"Today, that graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, is on trial in a heavily guarded courtroom here, accused of plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that promote jihad.Is helping someone set up a web site aiding a terrorist organization? Is advocating violent acts on a web site terrorism? If so, couldn't some of the stuff espoused at Little Green Footballs: new world odor be considered calling for terrorist acts (largely on anyone who does not blindly support the current administration), and that by continuing to allow people to make such comments on their blog, they are supporting terrorists? Where do we, as a free society, draw the line?
As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor, they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally liable for what others wrote.
Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of what people can do or whom they can associate with in the age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to provide 'expert guidance or assistance' to groups deemed terrorist.
'Somebody who fixes a fax machine that is owned by a group that may advocate terrorism could be liable,' said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who argued against the expert guidance part of the antiterrorism law this year, in a case where it was struck down by a federal judge...
...In the indictment, the government charged that Mr. Hussayen provided "computer advice and assistance, communications facilities, and financial instruments and services that assisted in the creation and maintenance of Internet Web sites and other Internet medium intended to recruit and raise funds for violent jihad, particularly in Palestine and Chechnya."
And they have argued that Mr. Hussayen's technical assistance, even if he did not share the beliefs of the groups he helped, were like providing a gun to an armed robber.
Most of the facts are not in dispute. Mr. Hussayen's lawyers said that he gave money to legitimate Islamic charities and that his Web site work was protected by the First Amendment. The Web sites he maintained also posted views opposing jihad, they said.
The government has argued that Mr. Hussayen, a Saudi citizen who is the son of a retired Saudi minister of education, does not have all the protections of an American citizen. They said he abused his privilege as a student by working for computer sites that advocate terror. His friends in the Idaho college town may have known one side of him, the prosecutor, Kim Lindquist, said in his opening remarks to the jury, but they seldom saw "the private face of extreme jihad."
The Saudi government is paying for the defense of Mr. Hussayen, his family said.
One of the charities that Mr. Hussayen supported, Islamic Assembly of North America, still operates out of Ann Arbor, Mich. On its Web site, the group says its mission is to promote the spread of Islam, and the group solicits money from the public. Mr. Nevin said the charity has never been classified as terrorist by the government.
But the government said the Michigan charity was one of the Web sites that "accommodated materials that advocated violence against the United States."