A Ruling on Terrorism That Throttles Civil Liberties

On November 13th the United States Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed the conviction of young Sudbury pharmacology student Tarek Mehanna. Mehanna was convicted on charges of rendering “material support” to terrorism – a dangerously broad and vague provision of the Patriot Act – though nothing Mehanna did came close to posing actual danger. In our op-ed for the Boston Globe, my paralegal Juliana DeVries and I argue that the tragic Mehanna verdict was made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder. The Humanitarian Law Project decision opened the door for federal prosecutors to criminalize a wide range of previously protected expressive activities, such as those in which Mehanna engaged.

 

You can read our op-ed at: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/11/27/ruling-terrorism-that-throttles-civil-liberties/LXmml8hiFCkugBmvmYEt5J/story.html
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"A Doctor's Posthumous Vindication" in the Wall Street Journal

On December 3, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Al Caronia, a pharmaceutical salesman who had been convicted of violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by pitching the off-label uses of a narcolepsy drug to doctors at conferences throughout the country. Declaring that the Department of Justice’s overly broad interpretation of the law violated Caronia’s free speech rights, the Court vindicated a practice that has become commonplace among physicians.

Doctors such as Peter Gleason, Caronia’s former codefendant, learn through their experiences with patients that many drugs turn out to be effective treatments for ailments other than those for which the FDA has granted official approval. And physicians have a well-established right to prescribe any drug for any use they see fit and to share their insights about effective treatments with other doctors. So it came as quite a surprise to Dr. Gleason when he was arrested by a half-dozen federal agents one day in 2006 and sent down the rabbit hole of the federal criminal justice system for allegedly conspiring to mislead his fellow physicians. I discussed Dr. Gleason’s unjust prosecution in my book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (Encounter Books, 2009). My latest piece for the Wall Street Journal serves as a postscript for that discussion, explaining how the Second Circuit’s ruling vindicated Dr. Gleason’s belief that he had never engaged in any improper activity – vindication that, tragically, came too late.

You can find the piece on the Journal's website.
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To the CEO of Gibson Guitar: It's Not Just a War Against Capitalism

On July 19, there appeared in the Wall Street Journal an interesting Op-Ed by Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar, claiming that a raid on his company’s facilities by federal agents is representative of a greater “war against capitalism.” Yet as my co-author Zachary Bloom and I argue in our latest piece for my Forbes.com blog, “Injustice Department,” Juszkiewicz’s Op-Ed suffers for being too narrow and self-focused. In reality, the raid on Gibson’s facilities is less representative of a war on capitalism than of a war on all of civil society, being waged by an out-of-control U.S. Department of Justice wielding vague laws passed by a Congress that clearly does not understand the consequences of its legislative actions, and regulations enacted by administrative agencies drunk with their own powers.

The article after the jump...


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The Arizona Legislature Tries to Bully the Constitution

My research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I just wrote a piece for Forbes.com about the absurd new Arizona anti-bullying law passed by the state legislature and awaiting Governor Jan Brewer's signature. The bill is just the latest in a series of federal and state laws that seek to ban protected speech by renaming it as something else, then outlawing it. The Arizona bill is a particularly clumsy example of this phenomenon, with the legislature crudely attempting to expand its anti-harassment law to prohibit any form of electronic communication that might be considered "annoying" or "offensive" to the recipient.

As we point out in our article, this bill would essentially criminalize the conduct of anyone who wishes to participate in any public forum. Pundits, too, should beware: from Rush Limbaugh to Bill Maher,those from both sides of the political spectrum who seek to provoke and offend via electronic communications would be liable to face criminal charges under this bill.
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Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover

Often the most precipitous modes of inquiry are the most vital. Certainly, that was how Anthony McIntyre and Ed Maloney felt when they founded the Belfast Project, a Boston College-based oral history project that would solicit candid narratives of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The wound in Ireland is still raw, and it is therefore unsurprising that Belfast Project interviewees were promised that their stories would be kept secret until their deaths.

But last month, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered Boston College to turn over many of the transcripts in order to aid with the police investigation into a forty year old unsolved murder in Ireland. In our piece this week on Forbes.com, Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the judge’s decision and argue that, while it pays lip service to the importance of academic freedom, it does not go nearly far enough to protect society’s interests and could end up setting a very unfortunate precedent for scholars engaged in sensitive research. 

Take a look at an excerpt of our piece after the jump, or read it in its entirety by clicking here

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Updates related to Harvey's
book Three Felonies a Day, a critical
take on the Justice Department

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