July 15, 2006


The United States inches ever closer to criminalizing bad thoughts. (Dahlia Lithwick, 15 July 2006, Slate)

The government claims to have foiled two major terror plots in the past month—both in early planning stages that had not crossed the line from talk to action. In late June, seven men were arrested in Miami for allegedly concocting a plan to blow up, among other places, the Sears Tower in Chicago. Then last week, several men were arrested in the Middle East for plotting suicide bombings of transit tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan...
Even the FBI has conceded that the so-called Miami 7's plan was "more aspirational than operational." Comedy writers lie awake at night dreaming about indictments like this: The leader of the Miami plotters met with an FBI informant posing as a member of al-Qaida and promptly demanded "a list of equipment needed, in order to wage jihad, which list included boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles."...
Gonzales and his colleagues seem to be falling into a familiar trap here: They think that since 9/11 happened due to government inaction, any and all government action should be welcome—including widespread arrests of genuine plotters along with hapless paint-ballers. The law works best when it's used as a scalpel, not an ax. So please, let's not start arresting citizens for the badness of their thoughts. Because whoops, I just had another one.

That last paragraph is a real doozy: every sentence is wrong. All threats to American Society (be it the Confederacy, the Communists, the Mafia or the Millitiamen) have been met with overwhelming legal force. That' s just the way we do things around here.

Posted by Pepys at July 15, 2006 2:12 PM

These are the folks who have been saying that Bush was incompetent because he didn't connect the dots before 9-11.

Posted by: ray at July 15, 2006 3:57 PM

The indictment was fun to read. I still think that there are issues of "mere preparation" floating around on this one.

We are left wondering how "Brother Levi" and "Brother Rotschild" ever got mixed up in this.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 15, 2006 4:09 PM

I was glad to read Lavinia Dipstick's statement that "9/11 happened due to government inaction."

I had foolishly thought it happened because some deluded fanatics decided to go on a mass-murder spree.

Posted by: Axel Kassel at July 15, 2006 4:37 PM

And doing what they can to make sure there are no dots to be connected before then next time, too.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 15, 2006 4:38 PM

But according to some Prof. in Wisconsin, 911happened because it was perpetrated by the US government.

Can't anyone get their story straight?!?

Posted by: obc at July 15, 2006 4:44 PM

Who would have thought that the lowly boxcutter would have done so much damages? It is sometimes unwise to underestimate the power of crazy people.

Posted by: pchuck at July 15, 2006 6:06 PM

No society can tolerate apostasy.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2006 6:40 PM

Every citizen but those in the Anglosphere should be apostates.

Posted by: Pepys at July 15, 2006 7:22 PM

To the contrary, every social system needs to have its share of heretics. That share should be small (1-3%) and competition for those few positions should be fierce.

Heretics, for their part, need to expect scorn, abuse, and rejection for their efforts. But mass hysteria and capital punishment in reaction to mere heresy is unwise and not nice.

There must always be someone willing to tell the emperor the truth about his raiment.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 15, 2006 8:42 PM

Hasn't this moron ever hear of 'conspiracy to murder'? As far as I know it's always been a crime, and not a 'thought crime', a crime.

Posted by: Amos at July 15, 2006 9:48 PM

So if me and my friends are out at at Applebee's joking about how were gonna take our (paintball)guns and "paint the town red", we might get arrested?

Posted by: Jayson at July 15, 2006 10:20 PM

Actually, Mr. Baer (Robert not Jack) new roman a clef, posits 9/11 as a Iranian plot, using Al Queda assets, in collaboration with a Wasp
neo-con fixer, is that crazy or what?

Posted by: narciso at July 15, 2006 10:57 PM

Jayson, If you plan to deface others property with those paintball guns and take some additional step, then yes, you're gonna get arrested for conspiracy to commit whatever knucklehead crime you had in mind. Is this news to you?

Posted by: Pepys at July 15, 2006 11:25 PM

These are very strong charges. Seditious conspiracy is very closely related to treason: 18:2384 uses the constitutional definition of treason among its itemization of prohibitions.

This matter is a lot more serious than conspiracy to shoot paintballs. My problem with the charges arises from the impossibility of the criminal object of the alleged conspiracy where no actual alQaeda were involved. What we have here is a doubly inchoate crime: an attempt to conspire. This is sort of like charging an attempt to posess heroin in the absence of a counterfeir controlled substance statute when the subject substance turns out to have been powdered sugar. Remember, they were conspiing with one another, but not with alQaeda--they only thought they were conspiring with alQaeda.

I had once suspected that the trap had been sprung too soon on these badthinkers. On consideration of the indictment, I now think the terrorism charges will fly if not the sedition. That crack about killing the devils is going to cost them.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 16, 2006 12:48 AM

For decades the left has pushed "hate crime" and "hate speech" laws because they think they protect women, minorities, gays, etc. But when the government arrests Islamic nutjobs plotting (however incompetently) to commit mass murder and overthrow the government, now, suddenly, it's a dangerous "criminalizing of bad thoughts"?

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 16, 2006 7:35 PM