Politics

Should Muslim Man Get 23 Years in Prison for YouTube Video?

| by Michael Allen

Last week, the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a legal Pakistani resident living in Virginia.  He was charged with "providing material support" to a designated Terrorist organization called 'Lashkar-e-Tayyiba LeT.'

The alleged "material support" is a five-minute video that he produced and uploaded to YouTube, which featured photographs U.S. abuse of Muslims in Abu Ghraib, footage of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs and prayer messages about "jihad" from LeT's leader. The FBI claims the video also included "a number of terrorist logos." 

The FBI stated in their affadavit that "based on (his) training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT." 

We cannot show you the video in question, because Ahmad's YouTube account has been deleted. However, here is a news report of the arrest:

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The FBI claims that Ahmad spoke with the son, Talha Saeed, of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

The video was alegedly uploaded by Ahmad in September 2010. In October 2010, Talha had allegedly contacted Ahmad and requested him to revise the video, giving Ahmad specific instructions.

Ahmad then allegedly revised the video and posted it on October 16, 2010. In August 2011, FBI agents interrogated him, but he denied any involvement with the video.

Civil libertarians decry the charges as a violation of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders.

They point to the Supreme Court's unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

What do you think, should this video be protected speech?