Thursday, March 24, 2005

Sovereignty and the 1st Amendment

I have been following the lawsuits filed in British courts against publishers in the US, whose books have never been published in the UK nor distributed there. Such is one case profiled in Editor and Publisher .

Sheik Khalid Salim a bin Mahfouz has allegedly endowed and arranged financing for a number of Islamic charity organizations that have been accused of funding terrorism. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Muwafaq Foundation “transferred millions to Mr. bin Laden.” According to Ehrenfeld, “There are currently over 10 lawsuits outstanding by numerous plaintiffs in the United States claiming billions of dollars in damages from Mahfouz's alleged involvement in financing the 9/11 attack of the World Trade Center."

On his Web site, Mahfouz says he is "increasingly angered" over accusations such as Ehrenfeld's. "There is no truth to these reports," reads the statement. "We condemn terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations."

In an attempt to circumvent the First Amendment protection of American writers like Ehrenfeld, Mahfouz has successfully sued or settled with over 30 publications and authors for defamation and libel in British courts for years. "That many legal actions brought in a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction evidences a consistent campaign by Mahfouz to silence any author, journalist, or publication who attempt to analyze or document any role he may have had in funneling the money of the Saudi royal family or wealthy Saudi families to terrorist activities," Korenstein points out.

Now comes this account via Ed Morrissey." Now British courts have laid claim to the entire Internet for libel and slander cases and Arnold Schwarzenegger has become their first target:" [ed.note. apparently the LAT has also been named in the suit]

Schwarzenegger, who is now governor of California, had challenged a ruling by a senior High Court official giving Anna Richardson permission to serve proceedings on him out of the jurisdiction.

The decision today, by Mr Justice Eady, has cleared the way for a libel trial in London sometime this year.

Miss Richardson alleges she was libelled by Schwarzenegger and two campaign workers in an October 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times, which also appeared on the internet.

As Ed points out, the only outlet avaible for the LAT is via the internet for the online edition.
They do not publish in the UK, they have no UK Edition. This type of legal use of foreign courts to venue shop out of our jurisdictions promises to erode the 1st Amendment and the constitution and sovereignty of our country if allowed to stand. This also bodes ill for the internet and bloggers as well. Alarmist? I don't think so. The FEC is already coming after citizen pundits using the McCain /Feingold bill and the SCOTUS is using foreign law and customs to interpret our own constitution. See my posts here and here.
Ed should be read by all. He has been following this as closely as anyone including this post.

UPDATE: has the compleat FEC notice pertaining to internet communication. At first glance it look rather benign until you get to those devilish details and it seems downright scary as hell for our 1st Amendment. How in the hell the Campaign Finance bill was signed by Bush and found constitutional is beyond me.

UPATE:Democracy Project has the draft and a good overview of the FEC notice. Check this out and read it in depth.

UPDATE: The Captain has a more indepth look at the FEC notice and he seems to be more critical than some others and in my opinion, rightly so.