General Question

johnb1100's avatar

Can one legally write a book on how to Assasinate the President?

Asked by johnb1100 (64points) June 15th, 2010

How far does the clause “For educational use only” hold up legally. Could one actually write a book on How to assasinate the President, How to build a bomb, or How to hack your cable modem to steal service and claim it is for “educational use only.” Does free speech protect this? if so to what extent?

I think there was a supreme court case on this but I can not remember what it is.

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26 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

If it’s fiction.

Buttonstc's avatar

If you don’t mind a fine-tooth-comb search and evaluation of your entire life by the Secret Service, go ahead.

You’ll probably also be on their radar screen for life, but if you feel it’s worth it, have at it.

I’m a little foggy about the details, but there was a book publishing company that specializes in these types of books which is still in business so I believe they prevailed in the court case.

But with the advent of the Internet, it would be impossible to eliminate the spread of this stuff.

The Columbine killers had also made a bomb with instructions from one of these sites. It failed to go off so they obviously goofed in following instructions, but it was definitely a part of their overall plan.

There was lots of discussion afterward about censoring these sites, but that’s untenable on a practical level.

johnb1100's avatar

This is completely hypothetical. It came from a discussion I had with a friend about publishing security exploits. He said that I could be held liable for any damages that they cause. I said that it was free speech as long is it is “for educational use only.”

gemiwing's avatar

My two cents-

You could write it but good luck getting a publisher to touch it with a fifty-foot pole; let alone get an agent to accept you as a client. It’s just too hot of a topic. Self-publishing, sure if it was ‘educational’ or ‘satire’- either or which could be argued against in court and boy does our government have some good lawyers.

You could argue the defense that the gun makers use- we make it but can’t control it, sort of thing. Then again- it could go badly like it did for the tobacco companies. It really depends on public sentiment (and sentiment of the courts) at the time of the trial.

Buttonstc's avatar

I just did a little more reading and it’s really interesting.

Actually, Paladin Press is the publisher of the Loompanics books.

They have been sued twice over events stemming from the book “Hit Man”.

Both were civil lawsuits brought by survivors of the deceased killed by someone following the outlined methodology.

Bot were settled out of court (for HUGE sums of money) paid by Paladin’s insurance company.

The owner of Paladin wanted to fight these suits on First Ammendment grounds but was overred by the Insurance company.

They are no longer publishing this title but evidently it’s available on the Internet.

They have also pulled many of their drug and bomb books in anticipation of Congress cracking down on the Meth trade.

So, theoretically one can write anything and claim it’s for educational purposes only. But in practical everyday life, where the rubber meets the road, having some personal responsibility seems the wiser course.

But a book on assassinating a president would definitely get the attention of the Secret Service who wouldn’t need to bring a court case to make ones life miserable in countless little (technically legal) annoying ways.

The guy who owns the company is nobody’s fool and it’s doubtful he’d want to go tilting at that particular windmill.

Theory is one thing. Actual practice is another.

CMaz's avatar

I will have nothing to do with this conversation! :-)

Big brother is ALWAYS watching.

ETpro's avatar

A “For educational purposes only” disclaimer would do nothing to decriminalize speech that is criminal. For instance, you cannot legally claim to have a bomb on an airliner then escape guilt by saying you made the claim for educational purposes. You cannot libel or defame others then escape punishment by an educational exclusion.

It is illegal to advocate the murder of anyone and advocating the murder of a sitting president would definitely attract negative attention. I believe the legal issue would be, does the book actually advocate committing the crime. Since there would be little point to tell people how to do it if nobody were ever going to put the information to any use, I think courts would be likely to find it did advocate for the crime.

BoBo1946's avatar

would not even talk about this in the barber shop!

Trillian's avatar

Why would you want to? I can never understand people who do things like this seemingly just for the sake of creating conflict. “Yeah, but it’s my right!”
Shut up.

anartist's avatar

You can write it, but who’d publish it?
BTW It will never be published unless you change the spelling of “assassinate.”

NRO's avatar

What I’d like to know, is where are the folks who SHOULD be monitoring this question? It’s not my job!

NSA's avatar

I’m here. I’m always here.

I believe that @ETpro is correct. If you disagree, go ahead and write it. Then, we’ll have a nice long visit.

GeorgeGee's avatar

If you call it “fiction,” the sky’s the limit. Quite literally, in the case of “Air Force One” by Andrew W. Marlowe, who wrote about terrorists attacking the President’s plane. It was made into a movie starring Harrison Ford.
The problems arise if you say you are, or people suspect you are, advocating such activities.

Ranimi23's avatar

Asked the one who killed Izhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister :-/
I think he is iIsolated in jail.

You know, I think the biggest terrorists learned everything from American books and films, so nothing is fiction to them.

Response moderated
SmashTheState's avatar

You can apparently do so in a YouTube video and comedy sketch with impunity.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Once you have learned to spell assassinate, you certainly could legally write such a book. If you still believe you are protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the USA, I say go ahead and try. Don’t be surprised if you life becomes very complicated for a very long time.

GeorgeGee's avatar

sedition: an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority and tending to cause the disruption or overthrow of the government

conspiracy: cabal – a plot to carry out some harmful or illegal act (especially a political plot)

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. Dan Brown wrote a book on how to assassinate the Pope, who is the head of state of the Vatican. All you need is a gram of antimatter.

anartist's avatar

@mattbrowne Fiction doesn’t count.

NRO's avatar

You can always write a book on how to Assinate the President.
Many would applaud you.

bring me some tea.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

i would imagine so but government would be watching you very closly and anyone who bought the books. and its probable that their watching you and me jut for asking and answering this question

NRO's avatar

The government is always watching. It is just processing the flood of data in a timely manner that becomes a problem. That is why so many things that could be avoided occur. A failure in communications was instrumental in the way the United States entered WWII.

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