Ken at Popehat applies his experience as federal prosecutor to make this observation (among others) in the Federal questioning—I regard it as political harassment that happens to have a convenient non-political justification—of the hack ” Innocence of Muslims” film-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula:
“I think the situation bears careful watching. Based on 6 years as a federal prosecutor and 12 as a federal defense lawyer, let me say this: minor use of a computer — like uploading a video to YouTube — is not something that I would usually expect to result in arrest and a revocation proceeding; I think a warning would be more likely unless the defendant had already had warnings or the probation officer was a hardass. But if I had a client with a serious fraud conviction, and his fraud involved aliases, and he had the standard term forbidding him from using aliases during supervised release, and his probation officer found out that he was running a business, producing a movie, soliciting money, and interacting with others using an alias, I would absolutely expect him to be arrested immediately, whatever the content of the movie. Seriously. Nakoula pled guilty to using alias to scam money. Now he’s apparently been producing a film under an alias, dealing with the finances of the film under the alias, and (if his “Sam Bacile” persona is to be believed) soliciting financing under an alias. I would expect him to run into a world of hurt for that even if he were producing a “Coexist” video involving kittens.”
Ken ends up where I do on other aspects of this incident, and I yield to his analysis here as far as it goes. But Nakoula Basseley Nakoula did not produce a “Coexist” video involving kittens. He produced a cheesy film that has provoked foreigners to violence, and also to demand that the creator of the film be punished by the U.S. government because of the film’s content; that voices on the left in this country are arguing should be censored (as well as that its maker be arrested); that the Obama Administration itself has tried to censor by persuading Google to ban it, and that Jay Carney is claiming, absurdly, is the sole target of all the Arab unrest.
All of this matters more than moving quickly to strictly enforce a parole violation. In fact, I believe that it should make Nakoula immune from arrest, harassment or prosecution for any past acts at this time, because the importance of our government unequivocally supporting the principle of Free Speech, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and core American values before the world is far more important than enforcing the letter of the law against a convicted small time flim-flam artist. I would maintain this even if I believed that the detainment of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula now was unrelated to a desire by our government to appear to be punishing—and to actually take action against—the man who made “Innocence of Muslims” because of its content and the upheaval and violence it allegedly inspired.
I don’t believe that, however. I believe that a President and a government that places standing behind the exercise of First Amendment rights by American citizens in its proper priority—first—should not and would not move against Nakoula now no matter what the legal justification.
11 thoughts on “The Detainment Of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Is A First Amendment Betrayal, Parole Violation Or Not”
I agree with just about everything said here. I’m not happy that President Obama has been handling the explanation. Any attempt stifle free speech whether it be asking a website to remove a video or persecuting a whistleblower is abhorrent to me.
All that being said, Nakoula has only himself to blame. He knew the terms of his probation. He, appears to have, violated the terms of his probation. He now has to suffer the consequences.
What Mr. Nakoula did was the equivalent of walking down a dark alley at midnight with $100 bills hanging out of his pockets. Just because you have the RIGHT to do something doesn’t mean you can expect to do that without any consequences.
And I agree with that. He is a symbol of our First Amendment, just like the Nazis in Skokie were a symbol—he personally is beneath contempt, and I have no problem with him living in fear—of anyone but our government.
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Note to self: Jack’s view of law is that if you are enough of a dick, you should be immune from prosecution for any action.
This isn’t an either-or situation. Our choice isn’t between heckler’s veto and letting someone run free.
Cheap and misleading. My view of government is that you eschew enforcing minor violations in order to punish speech-related trouble-makers and send the message to terrorists that the US will compromise the free speech of its citizens in response to the threat of violence.The fact that he may also be a dick is irrelevant.
I think you said that backwards: “My view of government is that you eschew enforcing minor violations in order to [make sure it doesn’t look like you are] punish[ing] speech-related trouble-makers and send[ing] the message to terrorists that the US will compromise the free speech of its citizens in response to the threat of violence.”
You claim that in this case, we should ignore the laws of the united states because you’re worried about what people will think. The same argument could be appled to arrest Bassoula specifically for his speech.
Yes, the idea of free speech is more important than an individual case of fraud, but that’s not the parallel comparison. You have to either compare the idea of free speech against the rule of law in general or compare the individual act of speech against the individual crimes.
Arresting Bassoula for his crimes does not impinge upon free speech, but letting him get a free pass for his crimes based on his unpopular speech would be a repudiation of the laws of the United States. We’ll follow them until we’re worried what people will think.
The plain simple fact that innocent Americans have died because of his stupidity, leads me to seriously think that he should be airlifted and dropped in Pakistan. Let the SOB feel what it feels like to be hacked to death.
I personally do not care what the judges and politically correct people think of my attitude. I am excercising my freedom of speech, and I say, let him die. He is of no use as a human being. Born in Egypt, give him back to the insulted Muslims!
Wait…did you fail to notice that this an ethics blog? I think you’re looking for “Hacked to Death Alarms.”
I thought the “politically correct” people were the ones saying that Nakoula shouldn’t be able to say what he did.
Yes, you can use your freedom of speech to advocate for an unethical position, but then you’re no better than Nakoula.
I am disgusted with cowardly, socalled freedom fighters coming here and hiding behind our flag, while the rest of their uneducated people burn our flag. If an American burned the flag there would be some serious consequences. All we ask for is for our legal system (lol) to bring forth the same sentence. Why is it always the USA that everyone runs to when they are in need, yet we have to pussyfoot around all of them? Explain that to me and to all Americans.