I’m particularly struck by the fact that the alleged suicide bombers used online bomb-making guides like Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine. These materials are, in my opinion, not protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.
The Anarchist’s Cookbook is a DIY bomb making manual written in the early 1970s by William Powell, a young American living in New York who was protesting US involvement in the Vietnam War. Powell continued to disown the book and regret that it was never published. But the book lives on in print, as well as in thousands, if not millions, of digital copies on the Internet.
Feinstein has already spoken out against the book and its ilk. In 1997, following the Oklahoma City bombing, she sponsored a measure passed by the Senate which made it illegal to knowingly distribute bomb-making guides in the service of “any activity that constitutes a federal criminal offense or a state or local criminal offense affecting interstate commerce”.
Feinstein’s concerns are certainly understandable. And while distribution for criminal purposes may be illegal, many argue that the mere act of printing or distributing the cookbook remains protected by the First Amendment. But Feinstein’s call for him to be “removed from the internet” may raise the most eyebrows. Documents distributed online are almost impossible to delete completely. Calls for removal are often met with great skepticism from libertarian-minded online communities, as Beyonce’s publicist discovered in 2013 after calling for the artist’s unflattering photos to be removed.
In the case of the Anarchist‘s Cookbook, the information contained therein is not secret. Powell did most of his research in public libraries. Even if the book itself were somehow removed from the public record, the techniques and ideas that motivated it would still be just a Google search, illustrating the difficulties of removing information that could be used for harmful purposes on the Internet.
In any event, the cookbook itself may not be so relevant these days. Example: the people arrested today did not come across the book themselves. It was given to them by the FBI undercover agentaccording to the Department of Justice.