The U.S. State Department has informed the owner of a Virginia web-hosting business, that he is aiding and abetting terrorism by posting a video of the slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The threat comes about one month after the FBI told the owner that he could face obscenity charges for airing the slaying.
Theodore Hickman, president of ProHosters, contacted the ACLU of Virginia after an agent with the counter-terrorism division of the U.S. Department of State called to warn him that if he continued to post the video he could be found in violation federal anti-terrorism laws.
Attempts by the ACLU to reach the State Department agent by telephone have been unsuccessful, although messages have been left in his voice mail system. The ACLU mailed a letter to the agent this week requesting an explanation for Scott's call to Hickman. With the letter, the ACLU enclosed a copy of a recent federal court ruling in which the FBI and the Attorney General were enjoined from harassing a Web provider who had posted a fictional video of a takeover of Times Square.
After the FBI threatened Hickman in May, the ACLU received assurances from the agency that it would not to make any additional calls to ProHosters concerning the Pearl video
The ACLU maintains that the First Amendment protects ProHoster's right to show the video on its website.
'The video is neither obscene, as the FBI claims, nor does it aid terrorists, as the State Department maintains," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "It may be offensive, but neither the FBI nor the State Department are our arbiters of taste. I would feel far more secure if I thought my tax dollars were being spent fighting terrorism rather than censoring the Internet."
"We are disappointed that the State Department is ignoring our attempts to contact them," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "At least we were able to talk to the FBI, which admitted it was off-base when it threatened ProHosters with an obscenity lawsuit. That at least gave Mr.Hickman some solace. With the State Department, we have no idea what they are up to."
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022