President Barack Obama believes his re-election gives him a mandate to continue on his path to “fundamentally transform” America. He is well on his way to fundamentally transforming the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech to a more Sharia-friendly version.
The transformation is playing out before our eyes in the persecution of the producer of the anti-Islam video blamed by Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials for the Benghazi murders that took the lives of Ambassador John Christopher Stevens, Navy Seal Tyrone Woods and two other brave Americans. The day after Obama’s re-election victory lap, the video producer, Mark Basseley Youssef, was sentenced by a federal district court judge to one year in prison for violating the terms of his probation. The Obama administration had gone after Youssef relentlessly, using probation violations as a convenient pretext to arrest and prosecute him. The real goal was to punish Youssef for blasphemy against Islam – a crime under Sharia law.
The sorry record leading up to the Obama administration’s trashing of the First Amendment speaks for itself. On September 14, 2012 – three days after the Benghazi terrorist attack – a memorial service attended by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and family members of the fallen heroes was held at Andrews Air Force. When approached by the father of Navy Seal Woods, Clinton vowed to him that the Obama administration would “arrest and prosecute” the producer of the video. In her remarks at the service, she denounced the “awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with” as the cause of the violence.
On September 27th – barely two weeks after Clinton’s vow to “arrest and prosecute” the video producer – Youssef was arrested and held without bail on the trumped up grounds that he had violated his probation linked to a prior conviction for the non-violent crime of bank fraud.
Experts on the subject have said that prison detention without bail while waiting for a probation violation hearing is highly unusual. It is even more extraordinary in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year concluding that severe over-crowding in California’s state prisons was unconstitutional and ordering the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce its prison population. Are federal prisons in California and elsewhere so uncrowded that they have room to house routine non-violent criminals who have violated their probations? Not if you believe a report issued last month by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that the federal prisons are dangerously over-crowded.
However, the case of the producer of the anti-Muslim video is no ordinary case. Sharia law demands punishment for insulting Islam and its prophet. And President Obama had to demonstrate that he was following up on his promise to the Muslim world during his June 2009 Cairo speech that, as president, he would “fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2012, Obama blamed the “crude and disgusting video” for sparking “outrage throughout the Muslim world.” He declared: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Youssef provided the perfect foil for the Obama administration’s battle to cleanse America of blasphemy against Islam. It wouldn’t let an obstacle like the First Amendment protection of Youssef’s right of free speech to get in its way. As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote:
“The distrust shown by many free speech advocates, including myself, is that the Administration has a checkered history of claiming to support free speech while supporting the creation of an international blasphemy standard. The federal agents quickly moved against the filmmaker after the controversy. Probation rules are written in a way that make it relatively easy to find violations. The immediate scrutiny left many with the impression that the Obama Administration wanted to show Arab allies that the filmmaker was under arrest while professing a commitment to free speech.”
Sure enough, the Obama administration brought in an experienced prosecutor on the case to make sure that Youssef would be punished for blasphemy indirectly by using the artifice of a probation violation.
Robert Dugdale, the criminal division chief for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, was assigned to handle the video producer’s case. Based on the type of high profile cases he has handled during his long career, probation violations would seem way below his pay grade. Unless, of course, Youssef’s prosecution by a high profile prosecutor was meant to send a very public message to the intended audience – the Muslim world.
Dugdale wanted to exact a pound of flesh for Youssef’s probation violations. He threatened Youssef with a two-year prison sentence, which exceeded the twenty-one month sentence imposed on Youssef for his underlying bank fraud conviction – most of which Youssef had already served in jail before being released on probation. Rather than risk a longer sentence than what he was originally put away for, Youssef bowed to the inevitable and took a deal for a one-year term.
On November 7th – the day after the election – U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder, a Bill Clinton nominee, sentenced Youssef to one year in prison.
Youssef is in jail so that Obama can turn to the Muslim world and say that he takes their concerns about denigrating their religion seriously. Hillary Clinton can rest a little easier, knowing that she kept her vow to Tyrone Woods’ father that the video producer would be arrested and prosecuted. Meanwhile, the killers themselves have yet to be brought to justice and the hateful Islamist ideology that is at the root of the violence remains alive and well.
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