On Free Speech and Terrorism

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 08:58 AM

"Material support for terrorists" sounds pretty sinister, and it was sinister enough on Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm, 6-to-3, that it is a crime under a 1996 law. But the Court hasn’t necessarily made it easy to determine where the line is between being neighborly or generous and being an accomplice in a campaign of terrorism. 

The majority ruled that even speech in support of groups the U.S. Department of Justice claims are “terrorist organizations” can be grounds for criminal prosecution. The terrorism umbrella justified enormous growth in the executive branch during the Bush administration, expanding the role of the Vice President and the ability to prosecute and detain terrorist suspects and so-called combatants all over the world. This Supreme Court decision argues that supportive speech may provide comfort and cover for terrorists that could, even indirectly, facilitate the preparation of violent attacks. It would appear that this kind of growth of the executive branch is not likely to be checked in this administration.

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