Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The following post is brought to you courtesy of the PATRIOT Act

In Boise, Idaho, a Saudi Arabian graduate student named Sami Omar al-Hussayen is being tried in a heavily-guarded courtroom, charged with conspiracy to support terrorism by having provided "expert guidance or assistance" to terrorist groups.

The basis of the charge?
As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel,
says Saturday's New York Times.

Yes, you read it right. He's charged with being a webmaster. Not with being involved in suicide bombings, not with assisting in suicide bombings, not even with endorsing suicide bombings, not even with being webmaster of sites that endorsed suicide bombings - but with being webmaster of sites that had links to other sites that endorsed suicide bombings.

In short, guilt by association - once removed.

The provision under which Hussayen is charged was found unconstitutionally vague and broad in a case in Los Angeles earlier this year, but the decision did not cover Idaho.

The Times notes that
Idaho, one of the most Republican states, has become an unlikely home of opposition to the act.

The state's senior senator, the Republican Larry E. Craig, and Representative C. L. Otter, also a Republican, have sponsored bills to amend the act, which they have called a threat to civil liberties.
But perhaps not so unlikely: It's long seemed to me that civil liberties is an area where left and right mix and match (and divide) in sometimes-odd ways. True conservatives - as opposed to the wacko wingnuts that populate the right these days - are generally wary of government power and thus hesitant to endorse any expansion of it. That leads them to some genuinely paranoid racist and xenophobic notions as well as a passive endorsement of corporate exploitation and personal bigotry - but it also leads them to oppose such proposals as national ID cards, huge government databases of personal information, and interventionist foreign policies.

It was 20 years ago that I was running for Congress as a member of the Socialist Party USA and found myself being endorsed by the local chapter of the Libertarian Party. The decision was explained to the membership on the grounds that there are two kinds of socialists: one that believes in unlimited government power and the other that believes in human liberty but is naive about economics. I, they said, was one of the latter. I accepted the endorsement, noting as I did that I would say the same about them.

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