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Government, Hypocrisy and Legitimacy

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law. In that case, Plaintiffs, Humanitarian Law Project, argued that certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act (18 U. S. C. §2339B) were unconstitutional; specifically, those provisions which prohibit "material support" to groups designated as terrorists. In Holder, the plaintiffs sought to help the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam learn lawful means of achieving political ends. In June of that year the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued its 6-3 ruling upholding the Department of Justice's exceedingly broad interpretation of the statute criminalizing the provision of "material support", which it defined as "training," "expert advice or assistance," "service," and "personnel", to groups formally designated by the State Department as Terrorist organizations. Thus, the SCOTUS declared from its high perch that the Humanitarian Law Project's peaceful work could be deemed criminal and prosecuted.

The SCOTUS justified its attack on, and blatant effort to erode, established First Amendment jurisprudence by holding that pure political speech could be permissibly criminalized as "material support for Terrorism"consistent with the First Amendment if the "advocacy [is] performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization". In other words, political advocacy that amounts to no more support than words spoken at an event or in support of that group in print could be prosecuted as a felony punishable with 15 years in prison if the Government can prove that speech is coordinated with the group in achieving its objectives.

The ruling has been described as "one of the most severe erosions of free speech rights in decades". This is because, as the dissent pointed out, "all the activities" at issue, which the Government's interpretation would criminalize, "involve the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends." The dissent added that the Government's broad interpretation of the statute "gravely and without adequate justification injure[s] interests of the kind the First Amendment protects."

As other commentators have pointed out, this was the first time ever that the SCOTUS ruled that the First Amendment permits the criminalization of pure speech, words and not deeds, advocating lawful, nonviolent activity. Thus, the court ruled that "speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activity can be made a crime, and that any coordination with a blacklisted group can land a citizen in prison for 15 years."

Since then, the Iranian dissident group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which is one such officially blacklisted terrorist organization, has been shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to some very high profile officials who have been exposed by journalists for the Christian Science Monitor. That report alleges that:

Former US officials taking part in MEK-linked events told the Monitor or confirmed publicly that they received substantial fees, paid by local Iranian-American groups to speaker bureaus that handle their public appearances.

The State Dept. official, who is familiar with the speech contracts, explains the mechanism: "Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. They will send a private jet, you get $25,000 more when you are done, and they will send a team to brief you on what to say."

That group of former officials includes Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Michael Mukasey, Andy Card, Lee Hamilton, Tom Ridge, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark, Michael Hayden, John Bolton, Louis Freeh and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, professional media hacks and commentators one and all.

To no one's surprise, none of the above mentioned "notables " has been charged with a crime or is under investigation, save for former Governor Rendell, whose conduct has been so blatant that he has almost compelled the Government to investigate him to save face (not that charges could ever possibly be brought against him, a bona fide member of the political and economic elite).

What this demonstrates conclusively is the fact that rules and laws are nothing more than the exercise of raw power though they be couched in civilized terms and eloquently justified by distinguished jurist.

It is oh so easy to say that political speech, if only by words but not deeds, in support of terrorism is a crime, particularly where the word terrorist is left undefined, as it conveniently is by both the government and the courts. And though the Government, specifically the Department of Justice, keeps a blacklist specifying who is and is not a terrorist, the real problem is that anyone advocating non-violent, yet non-legal, means of protesting Government and its clients are and will soon be labeled terrorist organizations. For what the Government of the few by the few could never tolerate is a threat to its monopoly on violence and control.

Because what this lack of prosecution clearly demonstrates is that the offense is not the act but the idea driving the proscribed conduct. What the Government is seeking to do is self-preservation and, in turn, the perpetuation of the reason for its existence, namely, wealth and its progeny.

Any idea that runs afoul of capitalism and the unfettered accumulation of wealth by the few on the backs of the many is dangerous and criminal, while exploitation, starvation, homelessness, sickness and misery, the product of capitalism for the great mass of people, is not only legal, but celebrated. Such hypocrisy and shameless contempt for the truth can have only one ultimate consequence: an erosion of legitimacy and a hopeless and unmanageable distrust of government—the beginning of the end for any regime. Thank God.