LATE last year, a jury in Boston convicted Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year-old pharmacist born in Pittsburgh, of material support for terrorism, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill in a foreign country, after a 35-day trial in which I testified as an expert witness for the defense.
To many folks less enlightened than old MJ here, this would be the whole damn story... Consider the check list ...
- Rag head? - Check
- Beard? - Yup
- Looks shifty like? - Damn right
- Involved in the drug trade? - Yessiree
- Accused by the government of terrorism and other crimes? - Nuff said, string him up
Is that the whole story though? Seems that Tarek (is that a Vulcan name?) is a bit of a shit. Read on ...
At about this time my Spidey sense started tingling. All this stuff is troubling but what did this rotund little fucker actually DO? Now we come to it:Mr. Mehanna was convicted and sentenced based on two broad sets of facts. 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. The trip was a complete bust, and Mr. Mehanna returned home.Some of his friends continued to look for ways to join foreign conflicts. One even fought in Somalia. But Mr. Mehanna stayed home, completed a doctorate in pharmacology and practiced and taught in the Boston area. But the Yemen trip and the actions of his friends were only one part of the government’s case.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.
WTF is that about???? This, my friends IS speech and what is protected by the Holy Writ of our Constitution.. The same damn thing that protects me here, and you out there reading this!! So what did he do that brought the vast weight of the Government of the United States down on him?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.
Just one fucking minute here. Are you saying, Professor Andrew F. March, that this guy committed Thought Crimes???? This can't happen in the USA, can it?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.
On April 12, Mr. Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison.OK, a travesty. I have enough faith in the system to believe that this mess will be thrown out on appeal. But there is a bigger question here and one that should concern all of us, even you damn lefties. Maybe particularly you. How did the lawyers for the United States Government, most of whom attended at least some college, feel empowered enough to drag a citizen of the US into a process that is, in itself, financially and physically punishing, knowing full well that they are treading on the most holy of holies, the First Amendment? And don't you dare tell me that that is for a jury to decide. That is crap. Juries tend to believe the Government so that you have two strikes against you the moment you enter the courtroom.
I'll tell you what I think, and my opinion counts: I have given more for this country than any goddamn latte sipping, Harvard educated lawyer. I think that the word is out "Look tough, justice (and the Constitution) be damned". We are seeing this everywhere. From the use of special warrants to the unrestricted use of RICO to asset forfeiture and beyond. And why? So that our politicians can look tough too. Pasty faced little bastards like Bush and less pasty faced little bastards like Obama, all trying to show how by looking tough they somehow are protecting us and should, therefore, be reelected.
I think that the watchword must be "Throw the Rascals Out" all of them, left right and center. Clean slate, clean house. These folks are missing something and that something is that they are our servants and that laws are not there to make them look good so that they have continued employment. If enormities like the Mehanna case occur on a President's watch, it belongs to that President. If a Congressman reads about it in the Times, it belongs to him or her. In today's media environment no one can plead ignorance.
Let's keep our eye on this one.