Yesterday’s post about Saudi Arabia resulted in an unexpected response: “be careful writing about Saudi Arabia” was the ominous message. I write – unexpected – because I’m used to being threatened all the time, especially when writing about El Paso politics and the drug trade. My Twitter account has been referred to the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Twitter handle once or twice. My Twitter advertising account was also suspended yesterday. More on that later. I’ve also received my share of legal threats over the years. I usually know when I’ll get some pushback from my posts as I write them, but my Saudi Arabia post didn’t even flicker on my pushback radar.
Yet, there it was, “be careful about writing about Saudi Arabia.”
The writer who sent me the warning was referring to my penchant for traveling to other countries. I like to visit other places. I was being warned that I could be in deep trouble if I visit Saudi Arabia. I’m unlikely to visit Saudi Arabia again because of my experience there and what I know about the country makes me want to stay away.
But as I digested the warning I thought about my travels to other countries.
Many readers have read the reports about Americans being detained in North Korea or other tyrannical countries. Most everyone is aware about the dangers journalists face in some countries. China and North Korea are countries I’m careful about because of their history of abusive extraterritorial applications of their laws. Extraterritorial application of law is when a country prosecutes someone who is not a citizen for a crime that is not a crime in the individual’s home country. For example, in some countries it is illegal to say bad things about the government.
In 2011, an American was arrested for making fun of the Thai king. Joe W. Gordon also known as Lerpong Wichaicommart was arrested as he was visiting Thailand. Gordon was accused of disseminating “insults” through his blog. Gordon posted while living in the United States and his posts are legal in America. Joe Gordon was sentenced to two and half years in prison but was released under a royal pardon in 2012.
It was his blog posts, which are perfectly legal in America, that got him sent to prison.
Unfortunately, posting critiques of governments and national policies can lead to arrests by countries even though the “crime” wasn’t committed in the country.
The Israeli government is currently holding U.S. citizen Lara Alqasem.
The 22-year-old Florida native was detained at the Ben-Gurion airport last week. She was on her way to study at a Hebrew University. Alqasem was barred from entering Israel because she is accused of supporting the boycott of Israel.
The 2017 law prohibits allowing anyone from entering Israel if they have supported any boycott of Israel. Normally, Israel immediately deports anyone it does not allow into the country.
However, Lara Alqasem appealed her deportation. Two courts have ruled that Alqasem should not be allowed entry into the country because she previously belonged to Students for Justice in Palestine. She was president of her university’s chapter. The Israeli Supreme Court is reviewing her case.
China, North Korea, Thailand or Israel are not the only countries that apply extraterritorial prosecutions of foreigners not living in their countries. The United States and Spain have also prosecuted people in other countries for crimes not criminal in their countries.
In 2001, the United States arrested Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian citizen, in Las Vegas for violating the copyright of Adobe Systems. Sklyarov wrote a program that allowed the circumvention of the copy protection in Adobe’s eBook products. What Dmitry Sklyarov was accused of was legal in his country of citizenship, Russia and where he lived. He was in Las Vegas delivering a speech at a conference and no criminal activity was levied against him while he was visiting the United States.
Ultimately, the charges against him were dropped and he returned to Russia about six months later.
These cases demonstrate that what may be legal in the country you live in, or the country of one’s citizenship does not mean that someone can’t be prosecuted for a crime in another country.
This is especially true of freedom of speech.
As a blogger, I avail myself of the right to freedom of speech.
But because the Internet knows no borders, my commentary may create problems for me in other countries. For the most part, prosecutions for extraterritorial transgressions happen when someone puts themselves under the authority of that government by traveling to that country.
However, there are numerous examples of countries taking extrajudicial prosecutions to an extreme.
Saudi Arabia is accused of the sending a team to Turkey to kidnap, interrogate, torture and kill someone.
In 1985, Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican citizen, was forcefully kidnapped and brought to the United States to face trial for his part in the killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States vs. Alavarez-Machain that the United States can kidnap individuals in other countries and bring them to trial in America.
I’m not concerned about Saudi Arabia and my post, but the warning made me consider the implications of voicing an opinion on the Internet and what my two decades of blogging may cause me when I travel.
My Twitter Advertising Suspension
Apparently criticizing Saudi Arabia is not permissible on Twitter either.
I posted a reminder on Twitter about how 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
Soon after that I asked a question about being certified to run political advertisements on Twitter. My Twitter advertising account was suspended soon after. The reason? According to the email, my account contains inappropriate content. I have asked numerous times what the violating content is, and the responses have been that the suspension stands until I remove the offensive content. The problem is that my post yesterday was the only post I have made in days and therefore I do not see how it violates their policies.
If it is my Saudi Arabia post, than America has a more serious problem than any of us thought. I will update you in the following days as I continue through the Twitter algorithmic process.
Well, Amigo … El Muchaco George Bush 42 (?) kissed the Rolls ASS. ring,
and camels. George and sons really believe in keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. As for you friend … the towel heads just might be interested
in making you the head less rider yelling on the MEXICAN border – LA MIGRA IS COMING, LA MIGRA IS COMING!
There is more to the Bush connection than meets the eye. The following article was published in the online version of the Wall Street Journal on Sept 28, 2001, and I made a copy and saved it because it took some courage on the part of the WSJ to publish something like this so soon after 9/11, when the country was lining up at the door of the Whitehouse to kiss GWB’s ring. Judge for yourself.
The Aftermath of Terror:
Bin Laden Family Is Tied to U.S. Group
Saudi Clan Has Connections to Some of the Biggest Names in Republican
By Daniel Golden and James Bandler in Boston, and Marcus Walker in Hamburg, Germany
The Asian Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 2001, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
If the U.S. boosts defense spending in its quest to stop Osama bin Laden’s alleged terrorist activities, there may be one unexpected beneficiary: Mr. bin Laden’s family.
Among its far-flung business interests, the well-heeled Saudi Arabian clan — which says it is estranged from Osama — is an investor in a fund established by Carlyle Group, a well-connected Washington merchant bank specializing in buyouts of defense and aerospace companies.
Through this investment and its ties to Saudi royalty, the bin Laden family has become acquainted with some of the biggest names in the Republican Party. In recent years, former U.S. President George Bush , ex-Secretary of State James Baker and ex-Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci have made the pilgrimage to the bin Laden family ‘s headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Bush makes speeches on behalf of Carlyle Group and is senior adviser to its Asian Partners fund, while Mr. Baker is its senior counselor. Mr. Carlucci is the group’s chairman.
Osama is one of more than 50 children of Mohammed bin Laden, who built the family’s $5 billion business, Saudi Binladin Group, largely with construction contracts from the Saudi government. Osama worked briefly in the business and is believed to have inherited as much as $50 million from his father in cash and stock, although he doesn’t have access to the shares, a family spokesman says. Because his Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994, Mr. bin Laden is ineligible to own assets in the kingdom, the spokesman added.
The bin Laden family has long disavowed Osama, and has cooperated fully with several federal investigations into his activities. The family business, headed by Osama’s half-brother Bakr bin Laden, epitomizes the U.S.-Saudi alliance that the suspected terrorist often rails against. After the 1996 truck bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, Saudi Binladin Group built military barracks and airfields for U.S. troops.
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued subpoenas to banks used by the bin Laden family seeking records of family dealings, a person familiar with the matter said. This person said the subpoenas weren’t an indication the FBI had found any suspicious behavior by the family. A family spokesman said he had no knowledge of the subpoenas but that the family welcomes them and has nothing to hide.
People familiar with the family’s finances say the bin Ladens do much of their banking with National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia and with the London branch of Deutsche Bank AG. They also use Citigroup Inc. and ABN Amro, the people said.
“If there were ever any company closely connected to the U.S. and its presence in Saudi Arabia, it’s the Saudi Binladin Group,” says Charles Freeman, president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington nonprofit concern that receives tens of thousands of dollars a year from the bin Laden family . “They’re the establishment that Osama’s trying to overthrow.”
Mr. Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, says he has spoken to two of Osama’s brothers since hijacked airplanes rammed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. They told him, he says, that the FBI has been “remarkably sensitive, tactful and protective” of the family during the current crisis, recognizing its longstanding friendship with the U.S.
A Carlyle executive said the bin Laden family committed $2 million through a London investment arm in 1995 in Carlyle Partners II Fund, which raised $1.3 billion overall. The fund has purchased several aerospace companies among 29 deals. So far, the family has received $1.3 million back in completed investments and should ultimately realize a 40% annualized rate of return, the Carlyle executive said.
But a foreign financier with ties to the bin Laden family says the family’s overall investment with Carlyle is considerably larger. He called the $2 million merely an initial contribution. “It’s like plowing a field,” this person said. “You seed it once. You plow it, and then you reseed it again.”
The Carlyle executive added that he would think twice before accepting any future investments by the bin Ladens. “The situation’s changed now,” he said. “I don’t want to spend my life talking to reporters.”
A U.S. inquiry into bin Laden family business dealings could brush against some big names associated with the U.S. government. Former President Bush said through his chief of staff, Jean Becker, that he recalled only one meeting with the bin Laden family , which took place in November 1998. Ms. Becker confirmed that there was a second meeting in January 2000, after being read the ex-president’s subsequent thank-you note. “President Bush does not have a relationship with the bin Laden family ,” says Ms. Becker. “He’s met them twice.”
Mr. Baker visited the bin Laden family in both 1998 and 1999, according to people close to the family. In the second trip, he traveled on a family plane. Mr. Baker declined comment, as did Mr. Carlucci, a past chairman of Nortel Networks Corp., which has partnered with Saudi Binladin Group on telecommunications ventures.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with 10 of Osama’s brothers early in 2000 on a fund-raising trip for the Carter Center in Atlanta. According to John Hardman, executive director of the center, the brothers told Mr. Carter that Osama was completely removed from the family. After Mr. Carter and his wife followed up with breakfast with Bakr bin Laden in New York in September 2000, the bin Laden family gave $200,000 to the center. “We don’t have any reason to think there’s a connection” between Osama and the rest of the family, Mr. Hardman says.
During the past several years, the family’s close ties to the Saudi royal family prompted executives and staff from closely held New York publisher Forbes Inc. to make two trips to the family headquarters, according to Forbes Chairman Caspar Weinberger, a former U.S. secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. “We would call on them to get their view of the country and what would be of interest to investors.”
Mr. Weinberger said no trips to Saudi Arabia were planned. “If we went,” he said, “we may or may not call upon them. I don’t think the sins of the son should be visited on the father or the brother and the cousins and the aunts.”
There is no indication President George W. Bush has met any of the bin Ladens, but he was indirectly linked to one of them two decades ago. His longtime friend James W. Bath, who met Mr. Bush when they were both pilots in the Air National Guard, acted as a Texas business representative for Osama’s older brother, Salem bin Laden, from 1976 to 1988, when Salem died in a plane crash. Mr. Bath brought real-estate acquisitions and other deals to Salem bin Laden, an ebullient man who headed the family construction business. Mr. Bath generally received a 5% interest as his fee, and was sometimes listed as a trustee in related corporate documents. Mr. Bath acknowledged that during the same period he invested $50,000 in two funds controlled by Mr. Bush but said that stake was unrelated to his dealings with Mr. bin Laden.
Copyright © 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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