Ali Shukri Amin is 17-years old, a minor under American law, yet he was just sentenced to eleven years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced as an adult for providing material support for terrorists. This is a crime defined in any way the government wants it to be. Amin had a twitter account, @amreekiwitness, devoted to the group Islamic State, ISIS. He also helped a friend travel to Syria in hopes of joining ISIS. That is the substance of his crime, online opinion and facilitating travel.
The crime of providing material support for terrorists only came into existence with the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. There are now people serving very long prison terms for providing humanitarian aid, translating documents, sending money abroad, or expressing views in support of nations or groups the United States classifies as terrorist. These crimes are vaguely defined and are often of little consequence to ISIS or any other organization the federal government designates as an enemy.
The prosecutions of Amin and others are meant to make the case for continuing the “war on terror.” This is actually a war of American terror used to justify endless interventions around the world. The Department of Justice would have us believe that a teenager tweeting about making donations to ISIS via bitcoin posed a serious threat. Of course, the United States government is the biggest threat to life in the world. It is the most violent organization with the largest number of kills.
The application of the material support for terror statute is used to capture innocent or harmless people. Some are hoodwinked by agent provocateurs or, like Amin, pose little or no danger. Most importantly, ISIS would not be a credible force in Syria or Libya were it not for American machinations. The United States created the monster and now wants to punish anyone who interacts with it.
At one point Amin, who lived in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, had over 4,000 twitter followers who conversed about a variety of issues, including protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
“They cower in fear of us whilst they massacre and oppress you! It’s time to strike fear into the hearts of the oppressors. #FergusonUnderIS”
“May be time to organize Muslims in America upon haqq and mobilize to #Ferguson. Defend the oppressed, start jihad here.”
While Amin and thousands of others expressed their outrage about deadly police brutality, the State Department actually engaged in online debates with the teenager. A bizarre social media program called Think Again, Turn Away is a useless attempt to influence young Muslims who want to fight imperialism through jihad. Aside from having a name reminiscent of a love song title, the effort allowed Amin to engage in argument with and troll the State Department. When the would-be jihad deprogrammers pointed out that ISIS “slaughters innocent people,” Amin had a ready and accurate retort:
“slaughter innocents? You mean like AbdurRahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year old boy not involved with any militants? or what about the thousands killed in drone strikes weekly that make the news? The thousands that don’t? you are nothing more than criminals who betray the Muslims you claim to defend across the globe, butchering them 1.7 million in Iraq, hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, left, right, everywhere. only an ignoramus who knows nothing about American foreign policy or any Muslim country could accept your lies.”
A few months after these embarrassing interactions, Amin’s mother and his imam unwisely reported him to the FBI in an effort to stop his online involvement with ISIS. He would not have been discovered otherwise.
Killer cops roam the streets with no fear of federal prosecution, but a confused teenager is sent to prison because he holds and expresses opinions contrary to those of the government. Prosecutors use children to make names for themselves and climb the ladder in a corrupt system. American terror is not just carried out abroad with drone strikes and invasions, but it is carried out on a daily basis by the criminal injustice system.
While the Saudis, Israelis and their allies use American money and arms to target civilians for death, anyone who crosses over the thin line of expression is at risk of prosecution and many years in prison. The hypocrisy is stunning but not really surprising. This system will use a child to make its point clear. We live in a police state and anyone who dares to speak up against it is at risk of being made an example.
The federal government does not operate any juvenile facilities. Ali Shukri Amin is now in custody in an adult facility. One need not be a follower of ISIS to see that this is a gross injustice unworthy of a country which claims to be a democracy.