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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Tarek Mehanna Found Guilty

I was saddened, though not terribly surprised, when I heard yesterday that after only ten hours of deliberations, a federal jury found Tarek Mehanna guilty of all seven counts for which he stood accused. Jurors felt the government had proven that Mehanna provided "material assistance to terrorists" for such actions as making translations of jihadi videos. Mehanna now awaits sentencing and may face up to life in prison for acts that, until now, seemed clearly protected under the First Amendment.

I was asked by PBS affiliate WGBH-TV, and NPR affiliate WBUR, to speak about the Mehanna case yesterday on their respective stations.

Click here for my interview on WBUR's Radio Boston (Dec. 20), or listen to the audio clip below.

Radio Boston

Click here for my interview on WBUR's Morning Edition (Dec. 21), or listen to the audio clip below.

Morning Edition

After the jump is video of my interview on WGBH-TV's Greater Boston (Dec. 20).

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Discussing Tarek Mehanna on WBUR

On Tuesday, I was invited to discuss the Tarek Mehanna case on WBUR's radio program "Greater Boston." In the show, I debated Captain Glenn Sulmasy, a Law Professor at the US Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

As I have written here and elsewhere, my view is that the Mehanna case is, fundamentally, about free speech. Mehanna's translations of some Jihadi videos form the basis for his most serious charges of "Providing Material Support to Terrorists." I argue, in my debate with Capt. Sulmasy, that translations represent clearly protected speech; after all, I could make a translation of Mein Kampf, and it would not mean that I should be arrested for having urged the killing of Jews and Gypsies!

To hear a recording of the segment, click here, or listen to the embedded program below.

Radio Boston

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Terrorizing Free Speech: the case of Tarek Mehanna

Tarek Mehanna may have objectionable--even horrific--views, but that does not make him a terrorist or a criminal. Mehanna was arrested two years ago on charges of lying to federal investigators, and providing material support to terrorists. The FBI also implies that Mehanna had plans to carry out a shooting spree in the Sudbury mall, but was thwarted by his inability to obtain weapons (consider, for one moment, how easy it is to get a gun in the United States). The crux of the government's case centers on a series of videos for which Mehanna allegedly provided subtitles; the translations, the Feds say, represented material support for terrorists. 

Last night I spoke with Emily Rooney on her WGBH show about the case, arguing that, in order to live in a free and open society, we must protect speech, even the speech of those whose beliefs we find abhorrent. The video is embedded after the jump.

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