Conservatives, Democrats and the convenience of denouncing free speech

Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:

E9911ef9-03ee-442f-8e61-0df5a56b7aea-460Last July, former Obama justice department official Marty Ledermanhighlighted the arrest of a 22-year-old former Penn State student for – inthe FBI's words – “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the [October, 2010] shootings” at the Pentagon and Marine Corps Museum and “a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States“. He also posted links to a bomb-making manual.

Regarding the part of the indictment based on “encouraging violent attacks”, Lederman argued that it “does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial first amendment protection under the Brandenburg line of cases.”

As for linking to bomb-making materials, Lederman wrote: “the first amendment generally protects the publication of publicly available information, even where there is a chance or a likelihood that one or more readers may put such information to dangerous, unlawful use.” As a result, Lederman concluded, the indictment “would appear to be very vulnerable to a first amendment challenge”.

Such blatant assaults on the free speech rights of Muslims in the US, and in the west generally, are common. In 2009, a Pakistani man in New York was sentenced to almost six years in federal prison for the “crime” of including a Hezbollah news channel in the cable package he offered for sale to television viewers in Brooklyn. Just this month, a British Muslim teenager, Azhar Ahmed, was convicted of the “crime” of posting a Facebook message which said: “all soldiers should die and go to hell.”

More here. [Thanks to Cyrus Hall.]