It's no surprise that providing "material support" to a terrorist group is against the law. But a 2010 Supreme Court decision, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, concluded it's not just illegal to ship grenades or suitcases of cash. "Advocacy performed in coordination with ... a foreign terrorist organization" is also a felony.
Why, then, nearly two months after it was revealed that former Gov. Ed Rendell is being investigated for just such advocacy, has he not been indicted?
In recent years, Rendell had delivered speeches in support of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian Marxist-Islamist group that resides in an Iraqi desert base and that the U.S. designated a terrorist organization for killing Americans during the 1970s.
One 10-minute speech earned Rendell $20,000, and he frequently flew to Europe to call for MEK's removal from the terror list. That would appear to fall within the extraordinarily broad definition of "material support" used by the Obama administration.
Rendell calls that "ludicrous." He says, "The only thing we've done is spoken out on their behalf. And you certainly can't in any way encumber free speech in America. You know that — you're a journalist."
You shouldn't be able to encumber free speech. But the Supreme Court did just that, and Muslims have been prosecuted for doing less: a satellite TV salesman sentenced to five years for broadcasting Hezbollah's TV channel; a man indicted for favorable web comments on shooting U.S. soldiers.
Rendell says he's protected because the funds, as far as he knows, were "raised by individual Iranian expat groups" in the U.S. and Europe.
"Please," counters Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald. "Iranians who love MEK pay the fees in order to keep a thin layer of separation."
The law, says Rendell, should not apply here: The State Department urged him to dialogue with the MEK. And MEK's blue-chip American supporters — could they all have broken the law? "If you indict me, I hope you know, you have to indict 67 other Americans who did the same thing, including seven generals ... [who] served in Iraq. You'd have to indict James Jones, President Obama's first NSC chief adviser, you'd have to indict former Attorney General [Michael] Mukasey, former FBI Director Louis Freeh ... the whole kit and caboodle." That includes Tom Ridge, U N Ambassador John Bolton, Rudolph Giuliani and Howard Dean, among others.
But as long as political nobodies face prosecution for speech crimes, so should elites. Indict Rendell — and Ridge, Mukasey, Giuliani, etc. — or repeal this law.