The Al Qaeda-Harmonica Link

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3830019543/" target="_blank">stevendepolo</a> (Creative Commons)

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a pair of cases that challenge the existing federal ban on providing “material support” to terroristson account of the fact that “material support,” as you might expect, can be taken mean almost anything. Including, it turns out, teaching a terrorist to play the blues. Let’s check the transcript (pdf):

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Under the definition of this statute, teaching these members to play the harmonica would be unlawful. You are teachingtraining them in a lawfulin a specialized activity. So how do wethere has to be something more than merely a congressional finding that any training is bad. [emphasis mine]

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, quick on her feet, told Sotomayor that such a scenario was unlikely. Terrorists, as anyone with even an elementary education knows, hate bluegrass: “Now you say well, maybe training aplaying a harmonica is a specialized activity. I think the first thing I would say is there are not a whole lot of people going around trying to teach Al Qaeda how to play harmonicas.”

But Justice Antonin Scalia, for one, was unconvinced: “Well,” he retorted, “Hamid Hatah [note: I think he means Mohammed Atta] and his harmonica quartet might tour the country and make a lot of money. Right?” 

Merlin’s pants! The terrorists really are everywhere. The harmonica quartet may be an odd tangent to a terror case, but it does sound like a great idea for a movie: A down-on-his-luck blues musician (I’m thinking Sam Elliott), looking to revive his own career, forges an unlikely friendship with a band of aspiring Islamic extremists masquerading as music students. In the end, forced to choose between the attack they’ve secretly been plotting and their big gig, the terrorists choose musicand friendshipover terror. Or something.

Get on it, Coen brothers.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate