12 March 2012

Fran Townsend's Material Support

Quick link to a Salon.com article here for y'all before I get back into my grading (hurrah for finals week, right?).

The article neatly, concisely, and articulately walks readers through the Supreme Court's decision in the 2010 case Holder v. Humanitarian Law, which widened the definition of "material support" of terrorism as a prosecutable offense to include speech in support of groups designated as terrorist if that speech is coordinated with the group in any way.

It then moves to an interview that George W. Bush's former Homeland Security Advisor, Fran Townsend, did with Wolf Blitzer on CNN immediately following the Supreme Court's decision. In the interview, Townsend praises the decision:

TOWNSEND: This is a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration. It’s interesting, Wolf, Elena Kagan the current Supreme Court nominee argued in favor of upholding this law. This is an important tool the government uses to convict those, to charge and convict, potentially convict those who provide money, recruits, propaganda, to terrorist organizations, but are not what we call people who actually blow things up or pull the trigger.

BLITZER: So it’s a major decision, a 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court. If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you and the Supreme Court said the government has every right to do so.

TOWNSEND: It is more than just voicing support, Wolf. It is actually the notion of providing material support, significant material support.

BLITZER: But they’re saying that if material support, they’re defining as expressing support or giving advice or whatever to that organization.

TOWNSEND: That’s right. But it could be technical advice, bomb-building advice, fundraising.

The article then points out that Townsend, along with several others - including Rudy Giuliani, Wesley Clark, John Bolton, and Howard Dean - has been receiving speaking fees from just such an organization, the Iranian dissident group Mojahedin-e Khalq.

When someone asked Townsend about this, she tweeted a sarcastic "happy to c u r such a strong supports of constitution and 1st amendment - freedom of speech and association."

From the article:

How reprehensible is the conduct of Fran Townsend here? Just two years ago, she went on CNN to celebrate a Supreme Court decision that rejected First Amendment claims of free speech and free association in order to rule that anyone — most often Muslims — can be prosecuted under the “material support” statute simply for advocacy for a Terrorist group that is coordinated with the group. And yet, the minute Fran Townsend gets caught doing exactly that — not just out of conviction but also because she’s being paid by that Terrorist group — she suddenly invokes the very same Constitutional rights whose erosions she cheered when it came to the prosecution of others. Now that her own liberty is at stake by virtue of getting caught being on the dole from a Terrorist group, she suddenly insists that the First Amendment allows her to engage in this behavior: exactly the argument that Humanitarian Law rejected, with her gushing approval on CNN (“a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration“; This is an important tool the government uses to convict those . . . who provide [] propaganda, to terrorist organizations”).”

So... that's a fairly significant recounting of the article, but you should go take a look at the whole thing. I've only sketched out some of the juiciness that's in there (there's also a nice little point about why so many of Obama's civil rights abuses - of which Holder v. Humanitarian Law is one - get overlooked, among other points). Glenn Greenwald, as usual, comes up with the goods.

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