November 27, 2013 1:06:16 PM by
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
January 16, 2013 1:15:15 PM by
Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (or FIRE, whose board of directors I chair), has written a remarkable and groundbreaking new book: Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. In it, he posits that pervasive censorship and disregard for due process on our nation’s campuses have disrupted the gears and self-correcting mechanisms essential for the functioning of our free society. In my latest Forbes.com column, I explain how the mindless totalitarianism that befouls the vast majority of our college campuses helps explain some of the injustices of our legal system. The degradation of important social and legal institutions begins somewhere, and I agree with Lukianoff that a lot of our problems start with what is happening in our sadly degenerated system of higher education.
You can find the piece on my Forbes.com Injustice Department blog.
December 26, 2012 10:54:06 AM by
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.
October 18, 2012 10:11:33 AM by
The Draconian restrictions on freedom of speech and thought throughout American higher education are an extraordinarily dangerous but under-appreciated development. This is what motivated me to co-author the book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses in 1998 and to co-found the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) in 1999, whose board of directors I chair. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has now taken on the urgently important task of updating the dismal (although in some ways oddly entertaining, if not hilarious) picture in his new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, now available on Amazon.
In Unlearning Liberty, Lukianoff takes readers through the life of a modern-day college student, from orientation to the end of freshman year. He describes various examples from the past 15 years of horrendous (and yet typical) violations of university students’ free speech rights: a student in Indiana punished for reading a book, a student in Georgia expelled for a pro-environment collage he posted on Facebook, students at Yale banned from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on a T shirt, and students across the country corralled into tiny “free speech zones.” Lukianoff further demonstrates how our universities’ cultures of censorship are bleeding into the larger society and stunting our ability as a nation to engage in rational discussion.
I highly recommend Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate to all those concerned with the future of liberty and open debate in America.
September 24, 2012 10:10:18 AM by
Last year, Harvard’s Freshman Dean Thomas Dingman drew the wrath of former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis, as well as the mockery of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for pressuring incoming students to sign a pledge that "the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment." This year, Dean Dingman abandoned the criticized pledge tactic (in what turns out to be nothing more than a tactical retreat) but not his overriding commitment to imposing on students’ freedom of conscience. Without any public pre-announcement (which doomed last year's thought-reform efforts), Dean Dingman managed to slip a stealth re-education program into Harvard's freshman orientation week. As part of this “sensitivity training” students were made to perform skits where they acted out civility, as the Harvard administration defined it. In my most recent column for Minding the Campus, co-authored with my research assistant Juliana DeVries, I explain how this turn of events fits the Harvard administration into a long history of authoritarian intrusions into freedom of thought, yet nary a word of protest has been heard from Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and governing boards.
The column after the jump...