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When it comes to prosecuting speech as support for terrorism, it’s the thought that counts.
April 23, 2012 3:33 PM   Subscribe

On April 12, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison. The sentence has renewed worries about the extent to which political speech might be counted as material support for terrorism and possible effects on Al Qaeda recruitment efforts. One wonders just how far the law might go.

Background includes the provision of the Patriot Act on providing material support to terrorists and the landmark Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (previously).
posted by Jonathan Livengood (151 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This case had me too upset to feel able to post about it. Thank you for doing so.
posted by bardophile at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2012


Glenn Greenwald's take on this.

I hope the people who came up with this "free speech as terrorism" legislation meet the same end as Saddam Hussein.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:47 PM on April 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


Wow, dunkadunc, that's impressively disgusting. Good work.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:53 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


“His plan to murder American soldiers was thwarted not by capture or a change of heart, but only by his failure to find suitable training” during a 2004 trip to Yemen in pursuit of recruitment to a terrorist camp [said prosecutors]
posted by stbalbach at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2012


Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said "Trust me. Tarek Mehanna is no Nelson Mandela".

The stupidity is too much.

"I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one." - Nelson Mandela

"Nelson Mandela can rot in prison until he dies or I die, whichever takes longer." - P.W. Botha
posted by knapah at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


to sir with millipedes: "Wow, dunkadunc, that's impressively disgusting. Good work."

I'd rather people voice such opinions about evil people in power than have such legislation shut everyone up because they're scared. Chilling effects, et cetera.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, there seem to be two charges here. One was conspiracy, which didn't involve speech but involved him going overseas to attempt to train as a terrorist and join the Taliban. That doesn't seem problematic from a free-speech standpoint - you aren't allowed to conspire to make war on your country, or conduct terrorist attacks.

It's the "support" for terrorism that might not have gone beyond writing sympathetic things online that's the free speech issue, and if that's all he did - express vile opinions - and not incite people to specific acts, then he shouldn't be convicted of that count.
posted by Dasein at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fair enough, dunk. I just think there's a broad spectrum of responses between those two extremes.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:02 PM on April 23, 2012


"Prosecutors asked for a 25-year prison sentence, saying he lived a 'double life,' appearing as a 'dutiful and scholarly young man' to his family and community, but in reality, he 'was a proponent of violence as a means of achieving political goals.'"

Let's go ahead and support the part where we criminalize acts that further the violent overthrow of our government. I concede that this may include incitement. But the prosecutor's statement here is troubling, in a goose/gander sort of way.
posted by mule98J at 4:02 PM on April 23, 2012


why'd you have to go and make one of those posts that makes me wonder whether America is even worth trying to fix anymore
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


a proponent of violence as a means of achieving political goals

He should have known better than try to infringe our monopoly.
posted by Trurl at 4:08 PM on April 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


I still can't get over how for the past ten years, terrorism has meant guerilla warfare, or warfare by non-state actors, rather than attacking non-combatants.
posted by entropone at 4:09 PM on April 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


I hope the people who came up with this "free speech as terrorism" legislation meet the same end as Saddam Hussein.

The issue isn't so much the attack on free speech, but the excuses made for conviction that make it just that much easier to prosecute the next case, and the next, until there isn't anything left to take away. At some point, the apologetic acrobatics need to stop.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Beware: link two leads to the Daily Mail.
posted by JHarris at 4:11 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is so frustratingly sad and terrifying. Shit.
posted by broadway bill at 4:16 PM on April 23, 2012


entropone: "I still can't get over how for the past ten years, terrorism has meant guerilla warfare, or warfare by non-state actors, rather than attacking non-combatants."

Goddamn colonial revolutionaries. They won't abide by the rules of war and fight in pitched battle, and shoot at us from behind trees instead. Sometimes they even fight in civvies. How dare they.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2012


I'd always known about how Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for giving a speech opposing World War I but it wasn't until John Kiriakou was recently sentenced under the same Espionage Act that I read part of the Supreme Court decision on the Debs case.

If I'm interpreting it correctly, the charge in part was that Debs "caused and incited and attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States" by giving a speech opposing militarism in general, and by inference the U.S. participation in WWI itself, in front of men who were registered for the draft; because draft registration made those men part of the military.
posted by XMLicious at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Haven't heard of this before today. A brief analysis of the case finds that one of the biggest cases cited is Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 130 S.Ct. 2705 (2010) decided on a 6-3 opinion.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:42 PM on April 23, 2012


Given this guy advocates the killing of US soldiers, I think I'm going to wait out the hand wringing.
posted by smidgen at 4:51 PM on April 23, 2012


I'm only willing to support the freedoms of those who support my own freedom of conscience. What do I gain by this man having the freedom to advocate for my slavery and to threaten me with death. I think without reciprocity of freedom of conscience, I have no moral obligation to defend his.
posted by humanfont at 4:55 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder when Kevin Forts, 23, from Massachusetts will be arrested and convicted for his support for the 'executions' perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik.

Maybe it would only be if he translated Breivik's 'manifesto'.
posted by knapah at 4:56 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd always known about how Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for giving a speech opposing World War I but it wasn't until John Kiriakou was recently sentenced under the same Espionage Act that I read part of the Supreme Court decision on the Debs case.

If I'm interpreting it correctly, the charge in part was that Debs "caused and incited and attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States" by giving a speech opposing militarism in general, and by inference the U.S. participation in WWI itself, in front of men who were registered for the draft; because draft registration made those men part of the military.


Debs encouraged men not to register. I got first hand knowledge of this case long before I became a lawyer. I was finishing up a Masters in history with a Public History Option. Our final project centered around a collection of WWI and WWII propaganda posters and we juxtaposed them with information showing that the propaganda might actually counter the reality. I went to the Great Lakes section of the National Archives. An excellent archivist dove into the records and knew what would be great. The first thing he pulled out was Debs' trial records. I held in my hand the actual records, the actual exhibits. I read the speech. In it he did tell people not to register--he went farther than suggested above. The most amazing thing was the actual jury verdict card. I looked at the marks on the paper where the members of the jury put an X in the space under guilty. I ran it off and we placed it next to a poster about freedoms in America.

But the best was actually this poster: Americans All. I found the perfect piece to go next to the list of ethnic names--a report from an agent of the Army General Staff who had infiltrated a meeting of Eastern Europeans in a church basement in Chicago. I copied a list of names from that meeting, all of Eastern European origin. At the top, in pen was a key X for "loyal" a check mark for "not loyal" Down the list the names had check marks or X's next to them. It was the perfect juxtaposition between the propaganda and the reality.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald's take on this.

Mehanna's speech in court (transcribed in the Greenwald article) seems far from the angry screed that it has been reported as.

It seems to me that Mehanna is (or at least, should be) entitled to voice support for whatever. That's the whole point of free speech. That part of the case is bogus, and the fact that he was prosecuted for his political and religious opinions (however stupid they may be) is frightening.

But there is a significant difference between opinion and action. You have to be a complete moron to think that you can attempt to join up with the enemy forces in a war that your country is fighting, and not face any consequences for that when you come home. Waging war against your own country, or conspiring to do so, is generally regarded as treason.

Tl;dr, don't live in the country that you want to fight against.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm only willing to support the freedoms of those who support my own freedom of conscience. What do I gain by this man having the freedom to advocate for my slavery and to threaten me with death. I think without reciprocity of freedom of conscience, I have no moral obligation to defend his.

What if he's not advocating your slavery? Merely advocating that the use of force by Muslims to defend their own nations against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I mean, the guy loves Batman.
posted by knapah at 4:58 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm only willing to support the freedoms of those who support my own freedom of conscience. What do I gain by this man having the freedom to advocate for my slavery and to threaten me with death. I think without reciprocity of freedom of conscience, I have no moral obligation to defend his.

I don't think you understand how freedom of speech works.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:08 PM on April 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


You have to be a complete moron to think that you can attempt to join up with the enemy forces in a war that your country is fighting, and not face any consequences for that when you come home. Waging war against your own country, or conspiring to do so, is generally regarded as treason.

Pretty much showing up for terrorist training is a federal crime. Depending on the facts of the case, whether he received training to commit terrorist acts or merely showed up and was turned away, he was most likely charged with an attempt to violate 18 U.S.C. §2339D. Receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization

If he received some training, then he violated the statute. If he merely attempted, he is charged with attempt.

the other code section is 18 U.S.C. section 2999A the idea is whether or not broadcasting or forwarding messages counts as providing "communications" equipment. I bet this is a pretty fact-sensitive case. I'd love to see the trial record.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:09 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


entropone: "I still can't get over how for the past ten years, terrorism has meant guerilla warfare, or warfare by non-state actors, rather than attacking non-combatants."

Goddamn colonial revolutionaries. They won't abide by the rules of war and fight in pitched battle, and shoot at us from behind trees instead. Sometimes they even fight in civvies. How dare they.


I don't know about this guy, but hijacking 4 airplanes in mid flight, flying one into the Pentagon, killing 200, flying 2 others into the World Trade Center killing 3,000 and having the final one overpowered before it could do any harm is not a guerrilla action, especially given that none of the persons involved in the hijacking were from a country that was at war or even attacked by the United States. That's not guerrilla warfare.

Also, if the guy's intent was to take up arms against the United States, the fact that he was thwarted in his aim doesn't mean he isn't guilty of attempting to obtain military training from a terrorist organization.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:15 PM on April 23, 2012


I read the speech. I am sympathetic to the notion he is no terrorist; bearing arms against American soldiers is not terrorism, but war. What he is is a traitor, eloquently and unapologetically confessing to his treason:a born and raised American decides that there is a war between America and foreigners and sides with foreigners (his "homeland") and commits overt acts in furtherance of his treachery. 17 years is getting off light.
posted by MattD at 5:15 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm only willing to support the freedoms of those who support my own freedom of conscience

This isn't a requirement of free speech.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:17 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know about this guy, but hijacking 4 airplanes in mid flight, flying one into the Pentagon, killing 200, flying 2 others into the World Trade Center killing 3,000 and having the final one overpowered before it could do any harm is not a guerrilla action, especially given that none of the persons involved in the hijacking were from a country that was at war or even attacked by the United States. That's not guerrilla warfare.

Oh, I completely agree. But I was talking about Tarek Mehanna, who wasn't involved in that.
posted by entropone at 5:24 PM on April 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


“those who fight Muslims may be fought, not those who have the same nationality as those who fight.” - Mehanna

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that these 'jihadi' feelings may have started after the repeated massacres of Falluja (I'm not going to call those battles...) or a related event.

This is a sickening trial. Of course a jury would find the man guilty of something after hearing his spiel, its goddamn mob justice.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:25 PM on April 23, 2012


Why not. How can we have freedom of speech absent a social contract of mutual toleration?
posted by humanfont at 5:26 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Ironmouth. I agree - the trial record would be interesting reading.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:30 PM on April 23, 2012


Why not. How can we have freedom of speech absent a social contract of mutual toleration?

I'm not sure whether or not we can.

But I do think that a social contract of mutual toleration would probably have to start with the United States not having a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. I feel like the burden to start is there.
posted by entropone at 5:40 PM on April 23, 2012


How can we have freedom of speech absent a social contract of mutual toleration?

Because if we only protect the speech of those with similar creeds to our own, it's not about fundamental freedom at all, it's just a kind of tribalism or old boys' network.
posted by XMLicious at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Earlier this year, the marine commander Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich was demoted and had his pay cut after commanding the team that led to the Haditha massacre. All of the other marines were acquitted, after killing 24 unarmed civilians including children and the elderly.

Tarek Mehanna, found guilty of thoughtcrime against the state, gets 17 years.

All of the intellectualizing in the world can't cover up the injustice. It's too obvious to rational people, but you can't count on jingoists to do any thinking.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
—Einstein
posted by deanklear at 5:43 PM on April 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


I'll honestly never consider killing soldiers as terrorist activities, certainly the state has every right to employ force to protect personnel that it places in harms way, but ..

Terrorism must fundamentally mean the disruption of civilian life through fear created by unpredictable violence, otherwise the word holds no meaning. Military units cannot be targeted by terrorism because disrupting their activities inherently constitutes a military objective even if totally worthless at face value.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:48 PM on April 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wonder when Kevin Forts, 23, from Massachusetts will be arrested and convicted for his support for the 'executions' perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik.

Converting to Islam would help.
posted by Trurl at 5:57 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Terrorism must fundamentally mean the disruption of civilian life through fear created by unpredictable violence, otherwise the word holds no meaning.

If only those who toss the word around so much would realize this, we'd have a slightly saner world.
posted by hippybear at 5:59 PM on April 23, 2012


This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland.

This.
posted by swift at 6:04 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The legal contortions that go into the war on terror: Is it murder when you're fighting soldiers as a soldier or is it combat? Can a country decide to not recognize soldiers of a force it declared war on? Can war actually be declared against a method of fighting as opposed to a people or a country? If we are at war, and this is treasonous speech (as MattD suggested), how do we prosecute him when he's part of a war that isn't a war, as a soldier who is also a enemy combatant who is also a non-combatant?

Apparently, you prosecute for thought crime in an attempt to end run around the above but the higher courts may quash this approach on appeal (if its successfully appealed).

Its all such a damned mess, all our thinking and jurisprudence and societal awareness. Its not gone down the drain yet but there's way too much momentum washing it all that way.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:07 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's hardly surprising that when you go bear baiting you get mauled. on the other hand that the bear felt threatened by someone like Tarek shows just how weak it is...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:14 PM on April 23, 2012


it's hardly surprising that when you go bear baiting you get mauled

It is when you get mauled by your fellow bears.
posted by swift at 6:17 PM on April 23, 2012


it's hardly surprising that when you go bear baiting you get mauled

It is when you get mauled by your fellow bears.


I could only BE so lucky.

(Wait, we're not talking about the same thing here, are we?)
posted by hippybear at 6:20 PM on April 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Why are so many commenters in this thread writing as though he was convicted based solely on expression? The articles, if they are correct, state that he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans, and actually tried to enlist at a terrorist training camp. Should these things not be punished? Or do you not believe he did these things?
posted by jayder at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2012


jayder, why are you writing as though it's alright to abbrogate our civil liberties, as long as the person convicted was actually also guilty of a crime we all agree deserves punishment?
posted by IAmBroom at 7:20 PM on April 23, 2012


I don't know what he was charged with. Since you appear to know more than I do, can you please list the offenses he was charged with? It's possible that translating the screed or whatever it was was simply adduced as part of the evidence of his overall conspiracy. I haven't seen anyone here who seems to even know what he is charged with, but lots of people speaking as though he is merely charged with a thought crime.

So -- what was he charged with, please?
posted by jayder at 7:31 PM on April 23, 2012


...and actually tried to enlist at a terrorist training camp.

I may be missing somewhere there's more details, but the bits I read seemed to indicate that in 2004 he looked for a training camp in Yemen because he wanted to go to Iraq to fight on the side of the "insurgency" opposing the military force that had invaded that country. Probably because he suspected that the "weapons of mass destruction" pretense was complete bullshit and that Iraq had been opportunistically been overrun in a preemptive war under false pretenses by a regime that was abducting and torturing people and using chemical weapons and doing all sorts of other horrible things, which it turned out was of course completely true.
posted by XMLicious at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2012


Apparently, you prosecute for thought crime in an attempt to end run around the above but the higher courts may quash this approach on appeal (if its successfully appealed).

An American citizen showed up to be trained by terrorists. He claims he was turned away by an old man. The government claims otherwise. At minimum, he's guilty of attempt to violate the law. The guy wanted to kill people. If it was civilians, that's wrong. If it is soldiers from his own country and two witnesses can confirm its treason. If two witnesses cannot confirm, it is aiding and abetting the enemy.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What he is is a traitor, eloquently and unapologetically confessing to his treason:a born and raised American decides that there is a war between America and foreigners and sides with foreigners (his "homeland") and commits overt acts in furtherance of his treachery. 17 years is getting off light.

this is the Fox News mentality that turns an American opponent of an American war into a 'traitor'. If freedom of speech doesn't include the right to advocate against a war started by the American government (i.e. 'side with the foreigners') then it really isn't worth very much.

Overt acts of violence in a war is a completely separate issue; he doesn't seem to have committed any such acts or received any training to commit such acts but I suppose the issue of his intentions on his trip to Yemen is important. But it's not what people are upset about here.
posted by zipadee at 7:41 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


BTW, from the header in the Christian Science Monitor piece:
At numerous junctures during which Mehanna was under surveillance, Mehanna rebuked overtures by government informants and others to join them in a terrorist attack. To the contrary, Mehanna limited his actions to speaking out and writing against US foreign policy as well as translating controversial extremist materials into English.
posted by XMLicious at 7:45 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also:
In addition, Mehanna traveled to Yemen in 2004. He claimed his visit was to study Arabic and Islam. The government alleged he went to join Al Qaeda and later returned home to assist the terrorist organization expand its influence in the US. But both admit that Mehanna never actually planned or attempted to execute a violent terrorist act.
posted by XMLicious at 7:46 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and strike "header" there, those quotes are from the body of the text.
posted by XMLicious at 7:47 PM on April 23, 2012


It's worth noting that the speech offense he was convicted for was not "advocating against the war", it was translating and disseminating propaganda for terrorist groups. I'd be really curious to know more about the legal background to why this is considered aiding the enemy rather than exercise of speech, and why the work of, say, MEMRI is not (and I sure do wish a similarly exacting definition of speech rather than action was erected around campaign contributions). That's March's point in the NYTimes, and it's a good one. But this isn't as simple as "he's being jailed for opposing the war."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:57 PM on April 23, 2012


ThatFuzzyBastard: Yes, it actually is that simple. He's being jailed for having views the government doesn't like.
posted by Malor at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2012


On the specific charges the CSM article (which is an opinion piece by a law professor) claims that,
But for the 2010 Supreme Court’s flawed decision in Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder (HLP), it is doubtful the prosecution would have stood a chance at a conviction. The ruling in HLP criminalized “coordinated advocacy” with a designated terrorist group as unlawful material support to terrorism, while “independent advocacy” remained protected by the First Amendment.

Thus the case came down to whether Mehanna’s vocal criticism of US military practices in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim majority countries was coordinated with Al Qaeda operatives. Similarly, when he translated Islamic literature and Al Qaeda propaganda, the government labeled it “coordinated advocacy” such that he was providing unlawful material support to terrorism.
posted by XMLicious at 8:05 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any thoughtful advocacy against a foreign war will include translating and discussing various materials from the other side of that war, if only to communicate what you believe is the truth of what is happening. If the other side is defined as 'terrorists' and communicating with them is defined as 'coordination' then voila, you are acting as an agent in disseminating propaganda for terrorist groups.
posted by zipadee at 8:10 PM on April 23, 2012


Thanks, XMLicious---that's very clarifying.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:17 PM on April 23, 2012


ThatFuzzyBastard: Yes, it actually is that simple. He's being jailed for having views the government doesn't like.

That interpretation conveniently ignores a lot of facts.
posted by gjc at 8:19 PM on April 23, 2012


If, as the author of the CSM piece claims, making the exact same statements and web posts independent of any alleged connection to alleged terrorists would be perfectly legal, saying that he's being jailed for having views the government doesn't like does not seem like too much of a stretch to me.

I mean, there must be quite a few people (albeit not Americans) who served in the Iraqi army and hence actually bore arms against the U.S. invasion who haven't been prosecuted or otherwise punished for doing so. But it appears that this guy is in jail for simply saying that Muslims should do that, plus associating with the wrong people.
posted by XMLicious at 8:37 PM on April 23, 2012


What do I gain by this man having the freedom to advocate for my slavery

Among other things, you get the chance to hear him talk publicly. Consider it a chance to learn his name, and the names of his associates.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:16 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not. How can we have freedom of speech absent a social contract of mutual toleration?

But see when one country goes around the world invading other countries that have never attacked it sane/reasonable humans may be inclined to disagree with said policies. This does not equate with them wanting to enslave you; that you think this is the case is telling indeed.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:47 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, Frank Wuterich kills 24 civilians and gets no jail time...
posted by iamck at 12:00 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth on Tarek Mehanna:
An American citizen showed up to be trained by terrorists. He claims he was turned away by an old man. The government claims otherwise. At minimum, he's guilty of attempt to violate the law. The guy wanted to kill people. If it was civilians, that's wrong. If it is soldiers from his own country and two witnesses can confirm its treason. If two witnesses cannot confirm, it is aiding and abetting the enemy.
Ironmouth on Bradly Manning's treatment:
The guy said he was going to kill himself so they put him on a suicide watch. Then they took him off it. That's not torture.
He often makes inaccurate statements.
posted by delmoi at 1:23 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you haven't read his sentencing statement you really ought to. It's likely the best speech you'll read all year.
posted by a debt owed at 2:03 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen anyone here who seems to even know what he is charged with, but lots of people speaking as though he is merely charged with a thought crime.

He was convicted on seven separate charges. One, Count 3, appears to relate to the training camp incident, but I've not got time to check in detail, and the false statement convictions may also relate to this. So, to, cut a long story short, a number of the convictions were specifically convictions for speech. Even if you think Mehanna "had it coming", you really need to find that worrying.

From the arraignment hearing (PDF).

"As to Counts 1 and 2 charging you with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing material support to terrorists in violation of Title 18 United States, Code Section 2339(a); Counts 3 charging you with conspiracy to kill in a foreign country in violation of Title 18 United States, Code Section 956; Count 4 charging you with conspiracy in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 371; Counts 5 and 6 charging you with false statements in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1001(a)(2), and forfeiture allegation in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 981(a)(1)(C), and Title 18 United States Code Section 28 U.S.C., 2461(c); how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?"
posted by howfar at 2:44 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth on Tarek Mehanna:
An American citizen showed up to be trained by terrorists. He claims he was turned away by an old man. The government claims otherwise. At minimum, he's guilty of attempt to violate the law. The guy wanted to kill people. If it was civilians, that's wrong. If it is soldiers from his own country and two witnesses can confirm its treason. If two witnesses cannot confirm, it is aiding and abetting the enemy.
Ironmouth on Bradly Manning's treatment:
The guy said he was going to kill himself so they put him on a suicide watch. Then they took him off it. That's not torture.
He often makes inaccurate statements.
posted by delmoi at 4:23 AM on April 24 [1 favorite +] [!]




From the indictment
13. On or about February 1, 2004, TAREK MEHANNA, AHMAD ABOUSAMRA and K (whose true name is known to the Grand Jury) left the United States and flew to the United Arab Emirates
("U.A.E."), for the purpose of continuing on to Yemen to receive training at a terrorist training camp.

18. On or about February 5, 2006, (an individual referred to as) “S” (not his true name) asked MEHANNA if he (MEHANNA) would do a “abu anas as shamee video in english.” [In 2003, Abu
Anas al-Shami joined Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qa’ida in Iraq, as his second in command. He was killed in an air strike by U.S. forces in 2004.] MEHANNA agreed to translate
the video.

19. On or about February 7, 2006, MEHANNA sent via the internet to A (whose true name is known to the Grand Jury) a video entitled the “Expedition of Umar Hadid.” [Umar Hadid was a
terrorist associated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qa’ida in Iraq.] The video identifies itself as having been “released by al Qaidah Network in the land of the Two Rivers
[Iraq]” “Media Wing.” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi speaks in the beginning of the video and Usama bin Laden at the end of the video, that is over an hour long. On February 7, 2006, MEHANNA told A that he [MEHANNA] had help prepare and translate the video he was sending: “it’s the Umar Hadid vid[eo] ... but w/ added clips ... and its transed [translated] into English ... by yours
truly.”

21. On or about April 1, 2006, MEHANNA completed translation of 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad, which was intended to incite people to engage in violent jihad

27. On or about December 16, 2006, when questioned by two members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Boston in connection with a terrorism
investigation, TAREK MEHANNA provided false information about the purpose and intended destination of his 2004 trip to Yemen and the (then) current whereabouts and activity of Daniel Maldonado.
I stand by my statements in this thread and the other two. Your opinion on Bradley Manning doesn't count as a fact. Your opinion on this case doesn't count as a fact. I presented a link to the law and a link to the indictment. You've presented zero facts to support your assertion. The defendant did not deny (according to his own defense) going to get terrorist training. He claimed that an old man turned him away. A jury of twelve citizens found him guilty of the charged acts.

Do you have any facts to rebut any of this?
posted by Ironmouth at 4:01 AM on April 24, 2012


Obviously, everything ever written in an indictment is totally true.
posted by delmoi at 4:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your opinion on Bradley Manning doesn't count as a fact. Your opinion on this case doesn't count as a fact

Only a judge's opinions counts as fact.
posted by fuq at 4:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously, everything ever written in an indictment is totally true

Twelve people who saw a lot more facts than we did convicted. Where are your facts?
posted by Ironmouth at 4:41 AM on April 24, 2012


Your opinion on this case doesn't count as a fact.
And what is that, exactly?
posted by delmoi at 4:44 AM on April 24, 2012


Where are your facts?

The argument is obviously about the law and its interpretation. Crowing about "facts" is pretty pointless.
posted by howfar at 4:45 AM on April 24, 2012


Do you have any facts to rebut any of this?

You don't have any facts. You have claims made by the government, and accepting them at face value is representative of your bias towards Mehanna. The USG has been trying desperately to lure anyone into a terrorism conviction because the war on terror is so immensely idiotic, wasteful, and pointless.
"With your intelligence, I know you can manipulate someone," Cromitie told his friend. "But not me, because I'm intelligent." The pair settled on a plot to bomb synagogues in the Bronx, and then fire Stinger missiles at airplanes taking off from Stewart International Airport in the southern Hudson Valley. Maqsood would provide all the explosives and weapons, even the vehicles. "We have two missiles, okay?" he offered. "Two Stingers, rocket missiles."

Maqsood was an undercover operative; that much was true. But not for Jaish-e-Mohammad. His real name was Shahed Hussain, and he was a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ever since 9/11, counterterrorism has been the FBI's No. 1 priority, consuming the lion's share of its budget—$3.3 billion, compared to $2.6 billion for organized crime—and much of the attention of field agents and a massive, nationwide network of informants. After years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the bureau now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies—many of them tasked, as Hussain was, with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States. In addition, for every informant officially listed in the bureau's records, there are as many as three unofficial ones, according to one former high-level FBI official, known in bureau parlance as "hip pockets."
And out of those 15,000 provocateurs, a few are going to strike gold. But not by thwarting actual plans for terrorism. They strike gold when they convince people, who are usually emotionally unstable, to commit terrorist acts. The informant and their support group get promotions. The DOJ gets to say they are tough on terrorism. And in each case bits of our civil liberties are ignored, or chipped away, perhaps for good.

So don't pretend like the DOJ and the FBI are the good guys, or that they give a damn about facts. They care about looking good and increasing the budget, civil liberties and justice be damned.
posted by deanklear at 6:14 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wait, delmoi, Aelfwine---are you asserting that Mehanna did not go to Yemen and attempt to take up arms against the U.S. Army? If that's true, it changes the case considerably. But as far as I could see, not even Mehanna was saying that. Do you have a link to something asserting that?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:17 AM on April 24, 2012


Juror says Mehanna deserved mercy
She and her fellow jurors in the terrorism trial of Tarek Mehanna had no choice but to find him guilty. And she cannot fault the government for charging the Sudbury man in the first place, she said.
But still, she struggles to sleep at night.

If she had the opportunity, Beverly A. Richards said she would have asked US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to show mercy before sentencing 29-year-old Mehanna to 17 1/2 years in prison Thursday, because she saw too many things wrong with the case.

“It’s not black and white,’’ Richards said in an interview, days after O’Toole refused her request for her to address him Thursday, calling it unorthodox.

She said the case presented a moral dilemma. “It’s scary, from every angle,’’ she said.

And, she added, “Do I think locking someone up for 17 and a half years is the answer? No.’’

...

But Richards said he also appeared to be “mindful and thoughtful, and there was a lot of truth,’’ such as when Mehanna mentioned the 17 Afghan civilians who were gunned down by a rogue US soldier in early March. The civilians, women and children, Mehanna had argued, had been forgotten.

Richards went to court Thursday to ask for O’Toole’s mercy, believing a sentence of 25 years, as prosecutors had requested, would be unjust. She said O’Toole was fair in sentencing below the recommendation.
posted by delmoi at 8:45 AM on April 24, 2012


Well, that's nice of the juror, but it doesn't actually answer the relevant question.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:47 AM on April 24, 2012


[This needs to not become an Ironmouth v. everyone thread, don't make it one.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, delmoi, Aelfwine---are you asserting that Mehanna did not go to Yemen and attempt to take up arms against the U.S. Army? If that's true, it changes the case considerably. But as far as I could see, not even Mehanna was saying that. Do you have a link to something asserting that?

This is what he said to others:
In the recordings, Mehanna tells Abu-zahra that he and Abousamra went “all over the whole country,” including to the cities of Sana’a, Makala and Shihr. The buses they traveled on were stopped four times by “bandit tribes” looking to rob foreigners.

“Yemen is prehistoric,” Mehanna told Abu-zahra in a recording.

“I was in a very bad psychological state,” Mehanna told his ex-friend in another conversation. “Half of them are in jail, half of them on Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca),” Mehanna recounted, describing possible contacts to help with admission to terror training camps. “We went at the worst possible time.”

The only contact they found, Mehanna said in one recording, was an Egyptian man who “was on the run.”

They had no help from the man. He told them, “All that stuff is gone, ever since planes hit the Twin Towers — forget about it,” according to Mehanna
posted by Ironmouth at 8:57 AM on April 24, 2012


From the NYT article:
For the government, Mr. Mehanna’s delivery of “material support” consisted not in his failed effort to join jihadi groups he never found, nor in financial contributions he never made to friends trying to join such groups, but in advocating the jihadi cause from his home in Sudbury.

MR. MEHANNA’S crimes were speech crimes, even thought crimes. The kinds of speech that the government successfully criminalized were not about coordinating acts of terror or giving directions on how to carry out violent acts. The speech for which Mr. Mehanna was convicted involved the religious and political advocacy of certain causes beyond American shores.

The government’s indictment of Mr. Mehanna lists the following acts, among others, as furthering a criminal conspiracy: “watched jihadi videos,” “discussed efforts to create like-minded youth,” “discussed” the “religious justification” for certain violent acts like suicide bombings, “created and/or translated, accepted credit for authoring and distributed text, videos and other media to inspire others to engage in violent jihad,” “sought out online Internet links to tribute videos,” and spoke of “admiration and love for Usama bin Laden.” It is important to appreciate that those acts were not used by the government to demonstrate the intent or mental state behind some other crime in the way racist speech is used to prove that a violent act was a hate crime. They were the crime, because the conspiracy was to support Al Qaeda by advocating for it through speech.
People in the thread claiming that Mehanna was convicted simply for going to a training camp are being dishonest.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 AM on April 24, 2012


are you asserting that Mehanna did not go to Yemen and attempt to take up arms against the U.S. Army?

I don't think anyone is asserting that, no. But being guilty of one thing does not make one guilty of any other offence. It is disingenuous to behave as if those who are concerned about convictions on counts 1 & 2 are committed to asserting Mehanna's innocence on count 3.
posted by howfar at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2012


People in the thread claiming that Mehanna was convicted simply for going to a training camp are being dishonest.

Who has claimed that? I haven't seen anyone say he wasn't convicted of that. What happened was that Jayder pointed out that there might be other charges that accounted for the stiff sentence laid down. And there were, mainly showing up for terrorist training. That's a serious charge. So people then argued he didn't do that, until info was posted showing he did not dispute that he went to Yemen to attend a training camp and was turned away by an old man. It appears also that in the press he made statements that he was there for religious training but in open court evidence was admitted showing he made statements that he was there for training and an old man told him there was no more training.

So I was addressing that issue. People got mad for answering Jayder's question and then called me a liar, despite having posted facts which a jury found to be true.

Having said that, I don't know about the question of the communications. If he's translating at the behest of a terror organization, that is likely material support. If it is on his own, might be something different. Hard to say. But he was translating things that encouraged people to engage in terrorist attacks, at least from the titles. It doesn't appear to only say "the US is wrong for being in Iraq" but to discuss ways in which individuals could engage in Jihad through terrorist action.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, delmoi, Aelfwine---are you asserting that Mehanna did not go to Yemen and attempt to take up arms against the U.S. Army? If that's true, it changes the case considerably. But as far as I could see, not even Mehanna was saying that. Do you have a link to something asserting that?

In my opinion, the entire case hangs on the question of what Mehanna was doing in Yemen in 2004. I haven't found any link to the actual trial transcripts (nor do I have a hard copy or anything), so I have no idea what the quality of the evidence was or what the defense explicitly claimed on Mehanna's behalf. However, from the Monitor piece linked in the OP:
In addition, Mehanna traveled to Yemen in 2004. He claimed his visit was to study Arabic and Islam. The government alleged he went to join Al Qaeda and later returned home to assist the terrorist organization expand its influence in the US. But both admit that Mehanna never actually planned or attempted to execute a violent terrorist act.
So, at least someone thinks that Mehanna denied being in Yemen for the purpose of receiving training to take up arms against the U.S. The government alleged that he was in Yemen seeking military-like training in order to actively, violently oppose the U.S. And from the verdict, I can only conclude that the jury was convinced by the government's case. Were they right to be so convinced? I don't think Mehanna's remarks quoted above by Ironmouth are clear enough to say that he was looking for such training, but maybe there was other evidence. Without the trial transcripts, I am not in a position to say whether the jury was right or not.

As howfar says, though, one might think that Mehanna was guilty of something and even that he should have gone to prison, and nonetheless, one might think that things like translating a religio-political text or offering commentary against the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq do not amount to material support for terrorism. (Or treason, for that matter.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was it free speech or providing public relations, translation and social media support services to Al Qaeda? It seems like the case came down to demonstrating a connection between his speech and his other acts.
posted by humanfont at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2012


So, at least someone thinks that Mehanna denied being in Yemen for the purpose of receiving training to take up arms against the U.S.

I don't have a link, but in one of the links I thought he admitted seeking training in Yemen explaining that he considered it "self defense" of Muslims.
posted by jayder at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2012


I haven't seen anything that unequivocal. I would appreciate having clarification on this point, though. If you [jayder] or anyone finds something definitive, especially actual trial transcripts, please let me know.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2012


What ever Tarek Mehanna may be guilty of the American people and our government are guilty of far worse. Of course no one will ever be tried and convicted for the uncountable atrocities we have committed in the course of this Global War of Terror. We are the terrorists by any reasonable definition of the word. We are the ones displacing entire populations, murdering, and raping our way through the Middle east and Central Asia. Either way at some point in the future America's chickens will come home to roost. G-dub and our current president(in case anybody noticed both republican and democratic congressmen and women were also complicit in this endeavour) have made sure of that by shredding the constitution and making the executive branch a power and law unto themselves.

Here is another example of the direction we are headed:

Government lawyers in New York court tell Judge they can’t directly rule out detaining Chris Hedges for reporting, Occupy London for protesting, or the author of a hypothetical book on politics for expressing an opinion, under NDAA sections 1021 and 1022.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:09 AM on April 24, 2012


I don't have a link, but in one of the links I thought he admitted seeking training in Yemen explaining that he considered it "self defense" of Muslims.

In case anyone has missed it during the last half-century, the U.S. government itself has repeatedly set up training camps in which mujahideen and others were trained in insurgent warfare and stuff like building car bombs. But when they do it, it's not called "terrorism"of course.
posted by XMLicious at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2012


XMLicious, it's totally irrelevant to the case whether the US government has trained people in insurgent warfare (and really, I don't think you're blowing anyone's mind here by saying it). The relevant question is whether this particular US citizen attempted to wage war on the US. There's a well-established legal precedent for jailing those propagandizing for the enemy in a war.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2012


There's a well-established legal precedent for jailing those propagandizing for the enemy in a war.

Who are we at war with, again?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone.
posted by howfar at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2012


What has changed exactly? I'm struggling to see anything exceptional of different in this case than they way things have been forever.
posted by humanfont at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2012


The relevant question is whether this particular US citizen attempted to wage war on the US.

One of the things that some people in this thread seem quite interested in is whether or not he sought out this sort of training. I'm pointing out that you pretty much need to label it as "terrorism training" to make it sound especially nefarious and different from things done by people who are in agreement with the U.S. government's geopolitical goals.

Sort of the same way you have to label resisting a U.S. occupation and military interdiction - which at that time had been undertaken with fraudulent premises using "evidence" since demonstrated to have been intentionally falsified, and as the first preemptive war by a Western power since Germany in World War II - as "waging war on the U.S." And again, according to the CSM article, even the prosecution agreed "that Mehanna never actually planned or attempted to execute a violent terrorist act."

There's a well-established legal precedent for jailing those propagandizing for the enemy in a war.

If you're talking about the HLP decision I think you don't fully understand the scope of it: it's not about groups the U.S. has declared war on, it's about ones that have been put on a list by the State Department, and the government argued that even things like explaining to one of these groups how to file a petition at the U.N. should be criminal acts. There was a minority of three Supreme Court justices who said that the law in question interferes with First Amendment rights and even the majority said that it isn't illegal to be a member of one of these groups. (cite)

As I pointed out above, there are century-old legal precedents for jailing people who simply speak out against war. (Even, in fact, a former election opponent of the president in office.) That does not mean that it's just or right.
posted by XMLicious at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're talking about the HLP decision I think you don't fully understand the scope of it: it's not about groups the U.S. has declared war on, it's about ones that have been put on a list by the State Department, and the government argued that even things like explaining to one of these groups how to file a petition at the U.N. should be criminal acts. There was a minority of three Supreme Court justices who said that the law in question interferes with First Amendment rights and even the majority said that it isn't illegal to be a member of one of these groups. (cite)

Note this cuts both ways. There's an Iranian terrorist group called MEK, they are on the list. With Israeli funding, they are the ones that are blowing up Iranian nuclear scientists. And they are a terrorist group.

Here's the thing. We can disagree with the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan, without having to also say it is not a crime to attend a terrorist training camp or crime to attempt to do so.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:22 PM on April 24, 2012


Note this cuts both ways. There's an Iranian terrorist group called MEK, they are on the list. With Israeli funding, they are the ones that are blowing up Iranian nuclear scientists. And they are a terrorist group.

But do you seriously think that anyone is going to be arrested and jailed for twenty years for doing translations of MEK literature and speaking favorably of them and their cause after being under surveillance by U.S. intelligence services for several years, when in all likelihood it's a cause that the U.S. government supports?

Here's the thing. We can disagree with the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan, without having to also say it is not a crime to attend a terrorist training camp or crime to attempt to do so.

How about the mujaheddin that the U.S. trained to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Were those terrorists? And are we going to prosecute the people involved in that? What if we wanted to do something like train Georgians to resist any future Russian invasion using the same techniques? Would we also be calling that terrorism and a criminal act?

People like Congressman Peter King might have sought training with the IRA in the past. Would he ever get prosecuted for that? (I'm just saying this hypothetically, I only know that he had connections with the IRA and was thrown out of an Irish court as an IRA supporter, I don't have any evidence that he actually did seek such training.)

Or, say, Bill Ayers, whose Weathermen compatriots were later killed during the manufacture of nail bombs?

If radical pro-lifers bomb or shoot up an abortion clinic, will we be arresting anyone involved in their training or who posts favorably about the group on web sites? Or are people with funny names and suspicious-looking religions and brown skin the only ones who are going to get arrested for this kind of stuff?

I'm afraid that with the definition of "terrorist" being so malleable, no I can't give carte blanche to saying that anyone who attends or attempts to attend a training camp like this is a criminal as long as you or the State Department feel like you can successfully declare them to be terrorists.
posted by XMLicious at 4:16 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Declare those operating the training camp to be terrorists, that is.
posted by XMLicious at 4:21 PM on April 24, 2012


And here's another one that just occurred to me: what about the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list? Does promotion of them or translation of their publications or attending / attempting to attend training facilities operated by them also count as criminal? I don't know what the HLP law says about that.
posted by XMLicious at 4:29 PM on April 24, 2012


The MEK friends need to go to jail. Supporting these kind of fringe groups never does any good. They a worse than Ahmed Chalabi.
posted by humanfont at 4:35 PM on April 24, 2012


Supporting these kind of fringe groups never does any good.

Unless it was someone from a group like that who delivered Stuxnet, or in the aforementioned case of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, which not only got the Soviets out of Afghanistan but probably was a key element in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.
posted by XMLicious at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2012


(The defeat in Afghanistan was a key element of the collapse of the Soviet Union, not the mujaheddin doing anything inside the U.S.S.R. of course.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:50 PM on April 24, 2012


We can disagree with the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan, without having to also say it is not a crime to attend a terrorist training camp or crime to attempt to do so.

The problem with that, however, is how do you define what a terrorist training camp is? You might find it obvious, but other people have their own ideas. Everything is getting called terrorism these days, and some people use it as a free ticket to do whatever the hell they want against something they don't like.
posted by JHarris at 4:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was one more violent bombing fringe group it did some good to support that I was considering mentioning, and decided for sure to mention it when I just now saw that in Ironmouth's MeFi profile under "Occupation" he has put "I'm with the Resistance".
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 PM on April 24, 2012


But do you seriously think that anyone is going to be arrested and jailed for twenty years for doing translations of MEK literature and speaking favorably of them and their cause after being under surveillance by U.S. intelligence services for several years, when in all likelihood it's a cause that the U.S. government supports?

The US doesn't support MEK. Of they did, they wouldn't be on the list.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:14 PM on April 24, 2012


We can disagree with the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan, without having to also say it is not a crime to attend a terrorist training camp or crime to attempt to do so.

The problem with that, however, is how do you define what a terrorist training camp is? You might find it obvious, but other people have their own ideas. Everything is getting called terrorism these days, and some people use it as a free ticket to do whatever the hell they want against something they don't like.


Its actually defined in the statute. It isn't just "people the government doesn't like."

or in the aforementioned case of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, which not only got the Soviets out of Afghanistan but probably was a key element in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

The Muhajadeen targeted Soviet troops, not civilians.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:21 PM on April 24, 2012


Its actually defined in the statute. It isn't just "people the government doesn't like."

Maybe not in this case. But funny definitions of "terrorism" has been used to this end before, and we should all be weary whenever that term comes up, especially when there's a "war on terrorism" going on.
posted by JHarris at 7:48 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US doesn't support MEK. Of they did, they wouldn't be on the list.

Ah, so, if we were going to provide them with them arms or anthrax or something we would temporarily take them off the State Department lists, as we did with Iraq in the 80s?

The Muhajadeen targeted Soviet troops, not civilians.

Yes, very discriminating car bombs those guys built.

From the OP's NYT link:
First, in 2004, Mr. Mehanna traveled with a friend to Yemen for a week, in search, the government said, of a jihadi training camp from which they would then proceed to Iraq to fight American nationals.
Obviously the American nationals in Iraq at the time were the U.S. troops, so you're all okay with what they were contemplating doing now just like you're okay with what the Afghani Mujaheddin did, neither of them were terrorism, right? entropone basically made this point above already.
posted by XMLicious at 7:55 PM on April 24, 2012


To highlight one of the key things that makes this outrageous to so many people, from the NYT link:
For example, in his opening statement to the jury one prosecutor suggested that “it’s not illegal to watch something on the television. It is illegal, however, to watch something in order to cultivate your desire, your ideology.”
Anyone seeing the government expressing sentiments like this in combination with leveraging accusations of "terrorism", with definitions in law that are all over the place and as nebulous as ...the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives, should (continue to) be pretty damned concerned about the trajectory of the government's prosecution of "terrorism".

I personally would change your profile there, Ironmouth, you might intimidate a government.
posted by XMLicious at 8:16 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about the mujaheddin that the U.S. trained to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Were those terrorists? And are we going to prosecute the people involved in that?

For heaven's sake, XMLicious, it's not that complicated. If you are working to kill people wearing U.S military uniforms, the U.S. government will go after you. If you are working with people to kill people wearing the uniforms of countries the U.S. doesn't care for, they won't.

You may not think this distinction has moral validity, but it has quite a bit of legal validity. Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a country that doesn't make this distinction.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:38 PM on April 24, 2012


So you're saying that the term "terrorist" is completely meaningless and is a contrivance to provide a pretext to punish anyone who would agree with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism, and no one actually thinks it should be illegal to watch television while thinking the wrong things, they just want to find some way to hit back at people too stridently voicing opposition to wars that the government has initiated, even preemptive ones violating international law proven to have been initiated based upon fabricated evidence and deception? That's how uncomplicated it is? Yes, that's exactly my point.

By all means call that "legal validity" if you want to but most people are going to have no problem seeing that it's bullshit tossed together to let the government get what it wants.

Yes, the government usually gets what it wants in most countries and in most places intimidating a government puts a person in a great deal of peril, but here in the United States and in a few other places there's a little tradition of not always looking the other way and allowing that to happen.
posted by XMLicious at 10:21 PM on April 24, 2012


So you're saying that the term "terrorist" is completely meaningless

Pretty much, yeah.

and is a contrivance to provide a pretext to punish anyone who would agree with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism, and no one actually thinks it should be illegal to watch television while thinking the wrong things, they just want to find some way to hit back at people too stridently voicing opposition to wars that the government has initiated,

"Armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism" is a rather different thing from "too stridently voicing opposition". Most people, governments, or institutions take a dim view of those who are shooting at them.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:47 PM on April 24, 2012


Very clever of you to leave out the "agree with..." part of that phrase. Having observed you take part in a few threads so far, I must say that you're quite good at that sort of thing.

You may have heard of the phrase "rule of law". One of the meanings of this is that through most of history and still yet in most of the world, the law is simply a tool of the government, allowing it to govern axiomatically, and is ignored when the government's specific wishes conflict with it or in cases where the government or other powers that be do not particularly care about the outcome of a situation. But in modern times we have the concept that there should be a set of rules and a spirit behind them that everyone, even the government and the powerful, must obey.

So whether you like it or not one of our fundamental legal principles is that people have a right to hold and express any opinion - certainly when no one is harmed by the expression of said opinion, and indeed we believe so strongly in this right that we often brook the expression of opinions that harm or endanger others.

(In fact, speaking of a dim view of being shot at, we and our legal system believe so strongly in personal rights overriding the concern of harming or endangering others that we have a right to bear arms, even military-grade arms, that results in the death and injury of tens of thousands more people than anywhere else in the world that lives under the rule of law. Specifically, that's tens of thousands of American dead - Al Qaeda can't hold a candle to the rate at which Americans kill each other while exercising the right to bear arms.)

You may believe in government being so powerful that its right to not be intimidated and to invade other countries unopposed overrides the rights of any individual citizen to express support for the invaded to defend themselves, but sorry, that's not how it works in the United States - here people are actually permitted to express far, far stronger anti-government views than that.

Yeah, places where the government is allowed to behave like you describe are certainly common; but for the moment at least if one wants to live in that sort of society you would have to go somewhere else.
posted by XMLicious at 11:34 PM on April 24, 2012


Well, I would much prefer that the U.S. government not invade Iraq. But it is nonetheless a legal fact that once someone attempts to kill U.S. soldiers, the government will punish them.

Had Mehanna merely "agreed with" armed resistance to the U.S. government, he would be no different from the many lefties who continue to lecture unbothered; there is unlikely to be a great government round-up of the International Communist League kids who poster around the city, much as they there might fear/wish it.

But once Mehanna attempted to actually join those who seek to kill U.S. soldiers, he crossed from "agreeing with" to "aiding". Now whether translating documents, even if one is explicitly doing this with the objective of propagandizing for the enemy in time of war, is aiding and abetting or is merely exercise of speech is a tougher question. Relaying messages from kidnappers is a crime, even if one has not participated in the kidnapping. I would be curious to know the jury's reasoning. It may have been wrong. But it's absurd to suggest that he is merely being prosecuted for exercising free speech---this is the very definition of limit case.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:17 AM on April 25, 2012


I do apologize for the misquote, though. Though I kept it in the italicized, it was perhaps unclear of me to cut it in the examples, though I think the point holds: armed resistance is not the same as voiced opposition.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:30 AM on April 25, 2012


So whether you like it or not one of our fundamental legal principles is that people have a right to hold and express any opinion - certainly when no one is harmed by the expression of said opinion, and indeed we believe so strongly in this right that we often brook the expression of opinions that harm or endanger others.

You fundamentally misunderstand First Amendment law. Let's go through some hypos. A person orders the death of their mafia rival verbally. Does the First Amendment protect them?

A person creates child pornography. Does the First Amendment protect them?

Upon orders from Osama bin Laden, a person translates his statements into English, with the intention of helping Al Qaeda recruit terrorists from within the United States so as to conduct attacks on others. Does the First Amendment protect that person?

A person publishes the plans for atomic weapons. Does the First Amendment protect that person?

A person publishes a manual on how to be a hitman. Another person uses that manual to conduct a killing of a defenseless adult with a debilitating brain injury and his caregiver, fashioning a silencer from instructions in the book. The book encourages the person to conduct the killing and provides incitement. Ironically, the book is written under a pseudonym by a Florida housewife who has never fired a gun.

A person with legal access to classified documents sends a large number of classified documents to a website which publishes them.

A company sells a carcinogenic product with addictive properties. It wants to advertise on television. May the government prohibit the advertisement?

These are all real cases. Under your interpretation of the First Amendment, none of these people could be prosecuted.

You also fundamentally misunderstand Constitutional Rights. There are no absolute Constitutional rights. The government holds the power to regulate the actions of people. Where that regulation conflicts with a constitutional right, the government's interest and the interests of the individual are balanced against one another. In each case, the government must meet a test--in most cases they must meet a minimal standard, rational basis, which says: Is there a rational connection between the law that the legislature has passed, and some legitimate governmental purpose? In other cases, a higher standard, known as heightened or intermediate scrutiny applies: the law must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives. Finally, there is strict scrutiny: (1) There must be a compelling governmental interest that is generally recognized as a necessary governmental function; (2) The law must be narrowly tailored to achieve that end; and (3) The law must use the “least restrictive means” to achieve that end.

There is no absolute right to anything. These are the real standards that thousands of cases are decided by every year. It is important that we educate ourselves on the practical operation of our government and our courts in situations where we pass judgment on what they do.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:21 AM on April 25, 2012


Umm, Ironmouth, given that none of your "hypos" are expressions of opinion how could they have anything to do with what XMLicious said about expressing opinions? Also, the fact that XMLicious disagrees with you about the justification for this government power really doesn't mean that s/he doesn't understand how it might be justified. You're arguing against a flawed conception of law you imagine to underlie the argument, which is not in fact implied, rather than what has actually been said.
posted by howfar at 8:33 AM on April 25, 2012


Umm, Ironmouth, given that none of your "hypos" are expressions of opinion how could they have anything to do with what XMLicious said about expressing opinions?

21. On or about April 1, 2006, MEHANNA completed translation of 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad, which was intended to incite people to engage in violent jihad

Is that an opinion? That's what the defendant in this case translated. These are facts, found by a jury and admitted in statements by the defendant.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:49 AM on April 25, 2012


XMLicious was talking specifically about opinion at that point, but if that's not the argument you were disagreeing with then there we go. Probably would have been better to make that clear though.

Anyway, I presume you've read '39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad'. It does indeed espouse the argument that jihad is accurately interpreted in the Quran as meaning violent struggle, and recommends ways of supporting that struggle. It's a fairly general text, however, and seems to contain no reference at all to al-Qaeda (except in the "other releases" section) or give support to any specific group. But that's just my starting point for concern.

Even given the interpretation of the Supreme Court in Holder, I'm not sure this case was correctly decided. The indictment doesn't actually appear to suggest that the activity of incitement was carried out at the behest of or in connection with any terrorist organisation. It may have been support, but how to are we establish that it was in any sense more material than me saying "al-Qaeda are great"? How does one distinguish "support" from "material support" if this interpretation of the law is in fact correct? Given that "terrorist" is a term defined by politicians, I don't think people are simply being legally naïve in being concerned here.

However, I hold no US legal qualifications and haven't read the case in any real detail. Would you like to address my specific concern about the interpretation of the law? The facts as determined by the jury are surely a secondary concern if there were misdirections on a matter of law.
posted by howfar at 9:55 AM on April 25, 2012


XMLicious was talking specifically about opinion at that point, but if that's not the argument you were disagreeing with then there we go. Probably would have been better to make that clear though.

But this case isn't about opinion. 39 Ways does espouse violent Jihad. See Way no. 7. So it is most definitely a recruitment tool. And can the government say that it is illegal to help terrorists recruit people, like No. 5:

5. Help Prepare the Fighter Who Is Going For Jihad

And from the forms of Jihad in the Path of Allah and serving the Mujahidin is to
prepare the fighters going out for Jihad. And the virtue of this has been
mentioned in a number of authentic ahddith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):


Of course. As much as it can disrupt the recruiting of any conspiracy. Can one be prosecuted for advising a fellow mafioso for finding ways to get new members for a crew? Yes.

At its heart, terrorism is a crime. It was a crime to recruit the persons involved in 9/11. It doesn't matter if they were motivated by politics. And it can be made criminal to assist in recruiting of persons for terrorist attacks.

What this defendant did was make a long speech saying that he was being prosecuted for making statements and his thought. Well, that wasn't the case. He attempted to show up at a training camp. And some of the writings he translated were designed to give material assistance to terrorist organizations by inciting others to join terrorist organizations and advising them to pay for terrorist attacks or to assist others engaging in terrorist attacks. These are practical steps, not political. As such they are criminal.

other points:


6. Take Care of the Family Left Behind By the Fighter

7. Provide for the Families of the Martyrs

. . . and assisting their widows and attending to their children and relatives.

9. Collect Funds for the Mujahidin

There is no doubt that money is the lifeline of Jihad, and from what is of greatest
benefit to the Jihad and the Mujahidin is for a group of the Ummah - or the entire
Ummah - to collect funds and send them to the people of the frontlines, and the
impact of this on the Jihad is not hidden from anyone. This is what has the
disbelievers all over the world in a state of bewilderment, as they have attempted
to dry up the resources of the Mujahidin and have put pressure on those who
cooperate with them. Despite this, the Mujahidin continue upon their path, as
"...they will not be harmed by those who oppose them or betray them."

This is encouraging persons to donate to a terrorist organization.


10. Pay Zakah to Them

The Zakah is a right of Allah upon our wealth, and from those who are most in
need of it today are the Mujahidin. They are also the ones most deserving of it
since they are truly "in the Path of Allah," poor, travelers, etc.

12. Praise the Mujahidin and Mention Their Accounts and
Call the People to Follow In Their Footsteps

And from the methods of serving the Jihad and the Mujdhidin is to praise the
Mujdhidin and to raise one's head with them and to boast about their actions and
mention their stories and what occurs to them of miracles and victories against
the enemies of this Din.

13. Encourage the Mujahidin and Incite Them to Continue

There is no doubt that an increase in the number of traitors and deniers have an
effect on the morale of the Mujdhidin, even though this will not halt them on their
path due to the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): "...they will not be
harmed by those who oppose or betray them." However, it is necessary to
encourage the Mujdhidin and to stand by them and back them up and to show
them that we are with them against their enemies wherever they may be.

16. Call and Incite the People to Jihad

And this is from the most important methods available to the one who cannot
make Jihad himself; it is upon him to incite others, due to the saying of Allah -
the Exalted:

17. Advise the Muslims and the Mujahidin

. . . and this can be implemented in innumerable ways, including informing and
warning the Muslims of the plans and strategies of the disbelievers, as is
mentioned in the saying of Allah:

18. Hide the Secrets of the Mujahidin that the Enemy Can
Benefit From

25. Become Physically Fit . . .

• Jog for 10 kilometers (about 6.2 miles) without stopping, and this should
take him no more than 70 minutes in the worst of cases

• Run a distance of 3 kilometers (roughly 2 miles) in about 13.5 minutes

• Run for a distance of 100 meters with only 12-15 seconds of rest

• Walk a long distance - without stopping once - for at least 10 hours

• Carry a load of 20 kilograms (around 44 pounds) for at least 4 hours
straight

• Perform at least 70 pushups in one shot without stopping (one can start by
performing 10 pushups at once, then increasing the number by 3 everyday
until eventually reaching 70)

• Perform 100 situps in one shot without stopping (one can start by
performing 10 situps at once, then increasing the number by 3 everyday
until eventually reaching 70)

• Crawl using his arms for a distance of 50 meters in 70 seconds at most

• Perform the Fartlik run

30. Giving Shelter to the Mujahidin and Honoring Them

34. Electronic Jihad

And this terminology has emerged between those who seek to assist the Jihad on
the Internet, and this is a blessed field which contains much benefit, such as
following and spreading of news between the people, in addition to a chance to
defend and stand up for the Mujdhidin and spread their ideas and their requests
to the people. This effort can be divided into two major parts: discussion boards
and hacking methods.

Its a how to book on Jihad. There's nothing opinion about encouraging hacking and doing fartlek runs like we had to in high school.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:24 AM on April 25, 2012


A simple "no" would have sufficed as an answer to my question. That the publication did not encourage people to take practical steps to pursue jihad is not my contention. However, you apparently believe that "encouraging people to give support to terrorism" is legally equivalent to "providing material support to terrorists" as defined by statute, but seem a little reluctant to discuss or defend that position. Fair enough, I suppose.

As a clue for future debates, however, I'd suggest that one would make the legal argument against Mehanna by focussing on the act of translation as material assistance, rather than on the content of the writing. This would follow the majority reasoning in Holder. The problem would remain that the indictment in this case never connected the act of translating to a terrorist group, making it hard to see how the conduct element of the material support offences was ever made out. Still, at least you'd be half-way there. You can have that argument for free, as a gesture of goodwill.
posted by howfar at 11:24 AM on April 25, 2012


However, you apparently believe that "encouraging people to give support to terrorism" is legally equivalent to "providing material support to terrorists" as defined by statute, but seem a little reluctant to discuss or defend that position. Fair enough, I suppose.

Hell yes it is. An analogous case. If I write a how to for people in my mafia family, including tips on how to work out, etc. that could easily be a RICO violation.

It isn't me, its the courts that think this.

As to your point regarding translation, yes, I think that's a good point as well.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:42 AM on April 25, 2012


The problem would remain that the indictment in this case never connected the act of translating to a terrorist group, making it hard to see how the conduct element of the material support offences was ever made out. Still, at least you'd be half-way there. You can have that argument for free, as a gesture of goodwill.

Did you read the indictment I posted above?

On or about February 5, 2006, (an individual referred to as) “S” (not his true name) asked MEHANNA if he (MEHANNA) would do a “abu anas as shamee video in english.” [In 2003, Abu Anas al-Shami joined Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qa’ida in Iraq, as his second in command. He was killed in an air strike by U.S. forces in 2004.] MEHANNA agreed to translate the video.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:48 AM on April 25, 2012


Reading the docs that Mehanna translated, it actually makes the case against him seem weaker to me. As I understand the distinction (and I really have no training at all so I could be way off---anyone with training, please correct me), the court recognizes a distinction between saying that an illegal action is awesome and providing specific instructions in how to perform an illegal act. But these documents sure do seem like the former rather than the latter. If he was specifically commissioned by a terrorist group to translate them (perhaps that above-mentioned "individual referred to as 'S'"?), that could be material support, but otherwise it just seems like big-mouthing on spec, which isn't really a crime.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:00 PM on April 25, 2012


ThatFuzzyBastard: But once Mehanna attempted to actually join those who seek to kill U.S. soldiers, he crossed from "agreeing with" to "aiding".

As I pointed out above, in the HLP decision the Supreme Court specifically said that it is not illegal to become a member of one of the groups on the State Department lists. (And groups are on that list for "terrorism", anyways, not for being military combatants opposing U.S. soldiers.)

And despite what you're saying, the government has not in general prosecuted people who are members of groups who try to kill U.S. soldiers, certainly not in defense of a country being invaded. You might recall that in Iraq and Afghanistan we frequently give them big wads of cash instead and simply attempt to bribe them not to do it. Certainly, in a conflict like World War II, we did not prosecute everyone who was a member of any group that supported military opposition to the Allied invasion of mainland Europe even though there was an official declaration of war there; we definitely don't prosecute Americans for being Nazis or translating or encouraging others to read Mein Kampf.

(We did round people up and put them in camps simply for being Asian, of course; but I hope we can agree that this wasn't just or right, no matter how "legally valid" it may have been at the time.)

Also, I still have to disagree with you that there is some substantial categorical difference between "stridently voicing opposition" to a war and "agreeing with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism". Saying "well it's utterly wrong for the U.S. to invade country x but the inhabitants of that country really have no right to resist the invasion by anything but the most peaceful non-violent means possible" is not what I would call "strident opposition" to a war. (Yeah, someone could be an ultra-pacifist and just object to any kind of violence, but attempts to characterize all opposition to a war as springing from some kind of wishy-washy pacifism is usually just jingoists being pejorative.)

Ironmouth: At its heart, terrorism is a crime.

But we've established that doing things like building and setting off car bombs is perfectly non-terroristic if it's done to attack the troops of an invading and occupying army as in Soviet Afghanistan. So you would be just fine (as in, not count as terrorism) all of the things you reeled off about what Mehanna did if they were done to promote opposition against occupying military troops, right? You seem to have avoided that question earlier.

At least ThatFuzzyBastard is conceding that the term "terrorist" is pretty much meaningless, although for some reason he thinks that using a meaningless term to indict someone is "legally valid".

You appear to have deftly ignored the word "often" in the bit where I said that we "often brook the expression of opinions that harm or endanger others" so that you could go on a diatribe about my supposed misunderstood belief in "absolute Constitutional rights". Yeah, no. There are limits on certain kinds of people bearing arms and private citizens can't buy just any sort of military weapon, but we still clearly accept a great deal of endangering and possible harm of others in protecting the individual's right to bear arms.

It's absurd that in defense of the right to bear arms we would accept the risk involved with Mehanna buying automatic firearms manufactured for military use and thus the potential consequence of him becoming involved in the tens of thousands of self-inflicted, accidental, and homicidal deaths and injuries of Americans that occur every year; but that the possibility of the things he's accused of here (which, honestly, are on the order of giving free typesetting services or Youtube-video-editing services, and maybe a little bit above the level of loaning someone a ballpoint pen) very, very indirectly aiding in Muslims defending their countries militarily against U.S. invasion, support of which supposedly is a legal opinion to hold and in conjunction with (maybe) trying to become a member of groups it's legal to be a member of, is sufficient to criminalize his actions to a degree overriding the right to free speech he has.
posted by XMLicious at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think all al Qaeda in Iraq did was attack American soldiers, I got a bridge in NYC for sale.

But it is a crime to attempt to train with a terrorist organization. This guy is an American, going to train to kill American troops. That is a crime. Put another way, two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:27 AM on April 26, 2012


If you think all al Qaeda in Iraq did was attack American soldiers, I got a bridge in NYC for sale.

I don't, any more than I think U.S. troops only ever killed Iraqi military and insurgents - in fact, the vast majority of people killed in any modern war zone are civilians, to my understanding. I believe that you were the one who proposed that there can be insurgents such as the Soviet-era Afghani mujahedin who were trained by the U.S. to make special IEDs that only ever kill the invading troops.

Nor do I think that every jihadi training camp in Yemen in 2004 was an al Qaeda camp; I didn't see it specified that Mehanna searched for an al Qaeda camp. But I'm sure that any of them could have been certified as terrorists by the State Department, in triplicate as needed, if Mehanna had actually trained at one.

But it is a crime to attempt to train with a terrorist organization.

Yes, from the statute you linked to above, I would expect that you've committed a crime if someone who can be designated a terrorist simply tells you over the phone how to press the "off" button on a computer or network router.

This guy is an American, going to train to kill American troops. That is a crime.

Only a crime if he's terrorist-trained to kill American troops. He can buy an automatic rifle and train at a shooting range all day long if it's not a terrorist shooting range or he isn't accompanied by a terrorist instructor. He can read about computer security to his heart's content as long as he isn't doing it on a terrorist web site or from a terrorist textbook or a terrorist Youtube video. As the government prosecutor quoted above said, It is illegal, however, to watch something in order to cultivate your desire, your ideology. It's only when "terrorists" are involved that it would become criminal learning.
posted by XMLicious at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nor do I think that every jihadi training camp in Yemen in 2004 was an al Qaeda camp; I didn't see it specified that Mehanna searched for an al Qaeda camp. But I'm sure that any of them could have been certified as terrorists by the State Department, in triplicate as needed, if Mehanna had actually trained at one.

It does not have to be an Al Qaeda camp or a listed terrorist camp. Review the statutes I posted above. Nevertheless, he said he was going there to join Al Qaeda in Iraq. Its attempt pure and simple.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2012


If you're referring to this it says,
Whoever knowingly receives military-type training from or on behalf of any organization designated at the time of the training by the Secretary of State under section 219(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as a foreign terrorist organization...
Can you point out where it says he was going to Yemen in 2004 because he was going on join Al Qaeda in Iraq? I have searched through the indictment and all of the mentions of "al Qa'ida" and "al Qaidah" in there I'm seeing are attached to events in 2006.
posted by XMLicious at 8:44 AM on April 26, 2012


And despite what you're saying, the government has not in general prosecuted people who are members of groups who try to kill U.S. soldiers, certainly not in defense of a country being invaded. You might recall that in Iraq and Afghanistan we frequently give them big wads of cash instead and simply attempt to bribe them not to do it.

A citizen of a non-US country, like for example an Afghan warlord, can indeed train (and even shoot at) US troops without being tried for treason. They are simply fighting for the other side, and are accorded all the rights of an enemy soldier. But a US citizen who joins a group seeking to kill US troops, or aids those who are, is committing treason, which is a crime. What country one is a citizen of makes a rather substantial difference, legally. So there's really no comparison between the two situations.

Certainly, in a conflict like World War II, we did not prosecute everyone who was a member of any group that supported military opposition to the Allied invasion of mainland Europe even though there was an official declaration of war there; we definitely don't prosecute Americans for being Nazis or translating or encouraging others to read Mein Kampf.

No, everyone who was in the American Nazi Party was not jailed. But those who specifically coordinated their pro-Nazi propaganda with agencies of Axis Powers, like Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, and Lord Hee-Haw (to use their kinda delightful pseudonyms), certainly were. As I said above: freelance repping for evil is not a crime; coordinating with agents of foreign powers at war with the country of which you are a citizen is. And Mehanna seems to have done the latter rather than the former. If you would like the crime of treason struck from the books, you'll need a Constitutional amendment.

Also, I still have to disagree with you that there is some substantial categorical difference between "stridently voicing opposition" to a war and "agreeing with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism". and then It's absurd that [...] the possibility of the things he's accused of here (which, honestly, are on the order of giving free typesetting services or Youtube-video-editing services, and maybe a little bit above the level of loaning someone a ballpoint pen) very, very indirectly aiding in Muslims defending their countries militarily against U.S. invasion, support of which supposedly is a legal opinion to hold and in conjunction with (maybe) trying to become a member of groups it's legal to be a member of, is sufficient to criminalize his actions to a degree overriding the right to free speech he has.

You're by-the-way'ing exactly the important issues here.

You're quite right that there is no categorical difference between "stridently voicing opposition" and "agreeing". There is, however, a huge different between "agreeing with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism" and "assisting with armed resistance to U.S. military adventurism." (or, as others would put it, between agreeing that U.S. soldiers should be shot and shooting them). Doing the former is no crime. Doing the latter is.

Had Mehanna been a U.S. citizen posting on the internet about how much he wished death on US soldiers, he would not have committed a crime.
Had Mehanna been an Yemeni citizen posting English-language documents online in support of a Yemeni group attacking US soldiers, he would not be prosecutable by the US (maybe... this gets into knotty international law questions).
But if Mehanna is a U.S. citizen who worked with Yemeni citizens to offer what help he could to assist in the military struggle against US soldiers, then a crime was committed. The court has decided that was what happened.

If you have a reason to those facts were inaccurately gathered, the court could be wrong. But demands that one's citizenship not be an issue when you are assisting with attacks on US troops, or insistence that those attacks are justified, do nothing to make that case.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2012


Unless it was someone from a group like that who delivered Stuxnet, or in the aforementioned case of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, which not only got the Soviets out of Afghanistan but probably was a key element in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

That whole business of supporting the religious nutters against the secular commies in Afghanistan really didn't work out a that well.
posted by humanfont at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2012


That whole business of supporting the religious nutters against the secular commies in Afghanistan really didn't work out a that well.

Just like the Chinese and Soviets supporting the commie Vietnamese against the U.S. and U.S. factions there didn't work very well, eh? I wonder why anyone ever bothered with proxy wars. (Though if all you're saying is that using the mujahedin as an instrument in engineering the downfall of the Soviet Union had blowback / unintended consequences, I certainly agree.)

ThatFuzzyBastard, the word "treason" does not appear anywhere in the indictment against Mehanna. That's why they have to constantly use this meaningless (according to you and I) word "terrorist" in indicting him, because they don't have anything more substantial. He wasn't charged with treason, that's a great part of the issue: his punishment is for things like attempting to acquire criminalized kinds of learning and for remotely providing "material" assistance slightly more valuable than loaning a ballpoint pen - nothing like traveling to Tokyo or Berlin and working for years in a broadcast station.

Of the WWII people you mentioned, Tokyo Rose was barely convicted by an all-white jury of a single count of treason by coercing witness testimony and later pardoned, treason charges against the German Axis Sally were whittled down from ten to a single one that she was convicted of, the Italian Axis Sally had renounced her American citizenship and couldn't be tried for treason, and the American Lord Haw-Haw (who it turns out had actually helped the British MI5 to spy on British Fascists†) was actually executed for treason against the United Kingdom which he wasn't a citizen of, quite rapidly and nearly a year before U.S. President Truman declared an end to the war.

You may also note that later in the last century, with Hanoi Hannah or Hanoi Jane Barbarella for example, they stopped trying to get away with charging these sorts of people with treason.

But if Mehanna is a U.S. citizen who worked with Yemeni citizens to offer what help he could to assist in the military struggle against US soldiers, then a crime was committed. The court has decided that was what happened.

Can you show me where anything actually says that? I kind of feel like it's not me who is the one ignoring what the prosecution or the court or the jury actually said.

I agree that if Mehanna had actually taken up arms against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and taken part in attacking or killing U.S. forces, that would be a crime worthy of punishment - but that is not what is happening here, his conviction and the statutes and principles much of this is based upon are casting a much wider net enabling the criminalization of far more minor things arbitrarily and at the government's whim. We (and the appeals courts) should not be just looking the other way and assuming that this sort of cutting-corners-with-basic-rights stuff will just get used against the bad guys, not when the government has a history of doing things like pulling Saddam Hussein's regime off of the terrorist lists, selling them arms and anthrax, and putting them back on the list when it suited them.

† But who for some reason didn't mention during trial that he'd worked for the MI5, and whose wife "Lady Haw-Haw" who was actually a British citizen and did the same sort of things for some reason never got prosecuted.
posted by XMLicious at 8:56 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Suppose Mehanna had send AQ a check or equipment would that qualify or is it only armed struggle in your view? Suppose he offered training? Why arn't public relations, translation and video production services material support for an organization?
posted by humanfont at 4:22 PM on April 27, 2012


Why arn't public relations, translation and video production services material support for an organization?

Oh, they could be - but when they're done in an "independent" fashion, as is (hopefully) the case when those things are done by the political scientist author of the NY Times piece linked in the OP, it's the legal kind of material support, and only when they're done in a "coordinated" fashion are they illegal. Like how just watching video is legal, but watching it "in order to cultivate your desire, your ideology" is illegal. That is too much hair splitting for me especially when the government also gets to decide which people are the terrorist people, where the organization begins and ends and when it's on the watch list and when it's off the list, and how much agreeing with the people and organizations in question is too much agreeing.

Like I said, loaning a ballpoint pen could have some dollar value attached to it. Truthfully communicating to the broader world accurate information about a topic of importance to "terrorists", like say conditions in Northern Ireland, Tibet, or East Turkestan, who U.S. troops have killed and what they said while doing it, or what goes on in abortion clinics, could have a dollar value attached to it. The Humanitarian Law Project explaining to Kurds how to file a petition with the U.N. or Ironmouth's example of writing a workout guide and giving it to mafiosos could have a dollar value attached to it. Me, as a computer professional, explaining to someone how to turn off a network router, choose a password that isn't easily brute-forced, or turn on encryption for a folder or hard drive, could have a dollar value attached to it.

But none of those things should be illegal, not in the United States or under U.S. law.
posted by XMLicious at 5:05 PM on April 27, 2012


If you want to avoid prosecution don't meet with the terrorists and then tell everyone how you are their spokesman in the united states. There are many ways legitimate researchers, policy advocates and other innocent bystanders can conduct themselves without running afoul of the law. The defendant was brazen in his support of AQ. He described himself as their spokesperson. He claimed direct contact with their leadership.
The US had never allowed this kind of activity. The authors of the constitution and the bill of
Rights enacted legislation to ban it. We used these laws to thwart the rise of fascism and commu ism in the united states. We used them to prevent Eurppean powers from undermining our early history. These laws helped end slavery in the civil war.
posted by humanfont at 6:20 PM on April 27, 2012


(an individual referred to as) “S” (not his true name) asked MEHANNA if he (MEHANNA) would do a “abu anas as shamee video in english.”

ThatFuzzyBastard said:

perhaps that above-mentioned "individual referred to as 'S'"?

I think you're identifying the crucial point. It seems to me that if 'S' is an member of a terrorist group then the offence under the USA PATRIOT Act is potentially made out. It's a bit of a quagmire, or course, because 18 USC § 2339A is essentially an offence of conspiracy*, and so one would have to look at the offences named in order to assess guilt. The offences named are, of course, myriad and often bizarrely specific. The more I look at your law, the happier I am I don't have to deal with it.

"Legislate in haste, litigate at leisure" is meant to be a warning, not a recommendation.

* "knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out..." is vital here.
posted by howfar at 8:00 PM on April 27, 2012


There are many ways legitimate researchers, policy advocates and other innocent bystanders can conduct themselves without running afoul of the law.

How, exactly? You feel like you could express pride in the accuracy or quality of a translation you did of materials from declared terrorists which you feel contains important information, even if you also agreed strongly with some of their objectives and admired some of their members? If you think so it doesn't seem to me that you're trying too hard to put yourself in the shoes of anyone in this situation.

Unless you're saying that it's okay for the government to keep reseachers and bystanders away from doing things like that and having attitudes like that, tough shit they'll have to find something else to do, because they just can't be innocent bystanders and agree with those that the government has chosen to declare terrorists in such a manner.

If you want to avoid prosecution don't meet with the terrorists and then tell everyone how you are their spokesman in the united states... He described himself as their spokesperson.

Where exactly does it say that he do that? The indictment doesn't contain the word "spokesperson" at all and can't even go so far as saying that he claimed to be part of the media wing of Al Qaeda or stated that he was, the best it can do is allege that he "embraced" being part of it and mention that the titles of one video he translated claimed to be from the media wing of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Those are the most damning things that the guys whose job it is to accuse him, who think that it's illegal to watch video while you're thinking the wrong things, can say about him being the Al Qaeda spokesperson.

The US had never allowed this kind of activity. The authors of the constitution and the bill of Rights enacted legislation to ban it. We used these laws to thwart the rise of fascism and commu ism in the united states. We used them to prevent Eurppean powers from undermining our early history. These laws helped end slavery in the civil war.

What the hell are you talking about? In the America I'm from it started off with being able to say any thing you damn well pleased about the King of England (including that those disloyal to him should be tortured and executed), government officials got tarred and feathered and lynched with some frequency, you could publicly and brazenly talk about all the ways Mr. Lincoln should die, a president spoke in favor of a violent tax rebellion - the instigator of which was pardoned - with a little quip about the blood of tyrants that gets repeated very enthusiastically, the IRS has a category called "potentially dangerous taxpayers" who you definitely do not go to jail for agreeing with or publishing the propaganda of, and even in the 21st century a Congressman can publicly express the desire to kill a journalist in a duel.

I don't know what Civil War you learned about in school but the one I learned about had so much to do with following in the footsteps of a guy who advocated killing Americans to end slavery that they wrote a song about it with lyrics like, "John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see, Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be..." If 1860s Americans were Muslims, they might have said things about him not unlike what Mehanna said about Osama Bin Laden. There was also a not-inconsiderable amount of propagandizing for abolitionism and materially supporting it and such, even where it was illegal, and saying that it might not be such a bad thing if black Americans were to injure or kill their fellow Americans to throw off their oppression.

Quite simply, it always has been perfectly fine and admired even to express favor of and solidarity for opposition, even violent opposition to the government especially if "they started it" even with a good deal less than shooting and bombing, so long as you're the right kind of American who is expressing that. The kind of place you're talking about where doing so is forbidden sounds more to me like Imperial China where the common citizen needed to stay well away from even using a color the crown had claimed, or the various places in the twentieth century where people had to refrain from coordinating with or supporting "counterrevolutionary" causes and organizations that opposed the government's decisions and plans.
posted by XMLicious at 8:48 PM on April 27, 2012


Oh, one other little note there: the idolized John Brown would be the guy who was fond of decapitating slavers.
posted by XMLicious at 8:58 PM on April 27, 2012


In the America I'm from it started off with being able to say any thing you damn well pleased about the King of England (including that those disloyal to him should be tortured and executed),

Well, yes, once America decided the George III was no longer boss, you could indeed say anything about him. Reminds me of an old Soviet joke: An American says "In America, we are so free, I can go into the street and shout that President Reagan is an idiot." The Soviet responds "We are equally free! I too can run into the street and shout that President Reagan is an idiot!"

government officials got tarred and feathered and lynched with some frequency

Hunh? Are you talking about the tarring and feathering of British tax collectors during the revolution against the British? Or the Whiskey Rebellion, which was quite violently crushed?

[...] I don't know what Civil War you learned about in school but the one I learned about had so much to do with following in the footsteps of a guy who advocated killing Americans to end slavery that they wrote a song about it with lyrics like, "John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see, Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be..."


John Brown was *executed*, man. If that's your example of proper reception to dissent, you're talking about a guy who the government legally killed. See, again, that's the issue---suggesting it would be not a bad thing if slaves killed slavers is and has always been legal; handing them guns to do it with is illegal.

Anyway, back to more important matters...

You may also note that later in the last century, with Hanoi Hannah or Hanoi Jane Barbarella for example, they stopped trying to get away with charging these sorts of people with treason.

I was under the impression, though, that the reason they weren't charged was because there was no evidence they were asking the Viet Cong what would help the war effort and doing it; they were going because they wanted to go and speaking their mind, like Sean Penn did in Iraq. Again, believing in or advocating for a group at war with the US is totally legal, and not what Mehanna has been charged with.

If Mehanna did the translation because he thought Al Q was awesome and wanted their teachings more widely known, that's not a crime. But if he asked someone in Al Q "Would it help you if I translated some documents?" and they said "Yeah, that'd be great," and then he translated them, that's material support for an enemy of the government of which he remains a citizen. The court seems to think evidence supports the latter explanation. If the evidence suggests the former is what really happened, then the court is wrong. But if the latter is the case, then he did exactly what he's accused of and is lucky he didn't get a more severe penalty.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:12 PM on April 27, 2012


...the Whiskey Rebellion, which was quite violently crushed...
John Brown was *executed*, man.

Did you miss the part where I analogized John Brown to Osama Bin Laden? The point is that people weren't thrown in jail for decades for promoting these people's ideas or improving their public image by writing plays or songs about them or training with them and in fact many Americans gave them considerably more support than Mehanna gave to anyone.

Far from the U.S. being a place that "never allowed this kind of activity", it's the kind of place where John Brown was cheered as a national celebrity for several years after participating in the decapitation of some of his fellow Americans in the course of cultivating his political ideology, in the anti-slavery segment of the country at least, and aided in his abolitionist efforts by people who knew what he'd done in Kansas.

...suggesting it would be not a bad thing if slaves killed slavers is and has always been legal...

...? I think you may have nodded off in your history classes for a little bit. That would have been called "inciting rebellion" and was punishable by death in many places. As I said, we have always been quite gung-ho and even sentimental about killing other Americans for the right ideological reasons.

...they were going because they wanted to go and speaking their mind, like Sean Penn did in Iraq.

Sean Penn visited Iraq once before the war began and then again, half a year after Mission Accomplished, on press credentials. Jane Fonda went to Vietnam eight years after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and three years before the Fall of Saigon, at which point if I'm reading it right there would have been more than two hundred thousand U.S. troops in the country, and made broadcasts on North Vietnamese radio denouncing the U.S. military and political leaders as war criminals.

Again, believing in or advocating for a group at war with the US is totally legal, and not what Mehanna has been charged with. If Mehanna did the translation because...

If it's totally legal, then what was the prosecutor referring to when he talked about how it's illegal to watch video to cultivate your ideology?

And what happened to
But once Mehanna attempted to actually join those who seek to kill U.S. soldiers, he crossed from "agreeing with" to "aiding".
We're now saying that it's when he did the translation that he crossed the line, right? A translation that someone with the proper motivations might have done legally - in fact, I really have to imagine that a researcher or journalist could have done it even at the prompting of a "terrorist" and easily gotten away with that kind of crime if she had the correct political sympathies.

an enemy of the government

It really chills me how you can say that in stride. I think as time goes on we're all more and more lucky not to be enemies of the government.
posted by XMLicious at 11:55 PM on April 27, 2012


The jury disagreed with your view. There are circumstances where one might shoot your neighbor in self defense. That doesn't mean that if we prosecute one who shoots their neighbor, we've taken away the right to self defense.
posted by humanfont at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I understand things correctly, the jury isn't allowed to decide whether or not a law is just, or at least is proscribed from doing so - "jury nullification" is something that the judge is supposed to work to prevent and is something the judge isn't supposed to provide any instruction in favor of, and the prosecution works in various ways to engineer against it through things like dismissing jurors during jury selection.

You guys act as though because the jury can't or wouldn't question the justness of these laws no one else is allowed to either. If a citizen is named an enemy of the government the rest of us, his fellow citizens, just have to get in line with that decision.

Tarek Mehanna wasn't convicted of shooting anyone, he was convicted of having a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon relationship to people who are willing to put up armed resistance to an invasion of their country, allegedly through an organization that is on a government list which the government gets to decide the membership of.

And it was a conviction for agreeing in the wrong way with that resistance to the government's aggression, and watching videos with terrorism in his heart, in a manner for which a white guy agreeing with violent opposition to tax collection or agreeing with standing your ground and shooting neighbors or representatives of the government in self defense wouldn't be going to jail for decades.
posted by XMLicious at 1:31 PM on April 28, 2012


Now a moment ago, I was wondering "Wait, what are we disagreeing about?" At first, I thought you were saying that the stuff Mehanna was convicted for doing was not as bad as what people had been lionized for doing in the past. But you agree that people were imprisoned or worse for meeting with agents of powers at war with the US government, so we agree that what happened to Mehanna has legal precedent. You're a little confused about what "inciting rebellion" meant---saying it would be lovely if slaves killed slavers is not inciting rebellion (abolitionists said much worse all the time), "inciting rebellion" was specifically trying to recruit slaves to kill slavers. But all that aside, you seem to agree that there's no previous time when meeting with agents of a group to figure out how to kill American soldiers was hunky-dory. So what's the disagreement?

It becomes a little clearer in your response---you just have some basic facts wrong.

Tarek Mehanna wasn't convicted of shooting anyone, he was convicted of having a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon relationship to people who are willing to put up armed resistance to an invasion of their country, allegedly through an organization that is on a government list which the government gets to decide the membership of.

Reminder: Mehanna was not in Iraq, nor in Afghanistan. He was in Yemen. He was not meeting with the Iraqi resistance, or the Taliban, he was meeting with Al-Quaeda. The occupation he's angry about is the House of Saud's ownership of Mecca and Medina, and he's angry because he sides with those who think the Sauds aren't fundamentalist enough. You are simply wrong about him having a relationship with "people willing to put up an armed resistance to an invasion of their country."

And it was a conviction for agreeing in the wrong way with that resistance to the government's aggression, and watching videos with terrorism in his heart

You keep saying this, and it keeps being not true. He was convicted for coordinating activity with a group that sought to kill U.S. soldiers. He would not have been convicted for "agreeing in the wrong way"; you, he, and anybody else may speak as loudly as you like about how much you hope the Ba'athists get their country back, and you will not attain martyrdom. He was convicted because once it was established that he was meeting with agents of a group that sought to kill American soldiers, any activities he did at their behest---activities that would be perfectly legal otherwise---became conspiracy. As Ironmouth pointed out above, if the government can prove that you are working with an organized crime group, driving a truck for them becomes conspiracy, even if there is nothing illegal in the truck.

, in a manner for which a white guy agreeing with violent opposition to tax collection or agreeing with standing your ground and shooting neighbors or representatives of the government in self defense wouldn't be going to jail for decades.

One more time, just to drive it home: Saying one should shoot ATF representatives is not a crime (much as I would like to see a few teabaggers get visits from the FBI). If teabaggers start actually shooting ATF agents (remember, that census worker turned out to be suicide), there will be a crime. And if it turns out that other teabaggers made, say, hotel reservations for the guys killing ATF agents, they will be charged with conspiracy. And if enough teabaggers start shooting ATF agents that the government declares them a terrorist group, and you call the teabaggers up and say "Hey, how can I help out?", and they suggest "Maybe you could xerox some documents for us?", then *that* will be a crime, even though xeroxing their documents for a Sociology class would otherwise not be.

One last time:
• Stating that US soldiers should be killed: Legal
• Trying to kill US soldiers: Illegal
• Assisting the non-killing activities of people trying to kill US soldiers: Illegal

Not so complicated!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(oh, and before you jump on it: Yes, a number of right-wing crazies have killed people. But so far, no one has found evidence of anyone else coordinating with them, just isolated individuals with automatic weapons. So no one's been charged with conspiracy or material support, because there appears to be no collusion)
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:34 PM on April 28, 2012


Okay, I'm taking a fourth or a fifth read through the indictment here and I'm pretty sure it's you who is getting basic facts wrong or is unwilling to deal with what the government is actually doing and prosecuting people for. (And I guess I should say thank you for providing the motivation to look this sort of stuff up and become so certain of the evidence that people who are all Pro-Patriot-Act are full of it.)

You have made this statement before about Mehanna working with Yemeni citizens before and I ask again, where the hell does it say any of this? Where does it say that "he was meeting with Al-Quaeda"?

You realize that Ahmad Abousamra is the other defendant and is another American guy from Massachusetts, right? The person identified as "K" who Mehanna traveled with and discussed things with also appears to be an American citizen or resident as it says that he or she "decided to return to the United States" from the U.A.E.

And above all I'd really like to hear where you're getting that Mehanna has said anything about thinking that Wahhabism is not fundamentalist enough. That seems a bit odd when we have a political scientist who specializes in Islamic law and war who testified as an expert witness in the trial explaining how Mehanna went on Islamist web sites and argued that American civilians are not valid targets of jihad even though they support the American military democratically.

But you agree that people were imprisoned or worse for meeting with agents of powers at war with the US government, so we agree that what happened to Mehanna has legal precedent.

People like Asian-Americans convicted by all-white juries were, and others, but then as I pointed out people like Jane Fonda who traveled to countries at war with the U.S. and performed radio broadcasts for those countries denouncing U.S. military personnel and leaders as war criminals were not.

You're a little confused about what "inciting rebellion" meant---saying it would be lovely if slaves killed slavers is not inciting rebellion

It would be you who is confused, or perhaps too willing to do turd-polishing of our past with your notions of what "is and has always been legal". Do a little Googling and you'll easily find historical legal texts that report things like,
Thus Virginia, as early as 1798 and again in 1817, punished with death free persons inciting rebellion, and in 1832 prohibited the circulation of literature by free Negroes or slaves advising rebellion, under penalty of flogging for a first offense and death for a second.
...
Alabama in 1812 imposed the death penalty on free persons inciting insurrection, and applied the same penalty in 1832 to the publishing or distributing of literature tending to arouse insurrection.
It looks to me like you are having to very pointedly ignore things like the government prosecutor explicitly saying that it's illegal to watch video for the wrong reasons, and absurdly insist that no one has ever provably done so much as photocopy things in support of violent anti-tax protestors and the like, so that you can stick your fingers in your ears and shout "Lalala not complicated!" and act as though the consequences of the USA PATRIOT Act are retroactively consistent with all of U.S. history and the way that we deal with everything else in society.
posted by XMLicious at 5:22 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh - in that bit about what Andrew March has said as a political scientist specializing in Islamic law and war, I just mean that he said this in his article, I don't know if the same thing was part of his testimony in the trial.
posted by XMLicious at 5:27 PM on April 28, 2012


And another thing, Ba'athism is a secular socialist ideology that in its Iraqi form even promulgated a connection between the modern Iraqi state and pre-Islamic non-Arab Mesopotamian civilization. Someone speaking in support of it would not be looking to attain martyrdom. Not that I think you actually have any reason to believe Mehanna said anything like that, at this point.
posted by XMLicious at 5:41 PM on April 28, 2012


You have made this statement before about Mehanna working with Yemeni citizens before and I ask again, where the hell does it say any of this? Where does it say that "he was meeting with Al-Quaeda"?

The indictment isn't the whole trial you know. The trip to Yemen is noted in count 14 of the indictment. During the trial a recording was played of Mehanna describing the trip and his attempts to join a training camp.
posted by humanfont at 6:26 PM on April 28, 2012


The indictment I'm looking at which is the one that Ironmouth linked to above only has ten counts in it, does not mention any person identified as a Yemeni citizen, and does not mention Al Qaeda in connection with anything before 2006, while the overseas trip was in 2004. Are we looking at different indictments?

I'm quite happy to see the sources of these claims from places other than the indictment, if the idea is that Mehanna or his legal team slipped up and incriminated themselves with things that the prosecution wasn't even accusing them of, but people have to actually link to them.

Ironmouth also claimed that Mehanna stated that he was going to Yemen to join Al Qaeda in Iraq but when I asked him where anyone said this he did not respond.
posted by XMLicious at 6:52 PM on April 28, 2012


Just one small correction---I'll let others handle the rest: I wouldn't describe myself as pro-Patriot Act; I think the act veers between unnecessary and abusive. For the latter, it's just been misused to avoid evidence-gathering requirements in domestic cases. For the former, cases like this: one hardly needs a bunch of Bush-era law to convict a guy who met with agents of a group at war with the U.S. to provide them with material support.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:46 AM on April 29, 2012


Great breakdown, that fuzzy bastard.
posted by jayder at 7:58 AM on April 29, 2012


Wow, ThatFuzzyBastard, after all you said about how the case is ever-so-simple and I have basic facts wrong, you don't feel it necessary to address whether or not the government says Mehanna ever met the foreign terrorists he was accused of conspiracy with?

Because it's looking pretty likely to me that they didn't make that claim and he was at the very least convicted without being indicted of anything like that. Not such a great breakdown if you have no interest in ascertaining this and have to make up stuff about his beliefs concerning Ba'athism and the religious legitimacy of the government of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps we could have some links to images from 9/11, as the prosecution evidently showed the jury frequently during the trial. But right on, you go and let others handle verifying your assertions.

For the former, cases like this: one hardly needs a bunch of Bush-era law to convict a guy who met with agents of a group at war with the U.S. to provide them with material support.

Funny that a bunch of Bush-era law was actually used to convict him, then. I'm afraid that many people will be willing describe you as pro-Patriot-Act if you agree with prosecutions of enemies of the government based on it, don't particularly care about whether or not your personal claims about who the accused met with are true or are even what his prosecution claimed because this sort of issue is too uncomplicated to be concerned with things like that, and think that the government should be able to litigate against people for photocopying the writings of its chosen enemies.

For those interested in the actual facts here, WBUR - Boston's NPR station - seems to have the most material and commentary on the trial itself that ended in December. I'm actually pretty surprised at how little my searches are turning up even at other Boston-area news sources, so if anyone else has any good links please post them.
posted by XMLicious at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2012


A Google search turned up what appears to be a partial transcript of the trial - link, Google cache
posted by XMLicious at 1:52 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]




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