‘Criminalizing Speech’ to Fight ‘Terror’

Reporting on New York’s Javed Iqbal receiving a 69-month prison sentence for “assisting Hezbollah… by providing satellite television services that included broadcasts by the party’s television station, Al Manar,” Peter Daniels (World Socialist Web Site, 4/27/09) mentions that the broadcast packages included “Christian evangelists as well as Hezbollah” before explaining how

the law under which Iqbal was charged had been amended by the Patriot Act after the September 11. The revised statute was used to target individuals accused of providing aid to organizations designated as terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

Iqbal’s prosecution had the effect of criminalizing speech and utilized the technique of guilt by association. Law professor and civil liberties advocate David Cole pointed this out at the time.

“Mr. Iqbal is being penalized for doing nothing more than facilitating speech, and is being punished not because the speech itself is harmful, but because it is associated with Hezbollah,” Cole said.

All of this despite the fact that “the original legislation had been amended in 1988 to include an exemption for news content.”