The Criminalization of Speech in an Age of Terror
29 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2009
Date Written: June 12, 2009
Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the United States and many European states have sought ways to disrupt the radicalization process that leads individuals to join the call to Islamic jihad. This strategy has included attempts to prosecute individuals who post or help to circulate calls to jihad that appear on the internet. While this speech is unpopular, it is an open question whether the speech, standing alone, incites violence. More importantly, these prosecutions may both chill speech and open the door to wider governmental efforts to regulate unpopular speech. To explore the tension between security and civil liberties triggered by such strategies, I analyze three recent criminal cases in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I examine the prosecution strategies and the legal hurdles that prosecutors faced in securing convictions. I show that, in an effort to surmount the legal problems inherent in prosecuting these cases, prosecutors have broadly branded the defendants as terrorists and evil-doers. The broader impact of these strategies, risks shaking a core element of democratic governance.
Keywords: civil liberties, free speech, Europe, terrorism, United States
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