Speech in War

24 MB MP3

After a few weeks of “consultation” the British Home Secretary came out on Wednesday with a list of behaviors that “foment terrorism or provoke others to commit terrorist acts.” Any non-UK citzen found guilty of these behaviors can be deported or excluded:

The list of unacceptable behaviours is indicative rather than exhaustive. It covers any non-UK citizen whether in the UK or abroad who uses any means or medium, including:

  • Writing, producing, publishing or distributing material;
  • Public speaking including preaching;
  • Running a website; or
  • Using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader to express views which:
  • Foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs;
  • Seek to provoke others to terrorist acts;
  • Foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts; or
  • Foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.
U.K. Home Office Press release

Is it far-fetched to imagine a similar law being passed here? Would you welcome it?

There are legal issues involved, of course, questions of the limits of the First Amendment, of what constitutes conspiracy, of how you define “fomenting” or the clarity of “clear and present danger,” but the largest questions get to the inherent clash of liberty and security in our free society. In a sentence: What are we willing to say should never be allowed to be said?

Geoffrey Stone

Author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime

Professor of law at the University of Chicago

[In a studio in New York City]

Eugene Volokh

Blogger of The Volokh Consipracy

Professor of law at UCLA

[On the phone from California]

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  • No in the current environment, I do not think it unbelieveable or unlikely that this type of law could be passed in the US.

    For some reason we seem to forget history, and how often the first thing to go out the window in a time of crisis is personal liberty. And likewise, when things are looked back on in retrospect, nothing was gained by limiting our personal freedoms.

  • cshilton

    I don’t find it that farfetched at all. I’ve been catching up with the show and just listened to the Jonathan Zittrain discussion. In that discussion you brought up three forces attempting to change the internet. I think that some of those interested parties, those who see the internet and it’s uncontroled disruptive nature as a threat to their business model, are afraid. I can easily see them attempting to limit free thought and speech at least on the internet. I’m not limiting myself to the music and film media companies here. The traditional news outlets may not be concerned right now but the very existance of your program should concern them. And since they have the ear of the government and we are living in the time of the 9/11 crisis they can now count on the favorable opinion of some citizens who incorrectly believe that they can and should sacrifice a little liberty to gain a little security. These are the people who are shouting down ‘non-patriots’ like Cindy Sheehan.

  • LeeJudt


    What kind of patriot is Cindy Sheehan?

    Why is it that she appeals to American Nazis as well as leftists?


    “One of the most important steps that Whites are taking these days (and, we all must admit, that millions of non-Whites have already taken) is a recognition that Jewish power is toxic to any society that allows it to exist. (And allowing it free rein is tantamount to suicide.) Jewish power is behind the drive for racial mixing, open borders, raceless globalism, and international capitalism, just as it was behind racially-destructive international Communism. But what is really waking people up is the Jewish power behind the current war in the Middle East, and the outrageous hypocrisy of Israel as Jews maintain an aggressive racial state (armed to the teeth, by the way, with Weapons of Mass Destruction) while doing everything in their power to open the borders of and multiracialize and multiculturalize other peoples’ countries.

    I’m sure that all of you are by now familiar with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey, her son who was killed in Iraq last year, and her vigil outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas. Her story has moved the hearts of millions just as it has angered the neocon spinmeisters who pushed for this war. Though she has hesitated and backpedaled more than once, she has brought out into public view the one flaming truth that the Jewish-controlled left and Jewish-controlled right are desperate to conceal: that her son, and all the other Americans being brought back home in body bags, died for Israel, not America.”

    Is Cindy Sheehan aware of the people who are rooting for her?

  • galoot

    You quote the Orwellian-sounding measures from the UK Home Secretary at the top, there is heated debate about them here in the UK. I moved here from the US in 2002 and am learning how different free speech issues are this side of the Atlantic, better in some cases and worse in others. The above makes it sound grim; however, I was in the London anti-war march in February 2003, and the massive crowd, with the agreement and co-operation of the authorities, basically shut down central London and was allowed to march right by the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street etc. A great deal of effort and expense in logistics and policing is made available when people want to protest.

    This differs from images I’ve seen of demonstrators in the US who’ve been isolated in enclosed “pens” (for lack of a better word) far from the action they’re protesting. Not that it is all rosy here by any means. The G8 setup in Scotland was extremely restrictive, judging from the coverage… so much can be chalked up to “security” these days, and who are we to know if that is the legitimate reason for all of it? There’s been a big fuss here because Blair recently asked the press not to reveal his vacation whereabouts for “security”, but then made it known when he attended a local ceremony. It’s all of a sudden safe? Well, you might say, the press shouldn’t have been so compliant; however, the US has serious problems in that regard (WMD stories, failure to challenge the official White House line vigorously). The media pulls very few punches here, and I’m glad of it.

    On the down side: at a small local demo here, the police smiled, handed out brochures showing the march route, then proceeded to videotape everyone participating, when nothing had happened beside peaceful gathering for an approved event. Does this kind of gathering of “evidence” (of what?) happen in the US? Can it, legally? A mixed bag, but the First Amendment needs stronger support, through vigorous and frequent use of it by US citizens, if it is going to survive the ongoing crackdown in response to terrorism.

  • LeeJudt

    You write as if there were no Islamo-Jihadist group of people attacking non Muslim all over the world.

  • LeeJudt

    We have never faced an enemy like the Islamo Fascists and in our responses we may over do it for a time, but better safe than sorry.

  • John

    what would happen to mrs. sheehan if she and her supporters were in England? could she be arrested? her TV spot calling Bush a liar–would that be a criminal violation in the UK? becuase Bush has linkd terrorism and Iraq…is that what would get her prosecuted? If she called for more protests, would that be against the law?

  • LeeJudt

    The show tonight was quite good.

    Thanks Chris!

  • Potter

    It’s sad if true that we need a draft in order to hear louder voices about the way we were taken to war and what for. But then again it’s even sadder that young kids feel that they have to sign up in order to go to college.

    Suppreesion of speech through threat of surveillance also works when beyond the laws you cannot trust that the laws will be used fairly and not for political ends.

    Harvey Silverglate is someone who I love to hear and your choice of Profs. Eugene Volokh and Geoffrey Stone were terrific. So thanks.

  • Potter

    The following is a clip from Rawstory.


    The American Civil Liberties Union today released an FBI document that designates a Michigan-based peace group and an affirmative action advocacy group as potentially “involved in terrorist activities,” RAW STORY has learned. The ACLU release follows.


    The file was obtained through an ongoing nationwide ACLU effort seeking information on the FBI’s use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political surveillance.

    “This document confirms our fears that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest activities,” said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records. “When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern.”

    More here: http://rawstory.com/news/2005/ACLU_reveals_FBI_labeled_peace_affirmative_action_group_terrori_0829.html