Republicans Try to Halt Obama’s Immigration Authority

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

A new immigration bill in Congress, the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act, which a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on yesterday, has come under fire for a variety of reasons, from its, er, unusual name to its dramatic curtailment of the executive branch’s immigration prerogatives. As the Center for American Progress points out, the law would, among other things, prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from granting a waiver for the undocumented spouse of a soldier serving overseas to temporarily remain in the US. Perhaps its most radical feature, though, is its expiration date, which just happens to be January 21, 2013—the day after Inauguration Day.

Crazy coincidence? Not a chance. In a letter to congressional colleagues (PDF), the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) wrote, “Because of the Obama Administration’s record, it cannot be trusted with these powers.” He went on to urge, “Let’s remind the Obama Administration that the founding fathers put Congress in charge of setting the nation’s immigration policy.”

The move appears to be unprecedented: never before has Congress stripped executive powers from an incumbent administration exclusively. The closest parallel to this sort of administration-specific legislation would be the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, which the Radical Republicans passed to restrict Andrew Johnson’s authority to remove cabinet members without Congressional assent (and whose violation by Johnson served as the pretext for his impeachment). However, even that law didn’t sunset at the end of Johnson’s term and was only repealed 20 years later.

The HALT bill, of course, stands no chance of becoming law (there’s President Obama’s veto, should it come to that). Nonetheless, pursuing this legislation serves at least two purposes for Republicans, 25 of whom are HALT co-sponsors. First, hearings such as yesterday’s allow Republicans to portray the president as soft on illegal immigration, even as his administration deports record numbers of undocumented residents. Second, according to University of Pennsylvania political science professor Rogers Smith, anti-immigration advocates believe that maintaining a steady stream of legislation that says “we don’t want you and we’re going after you”—even if it doesn’t get enacted—can almost get rid of as many immigrants through attrition as actually passing those laws.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, responded to the Republicans’ efforts with a stinging rebuke. “This is not an attack on the presidency, but an attack on the president himself,” he said yesterday. “This is not an attack on the office of the president, this is an attack on Barack Obama himself.”

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Life of Bol: The Story of the NBA’s Tallest Player

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

When South Sudan became an independent country on July 9, dignitaries from around the world descended on the planet’s newest national capital, Juba. But even as Juba rejoiced, violence continued to rage, with South Sudanese and their Nuba allies dying not only at the hands of the northern government, which continued its bombing campaign in the border regions, but also as victims of fellow Southerners, caught up in ethnic and tribal rivalries that independence could not end.

The incongruence between the euphoria in the capital and the slaughter in the hinterlands would have seemed strangely familiar to the late NBA star Manute Bol. Like the homeland whose birth he never lived to see, Bol’s life—richly chronicled by Jordan Conn in his new Atavist e-book, The Defender—was filled with spectacular contradictions and turns of fate.

In order to wrap their heads around this ungainly 7-foot-7, barely 200-pound freak of nature from one of the most remote corners of the earth, many Americans relied on reductive simplifications: Bol was the NBA’s first African-born player, its tallest player ever, a human stick figure. When that didn’t suffice, they gravitated toward myth. To this day, perhaps the best-known anecdote about Bol is that, as a boy, he killed a lion. That story contributed to an only slightly less simplistic picture of Bol, one Conn describes as, “benevolent, fearless, almost superhuman.” And yet, to this day, it remains unclear whether the story about the lion is even true.

Conn’s account goes a long way toward reclaiming the man, in all his complexity, from his myth. Conn, a sports journalist from the San Francisco Bay Area, draws on extensive interviews with Bol’s family to offer a rare glimpse into Bol’s childhood and his path from the rural village of Turalei to the heights of NBA stardom in the late 1980s. In the NBA, Bol emerged as a shot-blocking machine with a seven-figure salary and endorsement deals with Nike and Toyota, beloved by teammates and fans for his defensive prowess and outlandish sense of humor.

But as Conn alludes to time and again, fatalism pervaded Bol’s life. While he made millions in the NBA, he struggled to find a wife among the bachelorettes of his Dinka tribe; the women’s families worried that a man of Bol’s size couldn’t possibly live very long. Bol seemed to share the sentiment, insisting that his firstborn be named Manute, a name reserved in Dinka culture for children whose siblings had died. Indeed, Bol had been bestowed the name after his mother delivered two sets of stillborn twins. Bol told his wife, “It will be okay to name him after me because I’m going to die young.”

For all his success, Bol repeatedly ran into trouble—with the law, with alcohol, and with an unwieldy body that was constantly breaking down. Forced from the game by injury after 10 seasons, he soon hit rock bottom. He headed home to Sudan in 1996 with less than $100,000 in savings. (He had pissed away much of the rest on gambling and booze.)

The money didn’t last. Soon Bol was broke, rheumatic, and suspected of espionage. He became desperate to return to the US. Eventually, he did—as a refugee. But the man who returned was a shadow of his former self. Needing cash, he went on Fox’s Celebrity Boxing 2 to fight William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Bol had always been a curiosity, but for the first time, Conn writes, he’d become a “laughingstock.”

And yet, as fate continued to pummel Bol—he nearly died in 2004 when a drunken cab driver veered off the road—he consistently found redemption in politics. He donated millions to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the main rebel force fighting the Khartoum government, and helped raise millions more for aid to refugees.

Bol again returned to Sudan after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 officially ended the civil war. It’s never entirely clear from Conn’s narrative what made Bol so committed to activism—perhaps it helped give meaning to an otherwise wayward life—but whatever it was, Bol devoted himself unreservedly. He built a school in his hometown and traversed the countryside to drum up support for the January 2011 referendum on secession. Last June, he succumbed to kidney failure at just 47 years of age. Seven months later, his countrymen voted for independence.

Conn tells us “Bol lived a life befitting a man of such outsized body.” But the takeaway image is not of a giant, lion-killing superhuman. Instead, we see an all-too-human figure, marked by flaws and misfortune, yet able to achieve some small measure of triumph in the end. For Bol’s newly independent homeland to survive in the face of formidable obstacles, it will almost surely have to navigate a similar path.

Could Going Green Actually Help Mitt Romney?

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

Mitt Romney’s confession several weeks back that he believes humans contribute to global warming led some pundits to prophesize doom for his presidential prospects. For Rush Limbaugh, it was “bye bye nomination.” Indeed, almost the entire Republican field seems to have concluded that the only viable political option is to sneer at climate change science, previous statements to the contrary be damned.

But according to a new study (PDF) out of Stanford, Romney might just be onto something. Not only do Americans overwhelmingly believe that addressing global warming should be a federal government priority, candidates risk alienating voters more when they deny climate change than when they take a green position on the issue.

For the study, researchers polled potential voters’ likelihood of supporting a hypothetical Senate candidate based on a series of policy-related quotes attributed to him or her. In some calls, one of the quotes attributed to the “candidate” indicated a green position on climate change (belief in global warming, support for investments in renewable energy). In others, the candidate was attributed a non-green position (“climate science is junk science,” “cap and trade is a job killer”). In still others, the topic was never mentioned.

Unsurprisingly, candidates with green positions fared best among Democrats, with 74 percent indicating they would definitely or probably vote for them versus 53 percent for “silent” candidates and 37 percent for not-green candidates. Among Independents the breakdown was 79/63/44, and among Republicans, 78/83/76. In other words, Republicans were slightly more likely to support a candidate with a green position than one with a non-green position, although the difference between all three Republican numbers is statistically insignificant.

All of this bodes well for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor, viewed so warily by conservatives, continues to hold a commanding lead in the polls without having to—at least in this case—tether himself to the rightmost fringes of his party. Others might consider following his lead.

Actor Michael Rapaport’s Rap Quest

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

Actor Michael Rapaport, whose face you might recognize from TV shows like Friends, Boston Public, and Prison Break (and whose tough-guy drawl your kids might know from video games like Grand Theft Auto and Scarface: The World is Yours), recalls with infectious enthusiasm the first time he heard A Tribe Called Quest. “It was on the radio in ’87 or ’88. I heard [front man] Q-Tip on the Jungle Brothers song promo, and I was like, “Oh shit, that’s A Tribe Called Quest!….The flow was so playful and adolescent.”

Rapaport, already a hip-hop fan, was an instant convert. He began following the group (hereafter abbreviated ATCQ) almost religiously as it took off over the next decade before disbanding in 1998. In 2008, presented with the chance to direct a documentary about the group, Rapaport leaped. The compelling result, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, which opens in select theaters July 8, is part homage to Rapaport’s musical heroes and part dissection of the group’s tumultuous dynamics.

But things got messy this past December, after the band received a copy of the final cut and Q-Tip tweeted: “I am not in support of the a tribe called quest documentary.” Of Tribe’s four members, only Phife Dawg showed up for the film’s January premiere at Sundance. In March, the other three—Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White—went on MTV to voice their displeasure over Rapaport’s refusal to grant them producer credits and his disregard of their editorial input. For all the drama, Rapaport seemed nothing but upbeat as we sat down in a San Francisco hotel conference room to talk about growing up hip-hop, the rift with Q-Tip, and the type of music he won’t let his kids listen to.

Rapaport and Phife Dawg chumpchampion/Flickr

Mother Jones: Up until this point, you’ve only acted. What made you want to try your hand at directing?

Michael Rapaport: I’ve wanted to direct a movie for like the last 10 years. I’m fascinated by directing. When ATCQ broke up, I said somebody should do a documentary on them. And when I’d see Q-Tip—whom I know a little bit—I’d always say, “Is the Tribe gonna make more music?” I wasn’t satisfied with them not making music. In 2006, they performed in L.A. There was such a great vibe backstage, and it reminded me of those photos you see of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan when they were young. And that night, I was like, I’m going to do a documentary about ATCQ. I didn’t get it together in 2006, but in 2008, I found out they were headlining the “Rock the Bells” tour, and I reached out. And it was literally like, on a Monday I asked and then on Saturday I started shooting the movie.

MJ: You’ve said that you wanted to portray the group in a positive light. Was it a challenge balancing that with making sure you offered an accurate representation?

MR: Positive doesn’t mean unflawed: It means human and vulnerable. If you make a film and you’re portraying the subject with respect, you’re gonna do it in an honest way. Were there certain things that I didn’t feel were dignified enough to make it into the movie? Yeah. Were there certain things where it got over the top and there’s too much information? Yeah. But what they did musically and for the fans was what was going to set the tone.

MJ: What do you make of all this controversy around the film?

MR: It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. I think it’s completely unnecessary. I had to get to a point where I was like, “I’m making the movie that I want to make. I’m telling the story that I want to tell. And just because I’m making the movie about you, I’m not making the movie for you.” That’s an important thing. I didn’t make this movie for ATCQ. I made this movie for myself and because I’m a fan. I wasn’t a hired gun. I sought them out; they didn’t seek me out to direct this film. Because if they were seeking out a director, I wouldn’t be the person they’d come to. They’d go to probably a more-established filmmaker. I didn’t make this movie to appease Q-Tip.

MJ: What were the terms that you and the Tribe agreed to? Q-Tip claimed that they included the band members being named as producers.

MR: That’s not true. They never brought it up in 2 1/2 years. Never. I’ll go to court, I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles. Then, on December 19, they said, we’re ready to sign off but we want producer credit, which I thought wasn’t kosher. Because number one, they didn’t produce the movie. Number two: Documentary subjects, most of the time—and in the kind of documentary I was trying to do and that I did—shouldn’t be the producers.

MJ: But the group is now listed as a producer.

MR: Because I got into all this other shit. I said, “You want your producer credits. Here, take your producer credits.” It doesn’t change any of the control. It doesn’t change anything.

MJ: How’s your relationship like with the band these days?

MR: I had an email exchange with Q-Tip about two months ago, but Sundance was the last time I spoke to him on the phone. I saw Ali at the Tribeca Film Festival—didn’t really talk to him. Phife is coming in today—we’re cool. I haven’t talked to Jarobi since the first time I screened the movie for him.

MJ: So what are the odds that ATCQ will make more music?

MR: Based on everything I know, and I know a lot, I’d say ATCQ is not going to make more music. Do I think they could? Absolutely. Do I think would be very exciting? Absolutely. I think it would be as exciting for hip-hop fans if ATCQ made a full album as for classic-rock fans if Led Zeppelin made an album. ATCQ, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane—they’re as important to us as Jimi Hendrix. When a lost Jimi Hendrix album comes out, people buy that shit. It’s the same thing. If some Tribe shit, some good Tribe shit from 1991, came out that was not used, people would be curious what the fuck it is. Not to say it’s gonna sell a million records, but fans would be excited. And if it’s good it will sell a lot. Or it will get bootlegged a lot. Or stolen a lot.

MJ: So how did a white Jewish boy like you get into hip-hop?

MR: My father was a program director at a radio station in New York City in the ’70s. It was called WKTU Mellow 92. They played mellow rock during the ’70s. Around ’77 or ’78, he made the station switch to disco, and it went from the bottom of the ratings to the top. And in 1979, when I was nine, he brought home an orange promotional copy of “Rapper’s Delight,” and I just fell in love instantly. After that, he brought Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and all these different records. I also loved basketball, and my best friends were from Brooklyn and Harlem through basketball. And we were kids. They loved it, I loved it. We’d hear it in the streets. We’d listen to it on the radio on Friday and Saturday nights. As you got a little older, you’d stay up and listen to it on the radio. It was just happenstance. I got into it because my father happened to bring home a Sugarhill Gang record because he worked at a radio station. After that, that was the only music I explored.

MJ: Tell me about the New York hip-hop scene back then.

MR: At first, because I was so young, it was all the radio and people’s tapes. When I was like 15, I started going to hip-hop clubs—I saw KRS-One, MC Serch, [DJ] Red Alert, all these people. And these clubs were really big, really violent. There were fights all the time—people getting robbed, all this shit. And there would be great people performing on stage. You’d hear the DJs, and songs would break. You know, you’re 15 years old and think you’re so smart. You’re in a club talking to girls and shit, but I was a fucking kid. But at 15, being exposed to things like that was a big deal and an exciting thing. It really shaped a lot of things for me—the music, being around it, exploring the music; it really was a unique experience. And at that time, there weren’t that many white kids around, so I was exposed to so many things that I wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for hip-hop music and basketball.

MJ: What was it about ATCQ’s music that resonated with you?

MR: What resonated was the production—the use of samples that were very familiar to me. And then Q-Tip’s voice, his flow, and Phife’s voice—he sounded like this little kid rapping. [Imitates Phife] “Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor?” And probably like the third song I got exposed to was “Bonita Applebum.” And that song—what he was saying? And then you’re like, Oh shit, he’s talking about a girl with a fat ass! And they were kind of like, hippies. They had braids, and they’re wearing dashikis, and they seemed like they were smoking pot. So those images and those sounds that were coming from them were what made them stick out. And what they were saying—talking about date rape and prophylactics. It was all these funny innuendos and messages in the music, but it wasn’t at all contrived.

MJ: Part of the band’s appeal seems to have been its gentler approach. In the film, Monie Love describes ACTQ’s philosophy as, “We don’t have to ‘Fuck Tha Police.'”

MR: I wouldn’t say it was gentler. The music was definitely pure hip-hop, but there was some sort of inclusiveness. This was a word that came up a lot when I was doing the movie. They had this consciousness but it wasn’t bang-you-over-the head like Public Enemy was. It was emotional music. And as a teenager you’re very emotional. There was just something about them, that it was for everybody.

MJ: How do you view hip-hop’s sociopolitical impact?

MR: Socially, hip-hop has done more for racial camaraderie in this country than any one thing. ‘Cause guys like you, guys like me, and my kids—everyone under 45 either grew up loving hip-hop or hating hip-hop, but everyone under 45 grew up very aware of hip-hop. So when you’re a white kid and you’re listening to this music and you’re being exposed to it every day on MTV, black people become less frightening. This is just a reality. It’s so much a part of our vernacular, and it’s all spawned from hip-hop. It’s done so much for everybody, and softened that pallet for, like, Obama. It’s a big deal. What hip-hop has done bringing people together is enormous.

MJ: What do you think of modern hip-hop?

MR: Honestly, I’m not listening to much of what’s going on today. There are a couple people I listen to. I love Mos Def. I love Common. I love Outkast. I like Jay Electronica. What’s changed is that there’s not as much diversification in the sound. I’m aware of the songs that come out and the artists. But nothing really speaks to me from the younger artists. The bragging and boasting has gone so fucking far.

MJ: Are your kids hip-hop fans?

MR: Oh yeah, they love it.

MJ: Same stuff you do?

MR: They know more of the new stuff than me. But they know the difference between Biggie and Waka Flocka. They have a good ear for it, which I’m happy about. Because one of my things as a parent is: You can watch shit TV—there’s no way around that. You’re gonna watch shit movies. But in my house and in my car, there will be no shit music played!

MJ: There’s a YouTube clip of you rapping on an episode of The War at Home. How’s your freestyling?

MR: My freestyling ability is nonexistent. I can’t even write a verse if I tried to sit here and write one. Being a good rapper is hard to do. I’m a good Rapaport, but that’s about it.

MJ: I read on Wikipedia that you got expelled from high school. Care to elaborate?

MR: I got “asked to leave” high schools. I went to nine different schools from the third grade to the twelfth grade. I was just very disruptive.

MJ: Anything in particular?

MR: It was really just disruptiveness. I was a class clown on steroids. That’s what I was. I was like the Barry Bonds of class clowns.

MJ: So what’s up next for you?

MR: I’d like to direct a narrative film this year. I’m always gonna be an actor, so I’m trying to figure out what I’m gonna do next. I would love to make a documentary again someday, but I need to take a break from it. But you know, I’m happy I made the movie. I’m proud of the movie. I’m proud that there’s never been another documentary about any hip-hop group ever that’s come out in theaters. And it’s all on the strength of ATCQ. To be sitting here doing an official press junket with a poster there that’s really nice-looking for a movie that’s coming out is fucking cool, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

MJ: And can we count on seeing you in the next NBA All-Star Celebrity Game?

MR: I plan on going to the next celebrity game, winning the MVP, and then announcing my retirement.

And in His 84th Year, the Pope Tweet-eth

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 AD at 6:07 PM Vatican time—12:07 PM Eastern Standard Time—Pope Benedict XVI tweeted. The inaugural papal tweet, announcing a new online information portal, came from the Vatican’s account, @news_va_en, and was sent by the 84-year-old pontiff via iPad! It reads: “Dear Friends, I just launched News.va Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

Okay, so it’s not the most barnstorming entry onto the social media scene ever, but props for the effort. I think I speak for all avid papal observers when I say I await His Holiness’ next tweet with barely contained anticipation. In honor of the historic occasion, here’s a brief survey of some other venerable institutions and figures’ belated first steps into the brave new world of modern technology.

2010: The Dalai Lama becomes a tweep.

Turns out the Pope was soundly beaten to the Twitter punch by another His Holiness. The Dalai Lama joined the Twitterverse last February. And unlike the Pope, the Dalai Lama has his own account, from which he regularly imparts spiritual wisdom. His most recent sagely words? “Compassion is a deep desire to see others relieved of suffering; love is the other facet, a strong wish to see others happy.” And talk about popular! @DalaiLama has over 1.96 million followers.

2009: POTUS gets email.

Presidential email accounts had always been a no-no. The Secret Service feared hacking; lawyers feared public review and subpoenas. But the tech-savvy president-elect, compulsively attached to his BlackBerry during the 2008 campaign, was having none of it, insisting that someone would have to “pry it from his hands” to get him to give it up. Ultimately, Obama got his way after agreeing to a series of security upgrades, and now uses the device to keep in contact with a small circle of friends and family members.

1986: Cameras enter the Senate chamber.

The Senate has had something of a schizophrenic relationship with television over the years. TV cameras regularly broadcast committee hearings beginning in 1947, and plans were quietly hatched in 1974 to televise the anticipated Nixon impeachment trial. However, Congress remained firmly opposed to opening up the Senate floor to television. Finally, in 1986, fearing itself overshadowed by the already-televised House, the Senate agreed to a three-month trial run, soon after which it voted to make TV cameras a permanent fixture.

1965: Dylan goes electric.

After eschewing the new high-octane electric sound popular among his contemporaries in favor of folksy, acoustic sets during his early years, Bob Dylan famously “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. Pulling out his electric guitar to play “Maggie’s Farm,” Dylan synced up with a-changin’ times, but also angered the Newport audience, who shouted at the folk legend for selling out. Dylan didn’t appear at the Newport Festival for another 37 years.

c. 1905: Edison (grudgingly) accepts alternating current.

Thomas Edison, whose General Electric profited handsomely from direct current’s monopoly on the electricity market in the late 19th century, launched an all-out war against Nikola Tesla’s efforts to introduce alternating current. Attempting to discredit AC as dangerous, Edison staged several executions with it, including the infamous 1903 electrocution of Topsy, an elephant from a Coney Island zoo who had crushed three of her handlers to death. Sure enough, the 6,600 volts did the trick, but AC was quickly recognized as the future of electricity. Edison would eventually conclude the same, and GE soon began using it as well.

1896: Militaries pick up the telephone.

Militaries everywhere were slow to embrace the telephone in the late 1800s. More than 20 years after its invention, the British installed the first military telephone switchboard in 1896, although European armies continued to employ telegraphs and pigeon messaging well into the 20th century.

Shot Across the Bow at US Flotilla Passengers

Cross posted from Mother Jones.

In a last-ditch effort to deter American participation in the Gaza flotilla redux—the Audacity of Hope containing 36 American passengers is set to embark from Greece any day now—the US government sent out a warning about the possible repercussions of jumping onboard. On Friday, the State Department declared “that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate US civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.” But critics say there’s no evidence that any of the passengers intend to deliver anything to Hamas, and that the Obama administration is overstepping its boundaries.

The warning, according to American University law professor Stephen Vladeck, constitutes an unmistakable threat of potential prosecution under the so-called “material support” law—18 U.S.C. 2339B for you legal buffs out there. First passed in 1996, it has been perhaps the Justice Department’s favorite tool for prosecuting terrorism cases since 9/11. The statute prohibits the knowing provision of “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” In 2001, the Patriot Act expanded the definition of “material support or resources” to include “expert advice or assistance.”

Sounds reasonable enough. But the material support law has repeatedly been deployed to silence activists whose activities the government disapproves of. Over the past year, the FBI has targeted a group of Midwestern activists involved in antiwar and trade union movements. It raided seven homes in September and has since issued 23 subpoenas in connection to what the FBI told the Associated Press is an investigation related to material support of terrorism. Based on FBI documents inadvertently left behind at the house of antiwar activist Mick Kelly, the probe appears to have been triggered by trips activists took several years ago to Colombian territory under the control of FARC, a designated foreign terrorist organization. One of them, Jessica Rae Sundin, whose trip occurred during negotiations between FARC and the Colombian government, told the AP she traveled to the town where peace talks were being held via a Colombian military plane.

The documents discovered by Kelly in April have led many to believe that the investigation is yet another FBI fishing expedition into the activities of legal activists and organizations (according to a 2010 Department of Justice review, previous targets (PDF) have included a Quaker activist, a Catholic peace magazine, and members of Greenpeace). So far, at least seven members of Congress have written to the Attorney General to express concern that the government is targeting people based on their political views.

When asked if the State Department had evidence to suggest that any of the flotilla passengers did, in fact, intend to “deliver material support or other resources” to Palestinian terrorists, a department spokesperson responded that she did not. She instead referred me to a brief allusion in Monday’s press briefing regarding concerns about past arms smuggling into Israel.

Flotilla passengers claim that their only aim is to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which they contend is illegal, and deliver humanitarian aid to the Gazan people. Yet given the government’s track record and expansive interpretation of the material support law, Professor Vladeck cautioned that, regardless of the activists’ intent, Friday’s statement should be taken seriously. “One can never take a warning as proof that a prosecution will happen, but it’s certainly a very strong indication that the State Department will refer any such cases to the Justice Department,” he said, adding, “It would be odd for them to issue such a warning and not be serious.”