How I Convicted A Man For Helping Terrorists Who Now Aren't Terrorists

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54 Responses

  1. TJIC says:

    > terrorists can terrify us into destroying them ourselves.

    That's close to the truth.

    I'd alter it slightly:

    There are already people here who hate that government's power is limited by the Constitution (I call them "Democrats" and "Republicans"; more generally "politicians") and terrorists can terrify us into giving those who hate freedom the political cover to enact the kinds of changes they've been pushing for since the Republic was one day old.

  2. Buzz Killington says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am sharing it with everyone I can coerce into reading it.

  3. Random Encounter says:

    From "The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries":
    29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less.

    I think any law that makes associating with people based upon politically determined measures is dangerous, and apart from the case of active, declared war is a violation of the First Amendment.

    That said, there are already perfectly good laws on the books for aiding someone in criminal acts, is there a particular reason why none of those were suitable for the case of terrorist acts?

  4. I like the original title better (as per the URL). P.S. Awesome.

  5. Waldo says:

    Fantastic post. I love me some Obama, but he really has disappointed and failed when it comes to civil liberties. I can't help but feel however that I'm in the minority and that his tough on terror policies have been very politically popular. I'm not exactly sure what the answer is but feel it involves changing the hearts and minds of the electorate as its first step.

  6. Damon says:

    You said it right…."political decision". Stuff like terrorist organizations watch lists should not be subject to the whims of politics. It's not convenient for the US the MEK is not on the list, and when it's convenient again, they will be. The "collateral damage" to folk caught up in some net, well, screw them, they are proles.

    Yes, that’s the kind of gov’t we should have o.0

  7. Jerryskids says:

    "the scope of the War on Terror — the very identity of the Terror we fight — is a subjective matter in the discretion of the government"

    But we have always been at war with Eastasia! (Somebody had to say it.)

  8. Malc says:

    It's worth noting that the Irish Republican Army lobbied heavily for money and support in the US, while never being designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization, despite bombing American assets in the UK.

    This makes, for me, the whole concept suspect; a list that triggers various offenses out of acts that wouldn't otherwise be offensive.

    It is, in effect, not significantly different from laws against blasphemy…

  9. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Yeah, the old "The Enemy of my Enemy" is always getting well meaning fools into deep and rather spicy kimchi. I've thought for some time that a better quote would be "The Enemy of my Enemy is my tactical opportunity".

  10. a_random_guy says:

    The "government" does this, the "government" does that. We should not forget that the government is composed of people, people who choose to add names to kill lists, to detain prisoners without due process, to deploy and use armed drones. Don't allow them to hide behind the anonymous mantle of "government". They personally choose to take these actions, and should be held morally responsible for their choice.

  11. Chris says:

    Its funny and I'm sure TJIC above would agree with me, but the government says they can kill anyone anywhere with impunity; They still don't fucking understand the laws and amendments (1,4,5,6,7,8) that they are so willing to break DON'T PROTECT ME, IT PROTECTS THEM.
    These are the conditions that WE allow governments and those that work in them to EXIST. If they don't live up to those standards we reserve the right to alter or abolish them.
    And don't for one second think that the government is the only one out there making lists.

  12. Bill Wells says:

    The rule of law is dead in the US. I learned this the hard way. See my posts in An Illegal Prosecution. The executive summary: I was coerced into pleading guilty to that which did not violate the law and every court from the district court right up to the Supreme Court merely rubber stamped the travesty.

  13. David H says:

    We're letting the government do that. We're putting up with it. We're even cheering it, because that's more comfortable than opposing it or thinking about how far it has gone.

    How? How does one person oppose it? How does anyone fight back if the masses are too lazy or complacent to fight with them?

  14. Bill Wells says:

    13. David H: "How does one person oppose it? How does anyone fight back if the masses are too lazy or complacent to fight with them?"

    Someone once said something about lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. What are you prepared to risk? Or is freedom not all that important to you?

  15. Bergman says:

    > terrorists can terrify us into destroying them ourselves.

    Terrorist is quite the profession, when you think about it. What other profession out there can miss its targets 100% of the time, yet be 100% successful?

    The targets of a terrorist are not the people he kills. Those are just collateral damage. His targets are the people who are so terrified they might be next, that they alter their behavior. By carefully selecting collateral damages, the terrorist steers the terrified population, much like a shepherd drives sheep to the slaughterhouse.

    You win a war by denying your enemy his objectives while achieving your own. Total victory comes when you achieve all of yours, while denying the enemy all of his. Our enemies hate our freedoms and want us to change our ways to be more like them.

    And we've done exactly that. We are unequivocally losing the War on Terror. Because our objective is to remain a free society, and we have not only not achieved that objective, but we're giving our enemy everything he wants on a silver platter.

  16. Robert White says:

    The enemy of my enemy is my enemies' enemy, noting more, nothing less.

    The Art Of War quote should be rewritten to read "the enemy of my enemy is my opportunity" (or perhaps "tool"). Not for linguistic reasons, but for the fact that the actual quote is very misleading and demonstrably false.

    Also keep in mind that these words change meaning. Look up the history of the word "happiness" which to the greeks meant fortune, and to some cultures meant favored by the gods or some bizarre cross-construct involving duty and station.

  17. Robert White says:

    Terrorism was _invented_, as a concept, by a sitting government, eh, sort of. See "the reign of terror".

    And advent of any "The War On (concept)™" should be viewed as an attempt to subvert the rule of law because it pivots on the old adage that "all is fair in love and war". The stricture itself is a plea for the suspension of reason or justice in the name of an unspecified and unbounded populist goal.

    There is a Goodwin's Law analog here… I just don't know how to phrase it perfectly.

    Any declaration of "war _on_ (something)" is an announcement that a politician wants something he knows he is not entitled to under the law.

  18. Personanongrata says:

    The United States government, under two opposed increasingly indistinguishable political parties, asserts the right to kill anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror. It asserts the right to detain anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror, and to do so based on undisclosed facts applied to undisclosed standards in undisclosed locations under undisclosed conditions for however long it wants, all without judicial review. It asserts the right to be free of lawsuits or other judicial proceedings that might reveal its secrets in the War on Terror. It asserts that the people it kills in drone strikes are either probably enemy combatants in the War on Terror or acceptable collateral damage. It asserts that increasing surveillance of Americans, increasing interception of Americans' communications, and increasingly intrusive security measures are all required by the War on Terror.

    Succinctly put:


  19. Robert White says:

    I would dispute "great peril".

    We are neruologicaly programmed to disproportionately fear things that won't happen to us when we hear of them happening to others whom we empathize with.

    The fact is that "terrorism" is not to be feared by any rational measure, particularly here in the U.S. Terrorists never win in the long run because nobody really likes a bully and its part of the Extinction Burst of any waning movement that operated by real or implied threat or violence. It has always happened. It will always happen. It is a feature of a failing government or political power.

    And we always survive it with trivial casualty.

    The problem is that since a "rare but spectacular" effect of any sort is something we are programmed to cleave to. It makes us feel safer to be afraid of the unlikely so that we can ignore the daily threats. You are not just more likly to be in a car accident, you are more likely to be deliberately run over by a car than you are likely to be the victim of any "terrorism".

    The treat is "real" in that it exists, but it is "not real" in that it just doesn't acutally happen to "us". In countries where it is more common, such as those in the middle east, it is a managed fact of life to be aware of. In countries where it's common, like in some African and South American dictatorships or tribal/warlord run domains, its a fact to be aware of and ignored as much as possible.

    We U.S.of A.'ns ("Americans" is the wrong word and we don't have a good collective name for ourselves) are all bent out of shape because of how it _doesn't_ happen here. We are like children who have been threatened on the playground for the first time, but in junior high, so we don't have the reflexes to deal with it.

    Please read the below for backup on these ideas. They are not authoritative citations, but they are good starters.

  20. oldnumberseven says:

    How does the IRA fit into this?

  21. Robert White says:

    I believe that the IRA factors in as an organization known for blowing things up and injuring civilians but never being categorized as "terrorist" by our government.

    It's called a contextual example. 8-)

  22. GT says:

    Here's the thing though, Ken: this absolutely underscores the fact that most 'law' is simply the congealed faeces-flinging of a set of sociopathic megalomaniacs who are professional bullshitters: they arrogate to themselves an ever-increasing sphere of influence over the lives of the productive citizenry, and force that citizenry to fund their ongoing rapine.

    And they have no trouble finding hired goons (be they armed SWAT-tards, bohunk West Virginians with no alternative but to join the USMC, or naive 29 year old prosecutors full of the righteousness of the cause).

    My favourite example is the ludicrous prohibition of consumption of certain plants. Some day, as with alcohol prohibition – the cronies having made Kennedy-level money – the law will be repealed.

    Do you honestly think that prosecutors who are prepared to cage a man for consumption of a plant, are going to lose sleep over the folks who will be in jail long after Prohibition-redux is repealed? When alcohol Prohibition was repealed, were the incarcerated (those in purely for distribution or consumption) released? Not on your life.

    Doing the slave-master's bidding is, always, a bad thing. And yet it's criminal DEFENCE barristers who are viewed askance by the profession. In a world where people weren't idiots, any lawyer who worked for the State would be viewed as a parasite – from the lowliest co-counsel in a cash seizure case, to a Supreme Court justice: anybody who does the bidding of the political class is aiding the enemies of humanity.

  23. juenger1701 says:

    Schlock Mercenary Maxim #29: The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less.

  24. AlphaCentauri says:

    I think the IRA was considered a terrorist organization during its most violent period. There are some very Irish names on the no-fly list. A friend of mine gets stopped every time he flies because he shares one of those very Irish names.

  25. DonM says:

    We are now, by definition living in a police state since the government (those in power) need answer to nothing and no one but themselves in matters of life and property. But it's still at a very early stage. The fear hasn't set in very deeply yet.

    And what's driving this train of course, is 9/11. I have intensely studied the events of that day and we desperately need another, complete investigation of this event! We've never really had one, as the 9/11 Commission was, in the words of Lee Hamilton a co-chair of the Commission, "set up to fail. We weren't given enough time or money or access to witnesses that we needed." This view is shared by over half of the Commission members.

    The Commission itself only came into being from the efforts of four women called "The Jersey Girls" who'd lost loved ones on 9/11. They pressured both congress and the White House until they got a White House directed, underfunded and understaffed commission — 441 days after 9/11.

    From my research I've got probably a hundred items that should go on the new Investigation list. There should be no serious doubt of the authenticity of the events of 9/11. Yet that's all there is. Time is running out, and the doors of freedom and justice are closing more and more.

  26. crunchback says:

    And support our boys in the floating fortresses on the Malabar Front!

  27. piperTom says:

    @GT: nice turn of phrase, "congealed faeces-flinging". I'm going to be quoting that. Among those corrupt "laws" is the notion that crossing a border requires permission. Bob deserves a medal for helping people avoid the arrogant noseys. Sorry Ken, you need to feel guilty about the whole thing. I don't know Bob, so can't call him a hero, but in this one thing, he was right and Ken was part of a criminal enterprise, despite being authorized by statute congealed faeces-flinging.

  28. DC Treybil says:

    Regarding the article's closing statement: terrorists can terrify us into destroying them ourselves.

    In 1981, I sat next to a Viet Nam era carrier-based fighter pilot who flew sorties in that conflict. He was an able, smart person with a great deal of street savvy – he knew how the world worked.

    He said the Russians would not have to launch a single nuclear device to destroy the USoA. It could simply "hack" the broadcast system and present a credible announcement that such a weapon (or weapons) had been launched. It was widely known that the "fly time" for ICBMs was about 30 minutes. This former pilot said that within that amount of time after the announcement was made, the people would raze the entire country.

    Yep. Fear created by information would be the weapon of choice.

    I see the information regarding national debt and terrorism as slightly different triggers.

    It raises the question of who is the terrorist.

    DC Treybil

  29. John Burgess says:

    Too lazy to look it up, but were all the bootleggers arrested during Prohibition released from jail the day after Prohibition was rescinded? They did, after all, break existing laws at the time of their arrests and convictions.

    Laws change all the time; legal definitions change as well. Bob broke that particular law as it was defined at the time. Maybe it was a crappy definition, maybe we have an improved definition now.

  30. Ken says:

    DonM left his post at 1230 a.m. He's a first time commenter, so — as our comment policy clearly states in its first point — he was automatically in moderation. By 10 a.m. On Saturday he had written me an indignant email with the full text asking why it hadn't been approved. I'm sick, I'm exhausted, and I've had a miserable week, so I hadn't gotten to it yet. I approved it from my daughter's soccer game. Because God forbid I shirk.

    So there it sits, in all its Truther glory.

  31. Grifter says:


    You're a better man than I am.

    I mean, we knew that already, but still; it bears repeating.

    And, on a side note: Go team Ken's Daughter!

  32. InMD says:

    At John Burgess-

    I think the point that Ken was making was the arbitrariness of linking criminal sanctions to what are ultimately political affiliations.

    Regarding your prohibition question, I doubt the issue of incarcerated bootleggers after the repeal of the Volstead Act would have come up very frequently (assuming we were talking about people whose sole crime was bootlegging and didn't involve any sort of violence in the distribution process). One thing to remember is that as similar as the War on Drugs is to prohibition, we have much stiffer sentencing now than in the 20's and 30's. People do a lot more time for petty offenses generally than they did back then.

  33. Rich Rostrom says:

    The people killed in the King David Hotel bombing were still dead in 1978, when former Irgun leader Menachem Begin was welcomed to the U.S. for the Camp David meetings with Sadat.

    Terrorism is a form of warfare. Warfare is an extension of politics by other means.

    When wars end, designations change. MEK has not attacked Americans for over 30 years.

    They are, as noted, the enemies of our enemies. That does not make them our "friends". But they are not our enemies at this time and for a long time in the past. They are not enemies of anyone else who is our friend, as far as I know.

    U.S. forces captured and disarmed MEK's personnel in Iraq. Since then they haven't done much of anything. In the late 1990s, MEK assassinated some high-ranking Iranian police and army officers. If the Iranian government is a dictatorship ruling by force (which it pretty clearly is) these acts were guerrilla warfare, not terrorism.

    There is a plausible argument to be made that whatever MEK was in the fairly distant past, it is not now a terrorist organization.

    The United States government, under two opposed increasingly indistinguishable political parties, asserts the right to kill anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror.

    The U.S. government has, always has had, and always will have (until it ceases to be sovereign) the power to do anything at all outside the U.S. It has no authority to do anything outside the U.S. with force of law, because U.S. law doesn't apply outside the U.S. The effective constraint on U.S. government actions outside the U.S. is and always has been expediency – what is in the best interests of Americans.

    In a country where there is rule of law and friendly relations with the government, it is expedient that the U.S. government respect the sovereignty of that country. As, for instance, relying on the law enforcement agencies of that country to defeat persons there engaging in violence against Americans.

    It is generally expedient for the U.S. to engage in and promote cooperation between states based on rule of law and internationally agreed protocols.

    Unilateral acts by the U.S. in violation of other countries' sovereignty are generally inexpedient, because they damage the basis of inter-national cooperation (that is, between the U.S. and other national governments), and expose Americans to increased risk of unilateral actions by other governments.


    Where the rule of law is weak or lapsed, or the government is hostile, it is often expedient for the U.S. government to act without respect to the country's sovereignty.

    And it can be highly inexpedient for the U.S. to limit its actions outside the U.S. to what is formally permitted by a foreign government, or rely on a foreign government's effective authority.

    The U.S. government asserts the power to kill individuals who are not in U.S. territory, are engaged in warfare against the U.S., and are located in areas where the sovereign government cannot or will not stop them.

    This is a war. It is a slow war. But in wartime, any enemy combatant is a legitimate target; including anyone who aids and abets those who perform actual violence.

  34. EBL says:

    MEK was self described "Islamic Marxist" so I can see why the Obama Administration might find some common ground with it.

  35. Random Encounter says:

    You'd think nobody read comments before adding their own >.>

    "There are already perfectly good laws on the books for aiding someone in criminal acts, is there a particular reason why none of those were suitable for the case of terrorist acts?"

    Did we need this law?

  36. John Burgess says:

    InMD: I was not supporting either Prohibition or the War on Drugs. I was just noting that definitions of what is considered criminal do change over time, but those convicted under earlier definitions are not usually released as a result. I can happen: a new law could state that those arrested previously are to be set free, but I cannot, off the top of my head, think of a single example.

  37. markm says:

    At John Burgess- The Volstead Act is here:

    Peenalties were a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to 1 year; if there were minimums, they were either $100/ 1 month. The one exception was a second offense selling liquor, which doubled the fines and could be a five year sentence.

    $1,000 was a fairly stiff fine (roughly equal to a new car), but I suspect most nonviolent bootleggers were out with time served and $100, and stacking up multiple penalties wasn't done in those days. (That is, no added fines or consecutive sentences for selling + manufacturing + storage, nor multiplying the penalties by the number of bottles.)

    So nearly all people convicted *only* of Volstead violations would have been sentenced to less than a year, and they would have likely been out anyway before a legal process to free them could have run. In addition, I suspect that most jurisdictions would have informally suspended Prohibition prosecutions while repeal was in-work, and good luck getting a jury conviction afterwards (except in the states that chose to continue Prohibition under state and local laws).

  38. AlphaCentauri says:

    I don't think Ken should feel bad about his participation in "Bob's" conviction. Government listings of which organizations are supporting terrorists ought to be updated regularly, not just because the interests of the US change but because the organizations in question can change as the leadership changes and the members mature. We wouldn't have started to negotiate with Sinn Féin if no one believed that.

    If "Bob" was acting according to his conscience because he disagreed about whether MEK was a dangerous organization at the time, if he saw himself as participating in civil disobedience, then it would be appropriate to consider a pardon now that the government no longer considers MEK dangerous. But if he's a coyote who was willing to help anyone enter the US without bothering his head about whether they were entering to participate in violence or other illegal activities, and if the only thing he cared about is whether his "clients" were able to pay, then I think the conviction was appropriate.

  39. Bill says:

    @DonM, if I may politely ask, who the f*ck are you and why do you think your list matters? I'm being serious? Sure the investigation glosses over soem things to avoid highlighting how incompetent many in govt are, but that only means it was done about as well as everything else the govt does. Other than Truther nuts there's very little demand for a new investigation and that's why there isn't another one. I think it ranks somewhere north of 16 trillionth on list of things most people care about. you apparently think there's a conspiracy in Ken not approving your first time post, so it's no shocker you see conspiracies everywhere.

  40. Ken says:

    To be more accurate, he thought there was censorship or conspiracy in my not approving his first-time post between 12:59 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

  41. Manta says:

    First time I comment here, so I wish to say it's a great blog.

    Question: what was the point of convicting Bob "for providing material support to a designated terrorist organization", if it did not make a difference in the sentencing? And why was Bob misused by the government, if he would have had the same sentence anyhow? Or did I misunderstand this point?

    If it was to "set a precedent", maybe Ken should feel (a bit) guilty not about Bob, but about the other people that came later and were condemned under that law…

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