It is strange that Tarek Mehanna connected with Batman, the comic-book superhero, when the role of villain is more befitting. Mehanna, a Bostonian who traveled to Yemen in search of training with a terrorist group in 2004 and later used the Internet to spread al-Qaeda’s message, was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison on Thursday. Not even J.W. Carney Jr., one of the best defense lawyers in the country (whose other clients include notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger), could convince the jury of Mehanna’s innocence. Yet this did not prevent an outpouring of support for Mehanna.
Glenn Greenwald, a blogger for Salon, referred to the case as “one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time.” Writing for the Guardian, Ross Caputi offers total support Mehannapo0, even going so far as to admit that he has ”done everything that Mehanna has done” and freely ”advocates” for Mehanna’s “ideas” (actions and ideas that I will describe below in all their repulsive detail).
Those lionizing Mehanna as an exemplar of the First Amendment – an Amendment which Mehanna did not hold dear, to say the least – must either be ignorant of the facts of his case or are motivated by something more sinister (as appears the case with Caputi).
To begin with, Mehanna’s case implicated more than just the First Amendment. He was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a foreign terror organization, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to lie to federal investigators, and two counts of lying to federal investigators.
Next, Greenwald, and others, also highlighted and lauded Mehanna’s sentencing speech (where he proudly admits to supporting the mujahedeen, literally “people doing jihad”, which of course does not faze Mehanna stalwarts) – a speech which, tellingly, does not mention any of the implicating facts of his case.
From the court documents:
To anyone who remains skeptical about the Mehanna case, I suggest reading the court documents because the evidence is both damning and overwhelming (as it needed to be to gain the jury conviction that it did), too much to include in this short post. And to those supporting Mehanna, let it be said: If Mehanna is a hero (or, as his lawyer declared, a modern day Martin Luther King Jr.), so is al-Qaeda.