Protecting Our Journalists From Libel Terrorism
When we think about those fighting the war on terror, we of course first think of our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are on the front lines, risking their lives to protect our country. We also think about our local cops and firefighters and first responders. They are defending our cities, unearthing terrorist plots and rushing to the scene of attacks to save and rescue lives.
But every American has an obligation to do their part, in whatever way they can, to contribute to victory over Islamic fundamentalism. So while soldiers fight, cops protect, and even individual citizens who "see something" make sure to "say something," our journalists and authors discover and publish the truth about terrorists and their enablers the financiers, frontmen and terrorism-friendly regimes who provide the financial, logistical and political support and cover which enable the terrorists to exist, operate and strike.
The 19 men who boarded airplanes on September 11, 2001 and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field were merely the tip of a long and elaborate sword aimed at the West, a worldwide network of moneymen, coordinators, facilitators, propagandists and apologists who compose the terrorist network which delivered those 19 men to American airports.
The ability of our journalists, authors and press to expose these enablers and inform the American people, to discover and report the truth, is the most important weapon we have in the war on terror. The information they unearth informs not just the general public, but policymakers who must make choices about strategies and tactics, resources and priorities, allies and adversaries, in how best to fight this war. Without their work, we are all merely groping around in the dark.
The terrorists and their enablers know this.
That’s why American journalists and authors who relentlessly and doggedly pursue the truth about terrorism networks are being met with a barrage of libel lawsuits in kangaroo courts on phony-baloney libel charges in overseas jurisdictions who don’t share our belief in freedom of speech or a free press.
England seems to be the enablers‘ favorite forum, perhaps because since it is a Western country we might expect it to have libel laws which reflect what we Americans assume to be common Western values about freedom of speech, and to give an English libel judgment the same stamp of approval we would give an American one. In fact, America’s commitment to free speech and a free press is unique in the world. English libel law has barely evolved over the centuries. Authors are guilty until proven innocent, lack of negligence on the part of the author is irrelevant, statements of opinion are hardly more protected than statements of fact, an author=s unsuccessful effort to prove the truth of a statement can bring punitive damages and libel is even punishable as a misdemeanor crime.
New York author Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has written extensively on terrorist financing, has experienced libel terrorism firsthand. Twenty-three copies of her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, were sold in England over the internet. Additionally, a chapter of her book was available for viewing on the website of an American television network. On that basis, she was sued for libel in England by a Saudi businessman whom she identified in her book as a terrorist enabler through his financial support of organizations with terrorist ties.
What’s shocking is not that an English court found against Dr. Ehrenfeld (not only was the deck stacked against her in any event but Dr. Ehrenfeld, as a matter of principle and financial inability to defend herself overseas, declined to show up for her show trial), but that New York’s courts have refused to recognize its jurisdiction over the Saudi businessman in order to hear Dr. Ehrenfeld’s suit to declare this libel judgment unenforceable in New York. Dr. Ehrenfeld lives and works in New York, her assets are in New York, and the English judgment requires her to take actions in New York to prevent her book and its assertions from ever reaching England again.
As Americans and as New Yorkers, we must to act to protect our journalists, authors and press.
Legislation which I have authored in New York with Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos will overrule New York’s highest court and give Dr. Ehrenfeld the opportunity to make her case here in the United States. It will give New Yorks journalists, authors and press the tools they need to continue to fearlessly expose the truth about terrorism and its enablers, and will ensure that New York, and America, remain a beacon of free speech and a free press. Other states will, we hope, follow New York’s lead, and Congress itself will act to protect the entire country from the scourge of libel terrorism.