August 30, 2006

Illegal TV

There's something contradictory about outlawing a TV channel in America. Last week a guy was arrested for hooking up a satellite to receive Hezbollah's Al-Manar. Of course, we have laws against providing support to terrorist organizations, but outlawing the reception of a TV signal feels a lot like a limit on freedom of speech.

The whole thing gets a bit Byzantine with the details. Hezbollah is categorized as a terrorist organization, but that started in 1997, before stateless rogues added political party to their business plans (like IRA, PLO, EZLN, and most recently Muqtada Al-Sadr). Hezbollah politically controls 21% of the municipalities of Lebanon. They understand Tip O'Neill's aphorism that "all politics is local."

(Political states have been using terrorism to execute foreign policy for years; it's reasonable to expect that terrorist groups would eventually take up politics to effact their domestic agendas.)

On top of all this, the federal law forbidding support for terrorists has an explicit exemption for news and media. So it turns out, the guy wasn't charged with breaking that law, but rather for conspiracy to break that law. Conspiracy to do something that isn't illegal, however, seems like a pretty weak charge to me.

He's a regular guy trying to make a living in Brooklyn. I expect they'll soon realize this is a lame case with nothing to prosecute, but they will be too embarrassed to drop it. It'll be the sequel to the Jose Padilla case.

No comments: