Apparently, Reporting on Right Wing Death Squads Is Now Material Support for Terrorism

We’ve discussed the recent SCOTUS decision that ruled the government can charge people engaging in First Amendment activities with material support for terrorism. Even groups trying to teach terrorist organizations to engage peacefully might be judged to be materially supporting terrorists.

And while I don’t think that’s precisely what is going on here, the logical next step after treating counseling on conflict negotiations as material support for terrorism is to treat reporting on conflict negotiations as material support for terrorism.

Hollman Morris Rincón, an independent journalist in Colombia, won a Nieman Fellowship this spring to study conflict negotiation strategies, international criminal court procedures, and the Rome Statute. I’ll just quote the AP:

BOGOTA, Colombia — The U.S. government has denied a visa to a prominent Colombian journalist who specializes in conflict and human rights reporting to attend a prestigious fellowship at Harvard University.

Hollman Morris, who produces an independent TV news program called “Contravia,” has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in Latin America.

The curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, which has offered the mid-career fellowships since 1938, said Thursday that a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told him Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the “Terrorist activities” section of the USA Patriot Act.

Of course, given that the Attorney General has, himself, helped a bunch of white Republicans get away with their material support for Colombia’s death squads, you might think our country simply thinks some terrorists are more equal than others. But keep in mind: both Colombia’s left wing and right wing terrorists are on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    I’d challenge that and see if the government can come up with a real reason other than “He writes mean things about us”.

    I’d bet the government argues that they don’t have to give a reason.

    Boxturtle (And I’m betting Rincon’s next story is going to be about this and it won’t be pro-US, either)

    • Praedor says:

      I doubt the government would simply say “we don’t need a reason”. Instead, they’d roll out the tried and true, “It would damage national security” or “It would endanger intelligence assets” or some related bullshit.

      Obama literally is no better, and may be worse, than Bush/Cheney was.

  2. Jim White says:

    Combining the concept of journalism qualifying as “material support” for terrorism with the ongoing discussion of an “internet kill switch” puts me in a very bad mood this morning. The Bushies didn’t even go this far in suppressing information despite all the fresh territory they claimed on the suppression front. Will the O-bots cheer this on?

    • dick c says:

      …Will the O-bots cheer this on?

      I’ll wager almost none of them will ever even hear about it, or if they do it won’t register.

  3. phred says:

    Well, the government has already pretty much done away with the 4th amendment with no apparent consequences, so they probably figure what the heck, lets go after the 1st and see what happens…

    • BoxTurtle says:

      As long as they leave the 2nd alone, they should be fine.

      Boxturtle (Most GOPers seem unaware of the other amendments, anyway)

      • phred says:

        That seems likely. Gun sales help keep the economy afloat and the government knows that only they have access to all manner of weaponry that subscribers to Soldier of Fortune can only dream about.

        So yeah, the government will leave the one amendment that poses them no threat at all in tact.

        Plus, there is the added bonus of knowing that the gun-toting Beck and Limbaugh fans can be called upon at a moment’s notice to keep the DFHs in check.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          Well, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has ruled that folks can carry guns into churches in Louisiana,a coupla days ago.

          Scarecrow did a diary about this over at Seminal,yesterday,btw.

          • Praedor says:

            You NEED guns in churches. What happens if someone points to a parishener(sp?) and yells “Fag!” and people in there don’t have guns? What happens if the reverend or priest/pedophile says something from the bible like “turn the other cheek” or “that which you do to the least of you, you do unto me” or any of the other offensive contra-GOP-Teabagger components of the bible and there’s no guns around?

            You gotta have guns so you can fix things like that. Besides, churches are renouned for their gang shoot-em-ups and group armed robberies and such.

  4. kuvasz says:

    Had this happened under the Bush Adinistration people would be rending their garments, but because this is happening under a Democratic Administration we’ll likely hear crickets before protests.

    Nothing is going to change in this country without a lot of bloodshed. The people who run it are not going to give up power. [Edited by Moderator: This site does not tolerate comments that promote violence even in pursuit of legitimate causes.]

  5. ShotoJamf says:

    the government can charge people engaging in First Amendment activities with material support for terrorism.

    Things are getting so twisted these days, that I can almost see BP the government charging reporters who are doing (ya know) their jobs in the Gulf of Mexico with aiding and abetting. Hell, a reporter can already be fined $40G’s and face up to five years in the pen for doing (ya know) their job. Not too much of a leap from there, it would seem to me.

    • Praedor says:

      I have this fantasy lately. There’s this nifty toy called a hoverwing that you can buy pre-built or buy the plans and build yourself. Anyway, it is a “wing in ground effect” hovercraft that I would love to have if I had excess cash. My fantasy would be to take it down to the Gulf and offer a service to reporters: pay a fee and I will take you ANYWHERE you want to go to view the devastation. I will skim a beach, go out in the water, whatever. Nice thing is, it is too fast for Coast Guard boats, flies too low for most radar to detect, and can enter/exit the water virtually anywhere.

      I’d love to do that to tweak the fascist noses of the CG, BP, Obama, and the local paid-off cops. I’d love to do it so the facts can get out without interference from Big Brother.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Permanently ineligible” for a visa. That must be Mr. Obama’s adoption of Mr. Cheney’s version of diplomacy: Walk Loudly and Carry a Big Dick, or at least borrow someone else’s.

    By all means, let’s not promote international cooperation, peace and understanding – the sort of thing generations have been devoted to since the horrors of trench warfare in WWI and the gas chambers of WWII – if it promotes understanding of the criminal excesses our government does to promote its business clients’ interests in faraway countries (or here at home).

    It’s hard to imagine now that, once up on a time, Cheney’s version of the Iran-Contra illegalities was called a minority report. It’s now the standard template.

    • Praedor says:

      Looking into death squads is looking backward…even if the death squad(s) killed some people just yesterday…yesterday is the PAST. Time to look forward!

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, I assume this is more about our country’s need to avoid doing anything to piss off the government of Colombia, given that it is our footprint in the middle of the populist governments of South America.

      You never know when we’re going to have to forcibly overhrow Chavez, after all. So if Uribe and Santos say Morris is a terrorist, we’ll just have to believe them. /village logic

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I don’t recall the US often being overly concerned about pissing off a government in Latin America. I suspect this is more a case of “don’t throw me in that brier patch”. This is not unusual behavior for this country, regarding either allowing in figures of the left, however defined, or agreeing with Latin American governments who stay on message. Would we have banned this writer if Venezuela had politely asked us to?

  7. AZ Matt says:

    How many wingnuts and teabaggers hang with the loonie right fringe in this country and don’t get their hands slapped?! Faux loves themselves some neo-nazis who terroize people of color.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The US has a poor record in allowing entry of foreign academics and journalists who it considers even slightly left of whatever passes for the current American “center” – which is normally well to the right of what it is elsewhere.

    Apart from not allowing this journalist to further study the topic, it prevents him taking up a prestigious opportunity at Harvard, which might expand his network and increase his prestige, things that could make his future reporting all the more effective and garner more international attention. It also embarrasses his sponsors at Harvard, attempts to diminish the prestige of the program itself, and shoves a stick in the eye of all those reporting about such things and those who might consider doing so.

    As with fighting terrorism, the result might be greater resources being devoted to encouraging such behavior. Harvard ought to sponsor this journalist’s research at any institution in the world who will have him – the other Cambridge, for example, or Paris or Toronto – call it a Nieman Exchange, and publish his work the minute it’s finished, then give fellowships to two more academics and journalists study the same topic. UC Berkeley should follow suit, if for no other reason, because it still lists John Yoo as a tenured faculty member.

  9. Hugh says:

    This was inherent in the SCOTUS decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. Reporters, academics, aid workers, nobody can have contact with such organizations because anything they do can be construed as material support. The Supreme Court denied that this was the case, but let’s face it they lied. They said that anything that could free up resources of a terrorist designated group equated to material support. So a reporter who bought a contact a cup of coffee during an interview could be charged. Indeed even if the contact bought their own cup of coffee, the government could argue that the terrorist designated organization was receiving free publicity, freeing up resources from its PR department.

    All this is put against the background of a two tier justice system in this country. Our leaders can torture and sanction torture, secure in the knowledge they will never be prosecuted and that they will be able to enjoy their government pensions. While for the rest of us, even engaging in humanitarian or journalistic activities could land us in jail for years.

  10. Gitcheegumee says:

    Scahill: Prince Is Conducting Graymail | EmptywheelDec 4, 2009 … Especially the articles about Turkey’s accusations and allegations of Blackwater smuggling and reselling arms to the PKK,whom Turkey has ……/scahill-prince-is-conducting-graymail/

    NOTE: IIRC,PKK is considered a terrorist organization.

    WHAT happened to these allegations? I was under the impression that there was to be a legal hearing on this matter.


  11. whattheincorporated says:

    I support guns in churches.

    Arm the altar boys.

    Priest: Alright connor bend over and pick up the broom I dropped pick it up.

    Altar Boy Connor: Hands on the wall father hands on the ****ing wall! I swear to god in heaven that this **** stops here!

    We need altar boys well armed to protect them from predatory priests.

    On to the columbian journalist.

    Wait until FDL is charged with material support for terrorists because they dared to criticize the Holy Murkhin Empire.

    Soon saying anything other than “We support Murkhah killing women, torturing children and bombing hospitals 100%!” will be illegal and grounds for shutting the net off.