Friday, August 25, 2006

Violating First Amendment Rights or Just Plain Common Sense? 

The Blogfather points to a case in New York where a man was arrested for rebroadcasting Hezbollah's satellite channel, al-Manar. The crux of the violation lies in that al-Manar has been designated a "global terrorist entity" and therefore all transactions between Americans and al-Manar are strictly verbotten.

As the good Prof says, this certainly raises First Amendment questions. Can the government legitimately stop Americans from hearing what Hezbollah has to say? Apparently it can, but should it be able to? If it can stop Hezbollah, why not, using similar tactics, silence any other entity it wants? While the professor "favor[s] exempting retransmission of news material, etc., from the statute", is that really all there is to it?

As any reasonable person knows, First Amendment rights to free speech aren't absolute. Besides the most obvious non-protected examples of obscene and libelous speech, there are other recognized exemptions, most notably in this case threats and sedition. I know the latter has seemingly fallen out of favor of late (how else can you explain groups that honestly support, advocate and reward mutinous action by members of our Armed Forces without consequence) and, coming from a foreign source the term "sedition" may not be strictly accurate, but should there be a compulsion for any government to allow open broadcast by its enemies? You can't fault Hezbollah for trying, but neither should one fault the U.S. government for putting a stop to it when discovered.

Finally, the broadcast of any of America's enemies' signals into the U.S. could constitute a real national security issue. If nothing else, the recent rash of "Hezbollah news" busted by bloggers of all stripes indicates that one should expect no better from the official source. It has long been suspected that numerous Iranian and Hezbollah agents may be placed within the U.S. in sleeper cells, so why should anyone think we need allow Hezbollah, and by extension Iran, to broadcast into our own country, possibly providing a means to communicate organizational or directive orders? Simply recall how the radio was used in Rwanda to plan, coordinate and launch the genocide there. Yes, in today's modern age of communications there are many other ways to get word out to agents, but why should we feel compelled to intentionally make it easier for them?

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