Obama's curious silence

J. Millard Burr
On August 10, President Obama signed into law HR2765 entitled "Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act."  This Act received unanimous approval in both the House and the Senate.  In the latter case, before being sent to the President for signature, it received the unanimous and bipartisan support of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
 
The so-called "Speech Act" was in large part based on New York State's "Libel Terrorism Protection Acct," which resulted from a lawsuit brought by New York author Rachel Ehrenfeld after her book "Funding Evil" was the subject of a 2004 libel suit brought by Khaled Bin Mahfouz -- the Saudi plutocrat and libel-tourist nonpareil -- in the London High Court.  Before his recent death, Bin Mahfouz had brought more that forty such lawsuits before that plaintiff-friendly Court, and he was totally successful in silencing the many critics of his infelicitous career that included claims of terrorist financing.  It must be admitted that Bin Mahfouz had five things working for him in London: He was rich; He was Arab; He was a flaming homosexual who made London his pied-a-terre; He had the tacit support of powerful Saudis; Finally, he was the beneficiary of a Western legal system that gave the plaintiff an inordinate advantage in the presentation of evidence. 
 
(Full disclosure: I was co-author of "Alms for Jihad," a book published by Cambridge University Press in 2008.  That work was also the subject of a Bin Mahfouz libel suit.  Cambridge University Press, which reportedly had a financial interest in a publishing house in Saudi Arabia, gave up without a fight.  Despite the urging of the authors who sought to contest the suit, the Press destroyed all copies of the book it had at hand.)
 
Ehrenfeld whose book was neither published nor sold in England, was fined and ordered to pay Bin Mahfouz's legal fees.  She refused.  In New York, she countersued Mahfouz on the grounds that the judgement mocked America's First Amendment protections of free speech.  In 2008, the New York State Legislature passed "Rachel's Law," which allowed New York courts to assume jurisdiction over foreign libel plaintiffs who sue New York authors and publishers in foreign courts.  Now, HR2765 expands that coverage to all States, and Congress has affirmed that the United States will no longer tolerate the threat of libel tourism.
 
HR2765 would seem on the face of it to have been a signal victory for American authors and for their free speech rights.  It would seem logical that the White House should have trumpeted its promulgation to the high heaven.  Instead, the Adminstration's silence has been deafening.  The Act was subject of no ceremony.  No photograph was released to the public, and only Representative Steve Cohen was present at its signing.  A White House press release of some forty words followed, and its innocuousness perhaps explains why the mainstrem media has not reported on the Act's passage.
 
Still, I am left to wonder: Is it possible that from beyond the grave Khaled Bin Mahfouz has won yet another victory for his patrons in Saudi Arabia? 

On August 10, President Obama signed into law HR2765 entitled "Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act."  This Act received unanimous approval in both the House and the Senate.  In the latter case, before being sent to the President for signature, it received the unanimous and bipartisan support of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
 
The so-called "Speech Act" was in large part based on New York State's "Libel Terrorism Protection Acct," which resulted from a lawsuit brought by New York author Rachel Ehrenfeld after her book "Funding Evil" was the subject of a 2004 libel suit brought by Khaled Bin Mahfouz -- the Saudi plutocrat and libel-tourist nonpareil -- in the London High Court.  Before his recent death, Bin Mahfouz had brought more that forty such lawsuits before that plaintiff-friendly Court, and he was totally successful in silencing the many critics of his infelicitous career that included claims of terrorist financing.  It must be admitted that Bin Mahfouz had five things working for him in London: He was rich; He was Arab; He was a flaming homosexual who made London his pied-a-terre; He had the tacit support of powerful Saudis; Finally, he was the beneficiary of a Western legal system that gave the plaintiff an inordinate advantage in the presentation of evidence. 
 
(Full disclosure: I was co-author of "Alms for Jihad," a book published by Cambridge University Press in 2008.  That work was also the subject of a Bin Mahfouz libel suit.  Cambridge University Press, which reportedly had a financial interest in a publishing house in Saudi Arabia, gave up without a fight.  Despite the urging of the authors who sought to contest the suit, the Press destroyed all copies of the book it had at hand.)
 
Ehrenfeld whose book was neither published nor sold in England, was fined and ordered to pay Bin Mahfouz's legal fees.  She refused.  In New York, she countersued Mahfouz on the grounds that the judgement mocked America's First Amendment protections of free speech.  In 2008, the New York State Legislature passed "Rachel's Law," which allowed New York courts to assume jurisdiction over foreign libel plaintiffs who sue New York authors and publishers in foreign courts.  Now, HR2765 expands that coverage to all States, and Congress has affirmed that the United States will no longer tolerate the threat of libel tourism.
 
HR2765 would seem on the face of it to have been a signal victory for American authors and for their free speech rights.  It would seem logical that the White House should have trumpeted its promulgation to the high heaven.  Instead, the Adminstration's silence has been deafening.  The Act was subject of no ceremony.  No photograph was released to the public, and only Representative Steve Cohen was present at its signing.  A White House press release of some forty words followed, and its innocuousness perhaps explains why the mainstrem media has not reported on the Act's passage.
 
Still, I am left to wonder: Is it possible that from beyond the grave Khaled Bin Mahfouz has won yet another victory for his patrons in Saudi Arabia?