When Social Media backfires

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

We have seen various social media disasters from politicians, but imagine when your social media disaster results in an indictment in a US court. That is hwat has happened to Eric Harroun a fool who decided to go fight in Syria and post his exploits all over Facebook. The case also highlights how stupid some laws are, because Harroun has been charged with using a “weapon of mass destruction”…which was an RPG!

Any term that conflates nuclear weapons with any other kind of weapon is bound to be a poor descriptor. But the U.S. government has reached peak absurdity by labeling a rocket-propelled grenade a weapon of mass destruction.

Technically, Eric Harroun, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the rebellion in Syria, has only been charged with using a “destructive device.” (More on him in a second.) But U.S. law isn’t particularly diligent about differentiating dangerous weapons from apocalyptic ones. The affidavit of FBI agent Paul Higginbotham undergirding Harroun’s recent arrest and charge sums it up like this: “There is probable cause to believe that, in or about January 2013 to March 2013, Eric Harroun conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, i.e. a Rocket Propelled Grenade, outside of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2332a(b).” 

Harroun will have his day in court to contest the facts surrounding his case. But federal law has established the absurdity that a rocket-propelled grenade is a weapon of mass destruction. If you follow the rabbit hole of the statute referenced in Higginbotham’s affidavit, any citizen who uses “a weapon of mass destruction outside of the United States shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.” The statutory definition of “weapon of mass destruction” refers to “any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title,” which in turn includes: a “rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces.”

Other weapons of mass destruction, legally speaking: Bombs. Grenades. Mines. Missiles “having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce.”

Never trust politicians to write accurate laws. Be that as it may, Harroun has only himself to blame for the indictment:

Also, for anyone who’s thinking of joining a foreign insurgency, particularly one whose most capable fighters are designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, you should probably think twice about YouTubing and Facebooking your exploits. Social media documentation makes up the preponderance of evidence cited against Harroun. His photo captions are part of the case against him. The law not only conflates rocket-propelled grenades and nuclear weapons, it cares what you call your adventure-porn pictures.

Just goes to prove that people are stupid.


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  • rouppe

    Who says he was using it? He was probably just holding it for his friend, behind him… ;-)

    • Go look at the rest of the photos and the videos…plus his comments…he is using them, all be it against Syria government forces

  • I notice the ‘Feds’ are not charging the manufacturer of the cigarette – the only thing guaranteed to kill vast numbers of people in that photo I can see

  • Travis Poulson

    The fact they’re even charging him for assisting in a cause (in a foreign country no less) that they’re supporting is stupid.

    Also, for anyone who’s thinking of joining a foreign insurgency, particularly one whose most capable fighters are designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, you should probably think twice about YouTubing and Facebooking your exploits.”

    A terrorist organisation. And yet they want said terrorist organisation to depose Assad. Hypocrisy much?

    They’re called the ‘Free Syrian Army’ when the US give them $40m US dollars in aid, but when someone decides to go help…outside of US jurisdiction….they’re called a terrorist organisation.

  • johnti

    i read somewhere that the US is helping the opposition, guess who makes up most of the opposition numbers – taliban from afganistan….

  • Mr_Blobby

    I think we have similar laws here in NZ regarding mercenaries.

  • OneTrack

    How do US soldiers get on when they are doing their training and, no doubt, throw a few grenades around? Are they then immediately arrested for using a WMD? Or is it actually ok to use a “WND” on US soil, but not offshore?

  • Arto

    I thought those Al Qaeda RPG’s were paid for with a big fat cheque from the US taxpayer?

  • Blair Mulholland

    Outrageous. There is nothing wrong with being a mercenary, except when you are engaged in combat with your own country. That’s called treason. Otherwise it should be nobody’s business what country you run off to with an RPG (except of course, the guys you are trying to kill).
    Most bizarre of all: The Obama regime is helping these people! WHY?! It makes no sense. And then, having helped them, they prosecute an American for helping them as well. It’s insane.