In a decision certain to surprise many observers, a judge has acquitted seven members of the Hutaree militia of charges of seditious conspiracy against the United States. The Hutaree are the religious-fanatic group who gained notoriety a couple of years ago because their leader reportedly hoped to spark a civil war by killing policemen. The judge in their trial has determined, however, that the record provides no evidence of a "concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government." In her view, the Hutaree had no deeper agenda than to kill cops; the rest should be thought of as wishful thinking, perhaps. Two defendants still face weapons charges.
On some level, the Hutaree affair may have been as much a matter of ambitious entrapment as the several "Muslim extremist" conspiracies exposed by embedded FBI agents. If so, one can only hope that American courts show similar indulgence toward all the madmen who expect Allah to strike down the United States after whatever kickstart their own little exploits might provide. It is allowed, apparently -- even encouraged in some quarters -- to be seditious in your heart so long as your sedition takes no "concrete" form. Some people are likely to cheer today's decision as some vindication of civil liberty and freedom of dissent. I wonder how many of those people want to throw the book at anyone occupying a public park at night. Whatever the law may say, I question whether Americans can reach a consensus on what constitutes sedition any more easily than they can agree on what counts as "anti-American." Things here grow less self-evident every day.