Man, if you’re a web designer or webmaster I’d be scared shitless by Tim Egan’s story in today’s New York Times: Computer Student on Trial for Aid to Muslim Web Sites. It seems that John Ashcroft and his G-boys must’ve been sittin’ ’round the old Justice Department late one night trying to come up with some new ways to make Muslim-American “terrorists” shiver in their boots (not to mention scoring a few points with the Bush Administration’s right-wing base). So they said: “Why don’t we start going after guys who maintain Islamic websites?” What a brilliant strategy!
Poor old Sami Omar al-Hussayen. He is a computer science doctoral candidate at the University of Idaho at Moscow who helped organize a campus vigil criticizing the 9/11 attacks as an assault against Islam. But according to Big Bad John’s boys, Sami started hanging out with some bad hombres.
What is his crime? He is “accused of plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that promote jihad.” When he’s not pursuing his graduate work, Sami maintains Islamic websites to make a little extra cash. It appears that some of the sites disseminate a broad range of Islamic views including those promoting jihad, now a dirty anti-American word in the Bush lexicon.
Sami, according to the Justice Department, violated a provision of the USA Patriot Act, “which makes it a crime to provide ‘expert guidance or assistance’ to groups deemed terrorist.”
Mind you, Sami never advocated jihad. He never endorsed any of the extreme views expressed at the sites. He just made a few extra bucks by working for the sites. That makes him an accessory after the fact, right? Huh?? That’s something like saying if I give bank robbers directions to a bank (without knowing who they are), then I’m culpable for their crimes. Does that make any sense whatsoever?
Sami’s graduate advisor, Professor John Dickinson, says the FBI pummeled him with questions for three hours trying to uncover Sami’s sinister underbelly. Only there wasn’t any. “It’s an illustration of how much power the government can bring against somebody. It should scare anybody. They kept saying his Ph.D. program was a front and that the person I knew was only the tip of this monstrous iceberg,” he said. “But I’ve yet to hear one thing the government has said since then that has made me question his innocence.”
When the U.S. Army went after Chaplain James Yee on trumped up charges of transporting secret documents, I wrote about this grave miscarriage of justice and labelled it anti-Islamic. I’m pleased to say that the Army eventually came to its senses and dropped all charges against Yee. The same will happen in this case. I just hope that Idaho’s elected officials and the high technology industry will let Ashcroft know in no uncertain terms that computer scientists are not props for bolstering Bush’s anti-terrorism agenda.