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Something I Have to Post

Today, Glenn Greenwald has an update containing the following:

On a related note, Mother Jones‘ Adam Serwer looks at a conviction today to document a very ominous trend, one I’ve written about several times: the way the DOJ and courts are jointly converting pure free speech into the crime of “material support for Terrorism.”

I have written about that case, too. I’m the only one who wrote about it on Glenn’s blog, actually, I wrote a few weeks after Tarek Mehanna was arrested. I knew about it and followed it at the time because I used to go to his website to collect information about Aafia Siddiqui, the case which in all the time I followed it, neither Glenn, nor the ACLU, which ended up writing a refused amicus curiae in the Mehanna case, ever spoke. I feel that I should re-post what I wrote about Tarek Mehanna now. I think it’s all too strange to have written it then, have seen it through the eyes of feeling that the only people who worried that his site was Al Qaeda then were Jawa and the Weekly Standard (although you should note my disclaimer when I posted) and to see how the press is reacting now.

Monday, December 8, 2008 at 6:07 am


This is something that’s been bothering me, principally because I’m not sure whether or not it should bother me, but I think it should. I’m apologizing ahead of the thought because I’m really not sure of the thought.

In mid-November, a blogger named Tarek Mehanna, who blogged under the name Abu Sabaya, was arrested at Logan Airport by the FBI. Having recently graduated from school, he was on his way to start a job at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Mehanna is a U.S. citizen by birth and residence, he lives in Sudbury, MA.

In early 2006, the FBI had questioned Mehanna about someone named Dan Maldonado, and according to them and an informer, Mehanna had told them he hadn’t talked to Maldonado in weeks, and when he had, Maldonado was in Egypt. Subsequently, Maldonado was arrested crossing from Somalia into Kenya as the Ethiopians, with American backing, drove the Islamic Courts group from power in Somalia. Maldonado was transferred to the U.S., and was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 10 years.

The FBI alleges in the affidavit that Mehanna lied to them, which is a crime, and that Maldonado had actually called him 4 days earlier to try to talk him into joining the fight in Somalia.

Okay. The blog that Mehanna ran is, to me, somewhat unreadable, as it is mostly invocation of Muslim scripture and a lot of quotes from Egyptian brotherhood and such people. He may not be a nice guy. If you read sites like Jawa Report or The Weekly Standard, he is al Qaeda and they acted to end a grave threat to the U.S. due to his jihadi postings on the site, (The Weekly Standard in particular has trouble distinguishing between people who take handles named after Muslim radicals and the radicals themselves, although the latter are long dead). But there is a charge that can be filed if he was recruiting or engaged in hate speech, and no one has filed such a thing. It isn’t, as I said, my favorite site either.

But this guy’s lawyer says he was arrested to 1) prevent him from leaving the country, and 2) because he would not inform for the FBI. And if lying to the FBI is justification for holding someone without bail, then shouldn’t Rove and Libby have been imprisoned during the Scooter Libby trial? The first reason is ominously close to sounding like a mathematician who had been on the Manhattan project who was forbidden from leaving the U.S. (ever) in the 1960s to go to China. Or a friend of mine who was once accused of transporting classified restricted information out of the country because of the knowledge that was in his head. The mathematician’s case, at the time, was seen as a violation of freedom of movement by international law types. And the second allegation, jailing someone because they refuse to inform, if true, is just wrong, flat out.

Am I wrong to think this is fishy? Blogs that have written about the guy seem to disappear with site apologies (this page has been removed…) He may be a very evil guy, but with no criminal record and natural born American and resident status, is it permissible to charge someone with a crime so they won’t leave the country because of what you think they could possibly do if they did? Am I in error wondering if this is an al Marri case in the making?

[Feel free to delete this if there is truly a real risk to allowing discussion about him on blog sites and I shouldn’t have posted this comment. I will understand.]



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