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Download al Qaeda manuals from the DoJ, go to prison?

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University faculty and students have subsequently responded with great alarm, viewing it as an attack on academic freedoms. However, the protest was complicated by the intervention of an unnamed university official acting as spokesman, who explained to the press that there was "no reasonable rationale" for the clerk to have the manual. According to THES, "the edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook was 'not legitimate research material' in the university'’s view."

Many others differed, arguing it is obviously politically and socially relevant material to study. Indeed it is, not only as a collection of terror methods, some of them collected from the American neo-Nazi and survivalist right, but also as a book which has been cited in courts and used by authorities to publicly shape opinion in the war on terror. For example, in 2007 the US government attempted to use it to burnish its case against convicted terrorist Jose Padilla. It was declared inadmissible in that instance, although Padilla was eventually sent over, anyway.

Since the manual has been widely cited and distributed by the mainstream media, too, one could devote an entire scholarly essay to its socio-political utility in framing the nature of the adversary. And, as a matter of fact, Associated Press reported on May 28 that Sabir was using it in "writing on the American approach to al-Qaeda in Iraq."

This story is made more complicated as readers begin to understand that anyone deported to a country like Algeria, fitted with a jacket now defining them as an owner of the manual, has their life completely uprooted. Daubed with a black mark by it, they're set up as a potential target for arrest, subsequent interrogation and all that menacingly entails.

Bootnote: For the purpose of understanding the trail of the Manchester manual, it is proper to include its position on US government servers. Keep in mind that if you are in the United Kingdom and you're the wrong person, downloading it to your computer incurs a significant legal exposure from which bad things may transpire. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.</p

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