THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
April 16, 2012
truthdig.com

First They Come For the Muslims

by Chris Hedges

Tarek Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced Thursday in Worcester, Mass., to 17? years in prison. It was another of the tawdry show trials held against Muslim activists since 9/11 as a result of the government's criminalization of what people say and believe. These trials, where secrecy rules permit federal lawyers to prosecute people on "evidence" the defendants are not allowed to examine, are the harbinger of a corporate totalitarian state in which any form of dissent can be declared illegal. What the government did to Mehanna, and what it has done to hundreds of other innocent Muslims in this country over the last decade, it will eventually do to the rest of us.

Mehanna, a teacher at Alhuda Academy in Worcester, was convicted after an eight-week jury trial of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and providing material support to al-Qaida, as well as making false statements to officials investigating terrorism. His real "crime," however, seems to be viewing and translating jihadi videos online, speaking out against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and refusing to become a government informant. . . .

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Al Gore, "'American Democracy is in Grave Danger'," Associated Press, October 6, 2005

Trevor Aaronson, "How the FBI's Network of Informants Actually Created Most of the Terrorist Plots 'Foiled' in the US Since 9/11," Mother Jones, October 9, 2011

"Tarek Mehanna's Statement in Boston Federal Court," Via Email, April 12, 2012

[In one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Mehanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists' documents into English and expressing "sympathetic views" to the group) as well as conspiring to "murder" U.S. soldiers in Iraq (i.e., to wage war against an invading army perpetrating an aggressive attack on a Muslim nation). . . .

At some point in the future, I believe history will be quite clear about who the actual criminals are in this case: not Mehanna, but rather the architects of the policies he felt compelled to battle and the entities that have conspired to consign him to a cage for two decades.--Glenn Greenwald, "The real criminals in the Tarek Mehanna case," salon.com, April 13, 2012]

[However, if Tarek Mehanna is guilty, so am I. I, too, support the right of Muslims to defend themselves against US troops, even if that means they have to kill them, and I try to give the Iraqi resistance a voice through my website. I have done everything that Tarek Mehanna has done, and there are only two possibilities as to why I am not sitting in a cell with him: first, the FBI is incompetent and hasn't been able to smoke me out; second, the US judicial system would never dream of violating my freedom of speech because I am white and I am a veteran of the occupation of Iraq.--Ross Caputi, "Tarek Mehanna: punished for speaking truth to power," Guardian, April 16, 2012]

[ . . . on April 12, a 29-year old citizen from Sudbury, Massachusetts named Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to seventeen and a half years in prison for translating "39 Ways" and helping to distribute it online.--David Cole, "39 Ways to Limit Free Speech," nybooks.com, April 19, 2012]

[As a political scientist specializing in Islamic law and war, I frequently read, store, share and translate texts and videos by jihadi groups. As a political philosopher, I debate the ethics of killing. As a citizen, I express views, thoughts and emotions about killing to other citizens. As a human being, I sometimes feel joy (I am ashamed to admit) at the suffering of some humans and anger at the suffering of others.

At Mr. Mehanna's trial, I saw how those same actions can constitute federal crimes.

Because Mr. Mehanna's conviction was based largely on things he said, wrote and translated. Yet that speech was not prosecuted according to the Brandenburg standard of incitement to "imminent lawless action" but according to the much more troubling standard of having the intent to support a foreign terrorist organization.--Andrew F. March, "A Dangerous Mind?," nytimes.com, April 21, 2012]


PBS, Moyers & Company, July 22, 2012

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