Prosecution for “material support” has expanded under Obama. Where does it leave the First Amendment?
Last week, a 24-year-old Virginia man named Jubair Ahmad was arrested and charged with providing “material support” to an officially designated terrorist organization, the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
But Ahmad is not accused of sending money or weapons to LeT, or scouting out targets for the group. What had Ahmad allegedly done? Uploaded a “propaganda video to YouTube on behalf of LeT” that showed “so-called jihadi martyrs and armored trucks exploding after having been hit by improvised explosive devices,” according to the Justice Department. Ahmad allegedly had spoken to the son of an LeT figure about making the video.
The case is an example of prosecutors’ aggressive use, in the decade after Sept. 11, of the preexisting law that bars providing “material support” to officially designated terrorist groups. In a landmark case last year, the Supreme Court endorsed the government’s broad interpretation of the material-support law in a way that critics say criminalizes speech.
The expanded use of the material-support law is an important part of the legacy of 9/11 and the legal regime erected in response to the attacks.
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