A prosecution under the patriot act
April 27, 2004 2:10 AM   Subscribe

"The Patriot Act defends our liberty, is what it does, under the Constitution of the United States" A saudi national is being prosecuted for maintaining web sites that advocated violent jihad. [nytimes, reg. req.]
posted by rdr (22 comments total)
I can't tell from the article whether or not the web sites he maintained advocated violent jihad or whether he linked to sites advocating violence. Also, there's this quote from the article... "The government has argued that Mr. Hussayen, a Saudi citizen who is the son of a retired Saudi minister of education, does not have all the protections of an American citizen."
posted by rdr at 2:14 AM on April 27, 2004

"You shouldn't be held liable for what somebody else said."

How sad it is that such an issue even needs to be litigated. I remember a time where you weren't held liable for what you say.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:29 AM on April 27, 2004

"The government has argued that Mr. Hussayen, a Saudi citizen who is the son of a retired Saudi minister of education, does not have all the protections of an American citizen."

The government's full of crap. Either that, or it's making a definitive statement based on the lack of a specific holding in the Supreme Court. But the dicta makes it fairly obvious that legal aliens do have some constitutional rights:

Once an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders. Such rights include those protected by the First and the Fifth Amendments and by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. None of these provisions acknowledges any distinction between citizens and resident aliens. They extend their inalienable privileges to all 'persons' and guard against any encroachment on those rights by federal or state authority.

Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, 161 (1945) (Murphy, J., concurring). See also United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 265 (1990) ("'the people' protected by the ... First and Second Amendments ... refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community"); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361, 365 (9th Cir. 1995) ("there is no expressed limitation as to whom the right of free speech applies.")
posted by PrinceValium at 2:52 AM on April 27, 2004

This is absurd. The guy was webmaster, not content provider. This is thought police at its worst.
posted by acrobat at 3:03 AM on April 27, 2004

"...he posted calls for jihad by different Saudi sheiks.....they [ Justice Dept] have argued that Mr. Hussayen's technical assistance, even if he did not share the beliefs of the groups he helped, were like providing a gun to an armed robber....Most of the facts are not in dispute. Mr. Hussayen's lawyers said that he gave money to legitimate Islamic charities and that his Web site work was protected by the First Amendment. The Web sites he maintained also posted views opposing jihad, they said."

Now, I don't have PrinceValium legal knowledge, but let's bring this back home : If a poster on Matt Haughey's site makes a comment advocating violent Jihad, regardless of the fact that many - the vast majority even - of the other posters vehemently disagree in their responding comments, the US Federal government claims the right, under the "Patriot Act", prosecute Haughey?

That is an Orwellian power worthy of the Thought Police - and essentially identical, also, to methods used by the Spanish Inquisition.

But there's a darker and more crudely absurd element to this - especially in the eyes of the Muslim world :

The Christian analog to the Muslim concept of violent Jihad (there is peaceful Jihad too - Jihad means struggle, I've heard) is the Crusade. Now, crusades needn't be violent either - the term is now used to refer to various political and social reform movements.

But George W. Bush has publicly called for a violent crusade against world terrorism, and a call for a violent Crusade would be - in the public eye at the every least - a call for a religious war. What are the differences between wars and religious wars? Well, although civilians are often targeted in war they tend to be targeted more explicitly in religious wars - which can and often are a type of total war in which the civilian/combatant distinction is viewed as meaningless. And - given that (violent) "crusade" is the close analog to (violent) "Jihad", wouldn't this mean that the US president was calling - really - for a Jihad against a Jihad ? Now, the US "Jihad" doesn't explicitly involve the targeting of civilians, but that point might be seen as a copout to many Islamic onlookers - the civilian body count in Iraq is piling up steadily, and it considerably exceeds the number of Americans killed on September 11th.

Would his call for a "Crusade" make George W. Bush kind of like a terrorist too ? So should the US government arrest itself ?

My point is quite serious : doesn't a public call for what amounts to (or is widely viewed as) a religious war - whether a Jihad or a Crusade - amount to a kind of exhortation to terrorism?

Or would Bush's call for a crusade simply be ignorant and irresponsible for inciting Muslim extremists (terrorists) ? And - to come back around again - if one excites extremists who then target civilians (as has already happened in Iraq), doesn't this call for prosecution under the Patriot Act ?

Does George W. Bush get special rights and special powers not accorded to mere US citizens - like a king ?
posted by troutfishing at 4:44 AM on April 27, 2004

Or should John Ashcroft bypass George W. Bush and instead arrest Karl Rove and Bush's speechwriters - as accomplices to terrorism ?
posted by troutfishing at 4:47 AM on April 27, 2004

John Ashcroft's going to Ben and Jerry's today - to get his free "Crusader Crunch" ice cream cone. GW Bush is too busy.
posted by troutfishing at 5:05 AM on April 27, 2004

"Somebody who fixes a fax machine that is owned by a group that may advocate terrorism could be liable,"

Oh my god, the terrorists are faxing weapons of mass destruction.

But seriously now folks, there are a few interesting issues here. First, the one Prince Valium addresses, relates to whether the protections of the US Constitution and specifically the first amendment apply to a non-citizen. Second, whether the portion of the Patriot Act being used to prosecute this man is consitutional at all. Congress shall pass no law abridging the right to free speech or it will be opening a can of whoop ass. What if he were a US citizen, and had created his own website advocating Jihad. What if he were a US citizen helping other people (citizens, non-citizens, "deemed terrorists") to create such a website. Can it be illegal to help someone else do something that it would be legal for you to do yourself? For them to do themselves? If it's illegal to provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed terrorist, where is the list of terrorist groups one is not allowed to assist. Is coding html really "expert guidance or assistance"?

As for Resident Bush, he is truly living in his own private Idaho.
posted by Outlawyr at 6:10 AM on April 27, 2004

Watch your back, mathowie. We don't want any Thought Police going after you.
posted by Vidiot at 7:05 AM on April 27, 2004

Vidiot - Well, they're everywhere. I could be one, or you. mathowie could be watching all of us from his secret lair....

But, for my part - if I happen to notice any Metafilter comments advocating violent Jihad, I'll immediately email m so he can delete them.....and I suppose I'll do the same for comments advocating violent crusades. That might be like being a minion of the Thought Police, I suppose, but I'd be protective of Metafilter, and besides.....

*cues Bacharach, on piano*

"All the world needs is love, sweet love......"
posted by troutfishing at 9:10 AM on April 27, 2004

There are still foreign nationals in the US? I would have thought they would have all packed up and left by now. I mean, Canada is a short plane ride away.
posted by chunking express at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2004

How sad it is that such an issue even needs to be litigated. I remember a time where you weren't held liable for what you say.

When was that... and where? You might want to rethink that.
posted by Witty at 9:30 AM on April 27, 2004

posted by fuq at 9:34 AM on April 27, 2004

The article is not all that clear on exactly what Mr. Hussayen's actions were. It seems he did not himself advocate violent Jihad, but rather provided a forum for others. However, was this forum like MeFi where the posters have (pretty much) free reign, or did he select quotes advocating violence and then post them. This latter action comes pretty close to making a direct call to violence (which of course is not protected speech).
posted by caddis at 9:44 AM on April 27, 2004

so just saying something the administration doesn't like is now illegal? think about that for a moment. Not killing anybody. Not plotting to kill or aiding someone to kill. Talking about it. This together the kid who got expelled for drawing mean pictures of George W. add up to a pretty scary precedent in our country today.

plus the prosecutors seem to be clueless about the difference between a webmaster and the one who writes the content. And that's scarier somehow. Not only punitive but ignorant as well. eep.
posted by Miles Long at 10:37 AM on April 27, 2004

i just heard an update on local boise NPR this morning, and the trial has been put on hold as of this morning - because the judge doesn't feel that the prosecution has enough evidence to connect Hussayen to the "terrorists". this whole case is absolutely absurd.

it's a strange collision of elements. right after 9-11, Idaho's capital building in boise was surrounded by huge cement barriers for months and months, redirecting traffic by building a buffer of several blocks and imposing 24x7 heavily armed guards around that perimeter. their argument was that the building "looks" like the capital building in DC - therefor, the terrorists might mistake it for the real thing. seriously. as if they'd plan the WTC, the Pentagon . . . then on to the next most logical strategic target in Boise, Idaho! most of the residents found this completely unnecessary.

then there is the problem of northern idaho, or the former problem of northern idaho with neo-nazis.

and then there was Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge.

there is a lot of suspicion of "odd" behavior running rampant up there in Northern Idaho, fueled by lots of FBI attention.

Hussayen, who is studying at UofI, which is in northern idaho, was initially flagged by a bank teller who noticed money transfers that she thought seemed unusually high. they started an investigation, and found on his hard drive the files for the websites sited in the article. however, as far as i know, they ONLY found the structural website files that he had built for his clients. as far as i understand, some were message boards like MeFi and others were pretty straight charity/info sites.

considering the fact that he was middle-eastern and the authorities/local government were on extremly high alert at the time . . . perhaps they thought idaho to be the afganistan of the US and that he was looking like the center of a sleeper cell and so they nabbed "their man" to justify all the overly-agressive hightened alert status.

i'm hoping that this whole case will just implode on itself due to lack of evidence.
posted by nyoki at 10:46 AM on April 27, 2004

see page 7 (pdf) with a listing of websites he is accused of being involved with.

this article claims that 120 FBI agents were flown in . . . !

and ashcroft's official line on the matter.
posted by nyoki at 12:26 PM on April 27, 2004

WTKK talk show host Jay Severin advocated genocide over the public airwaves.

So, when is John Ashcroft going going to arrest him? It seems quite cut and dry to me.
posted by troutfishing at 12:59 PM on April 27, 2004

i know - i just read your post . . . i guess it depends which direction your "threats" are pointed!

You're right, we're currently bombing the living hell out of the "insurgents" in a country where we're waging an illegal war . . . and this guy puts together some websites and is accused as a terrorist. then again, the bush administration pretty much exclusively says one thing and does another.
posted by nyoki at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2004

Troutfishing, Jay Severin is a white dude. I don't know if you noticed, but the US is a country built on hypocrisy. If he was an angry middle eastern man, instead of an angry white man, people would react differently.
posted by chunking express at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2004

...Liberty and Justice for all*

*Offer may vary by locality and ethnic origin. Limited while supplies last.
posted by Goofyy at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2004

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