Vol. LIV No. 2

United States v. Mehanna, the First Amendment, and Material Support in the War on Terror

Abstract:  This Note examines the recent conviction of U.S. citizen Tarek Mehanna for providing material support for terrorism. Mehanna was convicted of providing material support for terrorism not because he posed an immediate threat, but rather because he translated al Qaeda propaganda into English. This Note argues that the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project provides inadequate guidance for when speech made in support of terror is punishable, and that the Court’s deference to the political branches will have a deleterious impact on free speech rights. This Note further argues that speech like Mehanna’s should be evaluated using an incitement standard developed specifically for material support cases. This proposed standard will allow courts to strike a proper balance between free speech rights and national security.

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