Wednesday, July 01, 2015

On Judging a Man by the Books He Owns

Marcus Dwayne Robertson
We are blessed to be living today in a world that gives us such easy access to books, music, newspapers, magazines, video, and audio from all over the world.  And because so much of that content is available to us free of charge, or at negligible cost, we can dip in and out of it as we choose.

But here is a scary thought for you to consider:

Because thousands of e-books can be had for free, many of us have downloaded dozens, if not hundreds,of them that we are unlikely ever to read.  Some we will read, some we will browse, and others will remained closed forever.  But what would happen if someone in Homeland Security or some other governmental agency decided to judge us based on the titles in our e-book library?

Marcus Dwayne Robertson, a Florida man who also goes by the name "Abu Taubah," learned the answer the hard way according to this clipping from The Intercept:
Prosecutors singled out roughly 20 titles from the more than 10,000 e-books Robertson owned, highlighted a selection of controversial passages, and used that to argue that he should be sentenced as though he were a terrorist. 

None of Robertson’s charges — conspiracy to file a false tax return and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon — were terrorism offenses

So here is a case in which a man may have been suspected of committing a crime but it could not be proved other than by claiming that his reading material offered a clear insight into his very soul.  Please note that the article I've linked to goes on to say that there was no evidence the man had even read any of the 20 "titles" from his collection of 10,000 e-books.  No evidence.  None.

Who doesn't have something in his personal library that could not be twisted in some way to make him look bad?  Do you have a copy of Lolita in the house or on your Kindle?  How about the awful 50 Shades of Grey?  Do those books mean that you are hiding your sexual deviancy from the world?  The examples sound ludicrous to us, but don't scoff.  In the wrong hands, lesser evidence has placed people in prisons around the world.

I have read dozens of books novels, and nonfiction, written by Muslims from all over the world.  I own most of them to this day.  I have lived in Algeria, a Muslim country that produces Islamist terrorists by the thousands.  I have friends from Muslim countries.  Now do I have to wonder if some government agency will one day snoop into my reading habits to help build a bogus case against me?

Thankfully, Marcus Dwayne Robertson's was acquitted and released by a Florida judge.  Otherwise, this "terrorism enhancement" attempt by prosecutors could have added twenty years to his legitimate sentence on the other charges.

Don't get me wrong.  Robertson is a bad man, and there's little doubt about that.  What scares me about his case is the stretch the prosecutors are making that reading material equals intent or criminality.  Here's another snippet about Robertson.  This one is from Fox News:
A former U.S. Marine who became a Muslim radical, gang leader and bodyguard to the blind sheik behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing is so adept at turning fellow prisoners into potential extreme jihadists that Florida prison officials have kept him in shackles and in solitary confinement for the last three years, and federal authorities want a judge to tack on another three decades.
Marcus Dwayne Robertson, a Muslim extremist also known as Imam Abu Taubah who once led a murderous New York gang dubbed “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” before resurfacing decades later as a radical imam at a Florida mosque, has been held at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County, Fla. Currently imprisoned on a weapons conviction, he faces sentencing on June 26 for a tax fraud conviction. Federal authorities want him locked up and kept away from other inmates out of fear he will turn them into dangerous jihadists, as he converted a number of fellow inmates including a white supremacist. 

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