The Suffocation of Free Speech under the Gravity of Danger of Terrorism


On July 14, 2005, Ali al-Timimi was sentenced to life in prison plus 70 years for acts of pure speech. The United States government contended that Timimi, through his lectures and direct personal appeals, induced and/or aided and abetted local Muslim men to leave the country and pursue jihad training with the intent to defend the Taliban against all potential enemies, including the United States. Buried in nearly 200 pages of jury instructions was a single paragraph that unceremoniously described the law of protected speech under Brandenburg v. Ohio. At first blush, Brandenburg seemed to unequivocally lay down the rule for advocacy of illegal action, yet it has offered little protection over the years, and has raised more questions than it has answered. The trial of United States of America v. Ali Al-Timimi is an ideal case to probe the protections under Brandenburg. The analysis concludes that the jury did not properly apply Brandenburg because Brandenburg should have protected Timimi’s speech.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure

Date of this Version

February 2006