Stretching The Limits Of Free Speech, Ctd


A reader writes:

Your post on Terek Mehanna angered me a bit.  I read through Greenwald's post and followed links to others sympathetic to Terek and find myself utterly baffled. His supporters apparently think he didn't cross any line, that his actions are similar to Nazis marching through a Jewish neighborhood. I don't think they can be more wrong.

His actions weren't merely odious, weren't simply the rantings of a confused and oppressed-feeling soul. He didn't merely say "I support Al-Qaeda and their ideals."  He wasn't prosecuted for spouting his own beliefs. He was prosecuted, and convicted, for actively helping a terrorist organization whose sole mission at this point is to kill MehannaAmericans (and other "Westerners"). Once he translated their hateful documents and videos, he crossed the line from acceptable free speech to direct and active support for the enemy. 

I agree that even hateful speech must be protected, but I am not in the camp that believes that actions constitute speech. I don't think that campaign donations constitute speech, much like I don't think active support for a terrorist organization constitutes speech.

Moreover, and this is what really pisses me off about his defenders, he actually tried to become a violent terrorist. He went to Yemen for terrorist training. This isn't some poor kid who needs to grow up, or who merely harbored weird fantasies of fighting the "evil Americans." No, he was much more than that, much more dangerous. He acted on his violent hateful feelings. He is exactly the type of American who deserves incarceration, who needs to be incarcerated.

And the post reflected the entire debate. Another asks:

Just out of curiosity Andrew, had either Tarek Mehanna or Ross Caputi traveled to Yemen or some remote area of Montana where catching them would be hard, and then set up their computers there, engaging in precisely the same sort of stuff mentioned in your post, would you have supported the United States military assassinating them summarily and without charge?

Defending An Active Terrorist, Ctd

Adam Serwer's take away from my argument with Greenwald:

I actually agree with Sullivan that this is substantively different from how we treat people in U.S. custody, but I think he's largely missing the point with his reminders that al-Awlaki is a really terrible human being. No one is arguing that he isn't. The question here is whether or not the government has the authority to kill an American citizen apart from any declared battlefield based on secret, internal deliberations that a judge will never be allowed to look at. But the fact that as principled a person as Sullivan on matters of executive power is swayed by the argument that al-Awlaki is simply a vile individual who deserves to die is a reminder of how isolated opponents of targeted killing actually are.

That's a ridiculous distortion of my position. I don't know whether Awlaki is a terrible human being. I do know he has targeted for death writers and cartoonists and has been deeply enmeshed with recent attempts to kill many Americans in what he believes is a war. Moreover, Yemen surely is a "declared battlefield" – at least as far as al Qaeda is concerned. Awlaki is currently issuing death threats against Americans who have had to go into hiding and is connected with several recent terror attacks. According to Nick Baumann, Goldblog sides with Greenwald.  From Baumann's "edited notes"on Jeffrey's remarks:

The Daily Wrap

Today on the Dish, Andrew responded to Glenn Greenwald on defending Awlaki's free speech. On Simpson-Bowles, Douthat defended its lukewarm reception on the right, but Andrew begged to differ. Andrew scoffed at the record of Republican presidents on debt, and Charlie Cook wrote the speech Obama should give endorsing it. Unemployment benefits soon to expire … Continue reading The Daily Wrap

Defending An Active Terrorist, Ctd

Here's the beginning of a long Greenwald post attacking my position on Anwar al-Awlaki:

Hauling out a decades-old zombie canard that will probably never die — namely, that a lawyer who advocates for the Constitutional rights of a Bad Person is acting improperly or even subversively – Andrew Sullivan, in a post entitled "Defending an Active Terrorist," writes:

The decision of the ACLU and CCR (the Center for Constitutional Rights) to represent Anwar al-Awlaki, even as he continues to emit clear death threats to writers and cartoonists, seems to me to cross a line.

I'd really love to know:  which "line" would this be?

The Weekly Wrap

Today on the Dish, Andrew swore to never resist the aging process again after yesterday's beard-catastrophe. Goldblog tackled Andrew's Israel lobby frustrations, and Eugene Volokh dug deeper on Israel's rape by fraud case. Hamburger health insurance created an interesting dilemma for Obama, and we covered the verdict on the mandate's constitutionality. Andrew still couldn't pull … Continue reading The Weekly Wrap