Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Legacy: Frivolous Terrorism Charges

The Los Angeles Times reports on the case of Tamera Jo Freeman who was arrested, charged with terrorism and spent three months in jail, all for spanking her kids on a flight and mouthing off to the flight attendant.

A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing what remained of a can of tomato juice on the floor.

The incident aboard the Frontier flight ultimately led to Freeman's arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act, the controversial federal law enacted after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

The LA Times article says that 200 people have been arrested in various situations and charged in this way.
In most of the cases, there was no evidence that the passengers had attempted to hijack the airplane or physically attack any of the flight crew. Many have simply involved raised voices, foul language and drunken behavior.

Some security experts say the use of the law by airlines and their employees has run amok, criminalizing incidents that did not start out as a threat to public safety, much less an act of terrorism.

Is this covered by what Obama said yesterday about the United States as a country: "nor does it entitle us to do as we please." Is it to be hoped that as President, Barack Obama will see to it that some of these abuses are corrected?

What's your opinion? Some may say that policies like the Patriot Act do more good than harm. Is that possible?

(H/T to Susie Madrak at Crooks & Liars)


  1. Mike,

    This is the exact reason that I don't want more gun control laws. A law may be written with the best intentions, but soon the government will use it in ways that make no sense to the average person.

    Be it charging an charging an obnoxious person as a terrorist or using the R.I.C.O. act to charge anyone and everyone on conspiracy charges.

    Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act was supposed to go after Mafia related crimes...but it has been widely used for other reasons.

    Here, from Wikipedia, is something that I find chilling- same as the Patriot Act:
    In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

    With all the abuses of governmental power, you want to still give it greater power to regulate firearms...WHY?

  2. Bob, I think that's why people talk of common-sense gun laws. I would add that they need to be universal, by which I mean all the States get more or less on the same page.

    I know you don't like that, but I believe this is the way we can slow down the flow into the criminal realm. I know that's a flow I've never proven exists, as Weer'd mentioned on his blog recently.

  3. Meanwhile here and in other pages we HAVE shown that the numbers don't add up, Mike.

    You may choose to dismiss them, but what you're doing is creating a bubble of deniability that will allow a wrong idea to exist indefinetly....with the fault that it does not, and cannot exist in reality.

    AKA: Fantasy.

  4. Mike,

    What common sense gun law hasn't been tried yet?

    Registration? Several states have those laws...results No difference in crime or higher crime.

    One Gun per Month? Several states have them....results, No difference in crime or higher crime.

    Background Checks? Federal Law, this has shown to stop a few but not many "felons" from buying firearms at a gun store. Note that I didn't say it stopped them from buying them elsewhere.

    From the "Of Arms and the Law" blog

    If Brady's report cards made any sense (that is, if the legal measures it wants enacted, the type of thing that earns an A grade), then there should be some correlation between grades and violent crime and murder rates. The paper concludes that there is no such correlation at all. At each grade level, states' homicide/violence rates range from low to high, and there is no evidence of any correlation between grades and homicide rates at all. A regression analysis indicated that the relation between Brady grade and crime rate was no better than you would get by running random pairs of data, plucking grades and crime rates out of the air.

    Logical conclusion: Enactment or failure to enact Brady's legislative priorities had no correlation to murder rates. If a state were to go from F to A, from virtually no gun control to everything on Brady's agenda, the only result would be a joyful press release from Brady.

    You talk about getting States on the same about getting states on the same page for OUR RIGHTS.

    Would you put up with states being able to regulate your right to free speech to only approved sentences (Massachusetts & California have approved firearm registries.

    Here is one of the stories that wouldn't have had a better ending in Illinois

    A woman accused of shooting a man with a bow and arrow at her father's workplace before being shot by two civilians and a Houston police officer has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon...After walking into the company's micro-electronics division, Parker shot Silva with an arrow and then pointed the apparent gun at two other employees, police said.

    Those employees, who are licensed to carry concealed handguns, fired "numerous" shots at Parker, hitting her several times, investigators said.

    Parker dropped her pistol, which later was found not to be a real gun, and retreated to an office with the bow and arrow, officers said. Workers at nearby businesses took cover and called police.

    Do you think she would have retreated if ARMED CITIZENS hadn't been there to stop her?

  5. I believe this is the way we can slow down the flow into the criminal realm. I know that's a flow I've never proven exists

    is this some kind of free-association game? make up a phenomenon that nobody has proven exists, then imagine a law to reduce the frequency of it? sort of like mad libs, perhaps?

  6. "creating a bubble of deniability that will allow a wrong idea to exist indefinetly"

    Weer'd, That is a great line. I love it.


    Mikeb aka Mr. Fantasy

  7. The patriot act was far too big and confusing, gave too much power to too many people. It should never have been passed as is, although aspects of it as separate laws may have been appropriate.

    Terrorism is at minimum credible threats of serious bodily injury or death. If an action would not justify a civilian using deadly force to stop, it isn't likely to be a terrorist act, although it may still be a crime.

    I'm fine with harsh treatment of terrorists, but with a reasonable definition of terrorist, and proper due process. A mere claim by an official that someone is a terrorist, or redefining jaywalking as a terrorist act isn't enough.

  8. Sevesteen, Are you hopeful that the Obama administration will straighten some of this stuff out?

  9. Hopeful? Depends on the definition. I would suspect that his administration will be less aggressive in prosecuting this particular category, but it is unlikely that he will give up any of the expanded powers that the Bush Administration has taken.

    Another problem is that prosecution of this sort of thing is at a much lower level, and I doubt his administration will intervene.