Marvel and DC Universe Stand With Tarek Mehanna
In this “see something say something” era where the federal government wishes to recruit a veritable legion of citizen spies through Walmart and the FBI, one man, Tarek Mehanna, an American Muslim, has stood up. Batman, Tarek’s childhood hero, would be proud and so would the rest of Marvel and the DC Universe.
Last week Mr. Mehanna, 29-years-old, was convicted in a Massachusetts federal court and then sentenced to 17-years in prison for translating extremist propaganda, seeking to defend foreign Muslims against occupation by U.S. forces and ultimately – to use a Bushism – choosing “them” over “us” by refusing to join the US government’s Terror Factory. While Mr. Mehanna was convicted by a jury of his “peers” for “providing material support to terrorists” a closer look at the evidence exposes the real criminals.
The case of Tarek Mehanna, is the latest manifestation of the Department of Justice’s war on free speech and federal law enforcement’s corrupt stratagem to stem domestic dissent. Built upon a culture of informants and decorated by seemingly never ending schemes of entrapment, these tactics, once considered illegal, are now referred to as simply – the War on Terror.
For a little more than 2 ½ years since his arrest Mr. Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, has been consigned to a cell “the size of a small closet” and kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours out of the day, all the while presumed “innocent.” Three cheers for the rule of law. He is now found guilty, but the treatment of Tarek is unlikely to change.
The Favored Narrative
The government’s case rest on the facts that since the early 2000s Mr. Mehanna and his friends began indulging in extremist discussions and videos over the Internet. In 2004 Tarek and his alleged accomplice travelled to Yemen and sought training to fight the U.S. occupation in Iraq.
Upon arrival they were evidently discouraged and rebuffed by segments of Islam less prone to zealotry than two 21-year-old Americans. Contrary to popular belief that 9/11 inspired more fanaticism in the Middle East an old man turned the two away telling them “all that stuff is gone ever since the planes hit the Twin Towers.” The two allegedly returned home empty handed.
After returning to the U.S., according to prosecutors, Mehanna committed himself to defeating the West through politics by other means, namely spreading Al’Qaeda’s twisted gospel by translating extremist documents and posting terrorist propaganda on the Internet, in hopes of converting the masses. The question: is this constitutionally protected free speech?
We know that yelling “fire” in a crowded room or threatening to assassinate a public official isn’t exactly protected speech, however, the crux of the legal argument at play here was articulated by the Supreme Court in Holder et al. v. Humanitarian Law Project, decided in 2010.
The Court held that there is a difference between being an independent advocate of extremist ideology and whether one is providing the following types of support: “training”, “expert advice or assistance”, “service”, and “personnel” at the direction of a designated group, ostensibly one dedicated to terrorism. The activities of the latter are not protected speech according to the Court.
This decision backs up the PATRIOT Act with regard to the apprehension of people suspected of these “supporting” roles – infamous lone wolves – but it does not broach the subject that the “designated” group, once identified, has no day in court. The only people who do are charged with essentially guilt by association. One need not be an actual terrorist; merely doing them the favor of translating books, documents, announcements, etc. is apparently unlawful. To counterterrorism experts and academics, beware what conclusions you draw from your analyses.
By way of example, imagine the Keebler Elves are deemed “terrorists” by the granddaddy of death panels, the National Security Council. If their accomplices are fortunate enough to avoid being taken out immediately by a Predator drone their acts of disseminating delicious diabetes causing crackers could land them in a similar cell to that of Mr. Mehanna. While the cracker traffickers might think they are protected, their association and “material aid” to these arboreal evildoers will have sealed their fate.
While this may seem silly, the situation is analogous. According to Rick Holmes reporting for The Herald News, Tarek Mehanna wasn’t the originator, but merely a conduit for the free expression of what many in the U.S. may understandably consider a diet of reprehensible rhetoric:
“Mehanna was never accused of actually participating in a terrorist operation, nor of planning one. He never picked up a gun. He was charged with providing “material aid to a terrorist organization,” but unlike others charged under that law, he was not accused of sending weapons or money to terrorists, nor did he ever have contact with terrorists. He never came close to hurting anyone. He expressed his opinions, and disseminated the ideas of others, over the Internet.”
If there was any doubt ideas and therefore speech was on trial here it immediately evaporated after Massachusetts Assistant U.S. Prosecutor Aloke S. Chakravarty asked for 27-years behind bars emphasizing not Mehanna’s alleged criminal actions, but the need to “incapacitate” him lest his ideas “radicalize” others.
Jurors in this case were propagandized into conflating terrorism with their own preconceived notions of Jihad and Islam cultivated in the interceding years between 9/11 and their introduction to Tarek Mehanna. While this massage of opinion came from multiple sources, including pundits and bureaucrats alike, seemingly none of it came from the facts of the case or Mehanna’s moving appeal to the judge. If they had yet to be persuaded that jihad is not widely interpreted, but a catch-all for everything terrorist, the prosecution’s point was driven home by a wildly prejudicial video shown in open court of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. What a 10 year old video had to do with Tarek Mehanna is anyone’s guess.
While Mr. Mehanna didn’t say “fire”, threaten the life of a public official, he also didn’t attempt to commit converts to “imminent lawless actions” as needed under the “Brandenburg test” the basic legal standard for when protected speech becomes criminal speech.
Having failed to justify sending this man to jail for nearly two decades, the conviction has broad ramifications especially for alternative media and activist journalism. According to Adam Serwer of Mother Jones:
“Convicting Mehanna on conspiracy charges stemming from his alleged attempt to seek terrorist training or lying to investigators is one thing. Convicting him based on his alleged pro-jihadist Internet advocacy could establish a legal path to stamping out extremist propaganda on the web. At the same time, in the view of some civil libertarians, the case could narrow the right to free speech by allowing the government to successfully prosecute the expression of radical or unpopular views as a crime.”
This is especially pertinent to what I am about to charge next. President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, Sec. Leon Panetta and former mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani are guiltier of aiding and abetting terrorists than Tarek Mehanna could ever dream.
The Real Criminals
According to Mr. Mehanna’s sentencing statement read to Judge O’Toole:
“Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it.”
While Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz claims there is no evidence that Tarek Mehenna was approached years ago the scenario sounds exactly like many of the last decade’s terrorists, evidenced most recently in the case of another 29-year-old, Morroccan national, Amine El Khalifi.
Mr. Khalifi was approached by federal agents and after a “lengthy and extensive operation”, which included the provision of fake weapons and promises of financial and other material support he was nabbed en route to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C purportedly to perform a suicide attack with what he thought were legitimate explosives. They were in fact elaborate props supplied by the federal government.
After a review of recent history it becomes clear it is standard operating procedure to approach likely candidates and groom them for U.S. government’s version of fifteen minutes of fame all at the expense of real crime fighting and for the aggrandizing of law enforcement bureaucrats.
These tactics do not make us safer. They perpetuate the idea Al’Qaeda remains at our doorstep when in fact the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a dubious aberration and the vast majority subsequent have been almost wholly concocted by the U.S. government for domestic consumption. Abroad of course, Al Qaeda and their sympathizers are panacea for itchy interventionists.
Last year, David Cole, the professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, who argued the case for Humanitarian Law Project noted that several prominent former government officeholders, including former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, had spoken in support of Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
Cole stated that he supported their right to speak but that even nonviolent advocacy (such as urging that a designation as “terrorist” be revoked) was illegal under the Supreme Court’s decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. If nonviolent advocacy wasn’t enough to land Mssrs. Giuliani and Ridge in jail perhaps technolgocial, armed and political assistance might damn others to a Mehannan fate.
It is a well known fact Barack Obama acted unilaterally without Congressional approval bombarded Libya through NATO and on behalf of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), the militant arm of the Libyan Transitional Council. Just a few years prior to this unholy alliance LIFG General Abdul Hakim Belhaj pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and sent hundreds if not thousands of insurgents into Iraq ultimately claiming the lives of U.S. soldiers. How do we know this? West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center report told us.
Sen. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were active promoters of the intervention on behalf of those seeking to topple Moammar Ghaddafi and utilized their NGO connections, namely their position in the International Republican Institute to influence and organize the interim government and transitional authorities of Libya; authorities who where wholly dependent upon their Al’Qaeda affliated enforcers to maintain order after the revolution. Using the might of the U.S. military, the largesse of taxpayer dollars and fueled by their desire to shape international affairs the aforementioned officeholders are all guilty not only according to Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, but according to a mountain of common sense and long standing jurisprudence.
Why Superman and Captain America Renounced the U.S. Government
Tarek Mehenna explains why his radicalism is so American:
Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.
When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed.
Considering the consistent atrocities that come out of the occupied Middle East from Tarek’s photos of Abeer al-Janabi, a 14-year-old girl gang raped by five American soldiers who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses to Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who allegedly dispatched 17 Afghanis in similar fashion “oppression” is undoubtedly part of the picture. How to defend the oppressed is evidently where opinions diverge.
Early last year Superman renounced his citizenship in “Action Comics #900.” His reasoning was based on his efforts to intercede against injustice beyond American borders, but it put him at odds with the political establishment. Being a legal alien himself and understanding the bigger picture the parochial views of 300 million just seemed too constraining for the Man of Steel. While he has always fought for “truth, justice and the American way” according to Superman the “[American way is] not enough anymore”, but more importantly for a larger than life hero it might just be too narrow or narrowing. Unapologetic nationalism feigning patriotism often is.
Superman wasn’t the first to question American government. In “Captain America #180” Steve Rogers adopts the alternate identity “Nomad” once he becomes disillusioned with the U.S. government when he discovers that a high-ranking government official (heavily hinted to be President Richard Nixon) is the leader of the terrorist organization known as the Secret Empire. The secret organization at one point sought to trigger a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in order to supplant the two by playing them off each other. Rogers returns to the role of Captain American only when he realizes that he could champion America’s ideals without blindly supporting its government.
Tarek Mehanna sees himself in the same vein. He is a Muslim and an American. His jihad was seeking a synthesis, a reconciliation between the two, but the U.S. government chose to separate them. The trial of Tarek Mehenna in the end was not about terrorism, but about policy:
“This trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home.”
- Tarek Mehanna, 2012