Department of Justice would call it, “planning”) terrorist activities as well as for his blog entries which were, some claim, radical and fundamentalist in nature.
As Temple-Raston writes,
What makes this case different from the roster of terrorism cases that have gone to trial in recent months is the two issues around which it revolves: First, whether talking about terrorism, but not acting on it amounts to a crime and, second, if posting something on a blog can amount to supporting a terrorist group.These are not merely questions of mundane legal matters. These are questions that fundamentally affect the First Amendment in a profound way. The fact that one could be arrested and charged with a crime as serious as terrorism, much less convicted, is not only a frightening thought but one that stands in direct opposition to the very notion of Freedom of Speech.
Likewise, if one can be prosecuted under similar circumstances for simply posting material on a blog, then it would be wise to question whether or not the alternative media will soon be targeted for material that stands in opposition to the agenda of the state.
If Mehanna can be successfully prosecuted for his blog postings, then the state will no doubt move forward using his case as precedent to silence critics in the alternative media, starting with the smallest blogger and moving right on up to the top. If Mehanna’s intellectual “terrorist support” provided by means of a blog posting can be considered support for terrorism, how long can it be before articles that oppose the war(s) and expose the American military occupations for what they really are will be considered supporting terrorism?
Let us not forget that there was once a time in the United States where individuals who encouraged others not to join the military during the orchestrated slaughter of WWI were often convicted of sedition in U.S. courts and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. This has happened in the past and will no doubt happen again if we, as Americans, do not stand up and force those in power to, at the very least, respect our God-given inalienable rights.
Not only that, it is important to understand the fact that Mehanna’s charges are also a form of pre-crime prosecution. That is, he is on trial for an incident that, at the worst, he planned but never went through with. The charges, then, are levied against an act that he could have committed -- not one that he did commit or even one that he attempted to commit.
Of course, in the recent acceleration of the Totalitarian Tip-Toe strategy, Mehanna is not the only individual being slapped with terrorism charges and claims of supporting terrorists merely by words or the posting of material considered objectionable by the state.
Recently, Jubair Ahmad, a 24 year-old Woodbridge, Virginia man was arrested and charged with providing support for terrorism. His crime was uploading a video to YouTube. The video has been described by the mainstream media as a “propaganda video” as it showed leaders and “jihadi martyrs” of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba alongside footage of armored trucks being destroyed by IED’s.
Although Ahmad is accused of attending two “terrorist training camps” located in Pakistan in the past, it is important to note that his alleged terrorist training camp attendance is not the incident that brought about his charges. He was charged due to his alleged posting of a YouTube video.
Of course, under the First Amendment, his right to post material espousing the fundamentalist theories of radical Islam are guaranteed. In fact, all speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment, no matter how objectionable. Indeed, it is unpopular speech that the First Amendment was written to protect, as popular speech rarely needs such protection. It is, after all, popular.
Nevertheless, Ahmad is not just being charged with supporting terrorism, but he is also being classified as an enemy combatant, a label that strips the defendant of all legal and Constitutional rights. As the Alexander Higgins Blog noted:
The accusation alone instantly classifies the man as an ‘enemy combatant’ and ‘clear and present danger’. Such persons who are a ‘threat to national security’ have absolutely no rights. To make matters worse, businesses and nations aren’t allowed to do business with such so-called ‘terrorists’ or they will be declared a terrorist themselves. That means a lawyer who takes up his case can be charge with providing support for terrorism. That is if the United States government even decides to honor habeas corpus and give the man a trial in the first place. Our beloved supreme court has ruled that ‘enemy combatants’ can be abducted, tortured, assassinated, and even detained for ever without a trial because the constitution does not apply to them. Even worse, the lucky few who are released after being declared innocent have no right to legal recourse because revealing the details of their detention and torture is also a threat to national security.Combine these two instances with the fact that the U.S. Congress is now considering the passage of a bill known as the “Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011,” and one has the recipe for the creation of a totalitarian society where free speech will become both null and void.
This new law would effectively criminalize the planning or even the discussion of any acts that would violate the Controlled Substances Act and it would apply both to “acts” that were being planned or discussed in foreign countries (such as a weed bash in Amsterdam) as well as those inside the United States.
For an analysis of the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011, see my article, “Congress Expansion of Drug War is an Attack on Free Speech."
Unfortunately, the truth is that the United States has already become a police state. No matter how hard it is to admit to ourselves, our country crossed that line long ago. But the moves being made by the U.S. government at this point in time are increasing the descent into total tyranny at an alarming rate.
We are fast approaching a time when citizens will be afraid to speak to one another about anything that may be even slightly critical of the state, or any conduct or behavior branded unlawful by the state. With the coming creation of snitch forces drawn from the general population, the increasing militarization of society, and the vast uptick in ridiculous and oppressive laws, we are entering a time when open discussion of any matter will be a rarity.
The time for all good men to come to the aid of their country passed long ago. Now, the window is closing.
If good men remain silent now, they will remain silent forever -- one way or another.