‘Terrorist TV’ as Financial Crimes Enabler?

On Sunday NPR ran an item on the prosecution of Javed Iqbal for allegedly providing supposedly illegal access to al-Manar, Hezbollah’s satellite channel. The item summarized remarks from a spokesman for the Coalition Against Terrorist Media as follows:

He says the most dangerous thing aired are the calls to send money to Hezbollah. Al-Manar, he says, sometimes broadcasts Hezbollah bank account numbers to make wire transfers easier. That, he says, is when Al-Manar stops being a media outlet protected by First Amendment rights and becomes an active operational component of a terrorist group.

And, depending on the facts, he may have a point: If indeed the station isn’t just a news channel but a fundraising conduit for transactions prohibited by IEEPA, then it’s an open question whether it falls under the news exception to IEEPA. I doubt that one example of flashing a bank account number on screen would suffice to pollute the entire station (although the law in this area is so uncertain that I can’t even be absolutely certain of that); but it is very plausbile there is some level of regular and routinized fundraising conduct that would suffice to take al-Manar outside the news exception to IEEPA.

Convicting Mr. Iqbal on a conspiracy charge based on these facts ought to require that he know about the illegal conduct — otherwise he’s a bit like the rental car agency that rents to a bank robber — but this is the first account of the case I’ve hear that makes the government’s case sound like it might be going somewhere.

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