Which is "the federal government's greatest court victory against terrorism"? According to an article by Debra Erdley in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that would be the conviction on April 26, 2005, of Ali al-Timimi.
Ali who? Well yes, with the exception of the Tribune-Review, which followed the Timimi case because of a Pittsburgh angle, the mainstream media stayed resolutely away from the case, with nearly everyone simply reprinting the identical Associated Press dispatch deep inside the newspaper. Television was apparently oblivious to the trial.
What is so momentous about the Timimi conviction, Erdley notes, is its being the first time since 9/11 that the U.S. government has put away a terrorist not for his deeds, such as raising money or blowing something up, but for his words.
The previous time this occurred was in 1995, when the feds convicted Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, for having incited the (aborted) "day of terror" planned in New York City for June 1993. As the lead prosecutor in the case, Andrew C. McCarthy, explained, what made the prosecution in this case unique, was the government's
stratagem to focus on the jihad organization behind the individuals carrying out this program: all the defendants were charged under the seditious conspiracy statute, which criminalizes agreements to wage war against the United States and to oppose government authority by force.
Included among the defendants was the blind and diabetic sheikh, someone who himself obviously could not take part in operations, but he is spending the rest of his life in a U.S. prison for his seditious words.
And now, Ali al-Timimi, also a sheikh, follows in Abdel Rahman's footsteps to jail because he tried to get a group of young Americans Muslims associated with a paintball group in northern Virginia, to go to Afghanistan and fight for the Taliban regime there. Erdley explains:
Al-Timimi trial witnesses, including several members of the Paintball Jihad, said that at a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, he advised the men to leave the country and take up arms for the Taliban in its coming war with the U.S. "There is definitely a line crossed where someone is not just expressing views about our country, but encouraging, directing and enabling individuals to act on those words," [Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney Paul] McNulty said.
"Some people still want to debate the issue of whether this constitutes speech. The essence of the case was, did these words have an effect on these individuals? Did they get solicited, induced, encouraged? Did they have an influence over the conduct of other people? The jury came back guilty on all counts," McNulty said.
This case, prosecuted by Gordon Kromberg and his team, is so important because it dealt with words and placed them in context. For example, the indictment of Timimi quotes a message he sent out on February 1, 2003, the day when the Columbia space shuttle crashed to earth, in which he – a born American citizen – stated that
There is no doubt that Muslims were overjoyed because of the adversity that befell their greatest enemy.
The Columbia crash made me feel, and God is the only One to know, that this is a strong signal that Western supremacy (especially that of America) that began 500 years ago is coming to a quick end, God Willing, as occurred to the shuttle.
God Willing, America will fall and disappear.
That the government is ready to take such sentiments into consideration when prosecuting a terrorism case is one more sign of its growing recognition that the current war is not against terrorism but against the ideas that lead to that terrorism, namely arising out of radical Islam.
That said, it is troubling to see the mainstream media so consistently seeming not to see the import of these developments. Rather, they tend to ignore a case like that of Ali al-Timimi – or, if they do notice it, focus on the wrong set of issues.
My guess is that, once again, the Internet has to make up for this failing.