Monday, June 14, 2004

Last Refuge of Scoundrels Department

Are stories about the PATRIOT Act considered national politics? Or by national politics, does Mr. Welch mean merely the actions of Dems and GOPers?

Assuming he means the latter and not the former, here is the latest important court case in the ongoing tussle over the USA PATRIOT Act, one of the most controversial measures adopted by the federal government in the wake of Sept. 11th.

The case concerns Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a Saudi graduate student at the University of Idaho who set up and operated Web sites that the U.S. government claims were used to "recruit terrorists, raise money and disseminate inflammatory rhetoric. They said the sites included religious edicts justifying suicide bombings and an invitation to contribute financially to the militant Palestinian organization Hamas."

"Al-Hussayen's attorneys argued that he had little to do with the creation of the material posted. And they said the material was protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and was not designed to raise money or recruit extremists."

So the jury ruled in favor of Al-Hussayen, but he's not out of the woods yet.

"Al-Hussayen faced up to 15 years for each of the three terrorism charges, 25 years on each visa-fraud charge and five years on each false-statement charge. He still faces deportation and will remain in custody until the government decides what to do next."

"Legal experts see the verdict as only an early victory in what they expect to be an extended battle against the federal government's use of the Patriot Act to pursue people on the basis of what they say, write, and disseminate."

The basic question here, of course, is whether you can be prosecuted for terrorism simply for passing along the speech of others. So far, justice remains on the side of free speech.

Chalk one up for the anti-PATRIOTS.