Protecting Immunity for Webmasters

Dahlia Litwick, a guest columnist for the NYTimes while both Friedman and Dowd are on vacation, published a fear-invoking column today on the Bush Administration’s tendency to limit–if not revoke–the right of free speech. Most of the column is the standard fare, but one paragraph stood out:

A…provision [of the Patriot Act], already deemed unconstitutional in one federal court, was used to prosecute Sami Omar al-Hussayen, a Muslim graduate student at the University of Idaho who was charged with using the Internet to offer “expert advice or assistance” to terrorists by posting fatwahs and hyperlinks to a Hamas Web site. He was acquitted by a jury this summer, partly because the judge warned jurors that speech – even speech advocating the use of force or the breaking of laws – is constitutionally protected, unless directed toward inciting imminent lawless action.

Let me get this straight: it is illegal to fund a terrorist organization (rightly) or to be a member of a terrorist organization (rightly, too), but one is immune from prosecution as a webmaster? And Dahlia is protecting this immunity? That’s a bit over the line, if you ask me–any person who aids or abets the execution of terrorist/extremist violence should be aware that his or her actions have consequences, and unacceptable in our country. Posting Hamas material is like crying “fire” in a crowded theater, knowing that there is a shooting squad on the outside waiting for the people to file out.


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