The Libel Terrorism Protection Act has just been passed into law in New York, despite being ignored by the mainstream and alternative media alike — that is, by those who will most depend on its safeguards.

Press Release from American Center of Democracy

The Libel Terrorism Protection Act, also known as RACHEL’s LAW, signed by Governor

Albany, NY (May 1, 2008) — New York State Governor David Paterson yesterday signed the “Libel Terrorism Protection Act” (S.6687/A.9652), which on March 31 passed the state’s Assembly and Senate unanimously.

Also known as Rachel’s Law, the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) will protect American journalists and authors from foreign lawsuits that infringe on First Amendment rights. The bill also received unprecedented support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“New Yorkers must be able to speak out on issues of public concern without living in fear that they will be sued outside the United States, under legal standards inconsistent with our First Amendment rights,” said Governor Paterson. “This legislation will help ensure of the freedoms enjoyed by New York authors.”

Reflecting the New York legislation’s importance, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on April 16 introduced a similar bill, the Freedom of Speech Protection Act (H.R. 5814), in the House of Represenatives.

In Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz, New York State’s highest court held that it was unable to protect Dr. Ehrenfeld from a British lawsuit filed by Saudi billionaire Khalid Salim Bin Mahfouz. Britain’s High Court ordered her to pay over $225,000 in damages and legal fees to Bin Mahfouz, apologize and destroy copies of her books.

Instead, November 2006, Dr. Ehrenfeld sought a U.S. federal court order to protect her constitutional rights. But a New York Court of Appeals ruling with national implications sent legal shockwaves throughout American newsrooms.

The New York court potentially undermined U.S. journalists’ ability to expose terrorism’s financial and logistical support networks, when it ruled that the court lacks jurisdiction to protect Americans - on U.S. soil - from foreign defamation judgments that contradict the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Rachel’s Law declares overseas defamation judgments unenforceable in New York State unless the foreign defamation law provides, in substance and application, the same free speech protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The law gives New York residents and publishers the opportunity to have their day in court.

The bill could not have passed without the expert assistance of Attorney Daniel Kornsein of New York City’s Kornstein, Veisz, Wexler & Pollard, LLP. Kornstein represented Dr. Ehrenfeld in Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz.

“This law will give New York’s journalists, authors and press the protection and tools they need to continue to fearlessly expose the truth about terrorism and its enablers, and to maintain New York’s place as the free speech capit[a]l of the world,” Lancman stated.

“The truth is a critically-important component in the War on Terror,” said Senator Skelos. “This important new law will protect American authors and journalists who expose terrorist networks and their financiers.”

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said: “Terrorism and terrorist financing are matters of vital interest to all New Yorkers, in no small part because New York City remains a target of significance for international terrorists. New York authors must have the freedom to investigate, write and publish on terrorism and other matters of public importance, subject only to limitations that are consistent with the U.S. Constitution. This legislation will help to ensure such freedom.”

Today, Governor Paterson declared the intention of New York State, the publishing capital of America, to safeguard the First Amendment and its courageous writers.

Rachel’s Law marks an important step in Dr. Ehrenfeld’s efforts to stop Arab billionaires like Khalid bin Mahfouz from attempting to silence U.S. writers who expose Saudi terrorist funding and global radical Muslim organizations, including al Qaeda and Hamas.

Rachel’s Law — and your financial support—now make it possible for Dr. Ehrenfeld to return to court for a declaratory judgment against Mahfouz. Your generosity makes possible the continued exposu[r]e of financial jihad by courageous investigative journalists and researchers. We are only as strong as our supporters, and your financial assistance is essential to our success.

The American Center for Democracy (ACD) is a tax-deductible, non-profit organization that qualif[ies] as [an] exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations.

Your support is important to us. Thank you for helping our work to preserve democracy and freedom in America.

Please note that this victory now allows Rachel to go back to court, win the case — and test the law so it can be adopted nationally. In other words, sealing the victory will require a lot of money.

Another American journalist (making about five so far) has noticed that Rachel’s Law — possibly the most important piece of legislation since the Patriot Act — successfully passed when it was signed into law last week by NY Governor David Paterson. Diana West — who’s actually been the only prominent writer on top of this issue — had the following post this weekend on the Political Mavens blog:

Earlier this week, New York State Governor David Paterson signed a bill into law that is sure to help derail “libel tourists” in their attempts to take New York authors and publishers for a ride to the book-pulping machine via expensive, speech-chilling foreign libel suits.

This is fantastic news for liberty enthusiasts. But it didn’t come out of thin air. This victory for free speech is due to the tenacious courage of author Rachel Ehrenfeld, the New Yorker who for nearly four years has battled to have a British default libel judgment against her — brought against her book Funding Evil by Saudi billionaire and “libel tourist” Khalid bin Mahfouz — declared unenforceable in the U.S. It is her ongoing case, which might well be described Abu-Dickensian in length and nefariousness, that inspired the bi-partisan bill that passed the New York State Legislature unanimously last month and was signed into law this week. New York’s lawmakers and new governor are to be greatly commended for recognizing the need to act to protect our liberty.

I asked Rachel to comment on the significance of this encouraging development. She wrote:

“‘Rachel’s Law’, as NY Assemblyman Rory Lancman stated, ‘give[s] New York’s journalists, authors and press the protection and tools they need to continue to fearlessly expose the truth about terrorism and its enablers, and to maintain New York’s place as the free speech capit[a]l of the world.’ This law should be followed by national legislation to protect all American writers’ free speech. Indeed, US Rep. Peter King submitted such law to Congress.”

That would be the Freedom of Speech Protection Act (H.R. 5814), which Rep. King (R-NY) introduced in the House of Representatives on April 16, and which should be passed on the double. Rachel continued:

“Personally, it marks an important step in my efforts to stop Saudi billionaires like Khalid bin Mahfouz from attempting to silence me and all U.S. writers who expose him and Saudi Arabia’s terrorist funding of global radical Muslim organizations, including al Qaeda and Hamas. Thus, I have to go back to court to win the case against Mahfouz and test the effectiveness of this law…Amazing how the media at large ignores this new and important development for their free speech rights.”

It’s not only amazing, it’s jaw-drop shocking. One completely appalling way to read the striking apathy is as a tacit concession to the speech curbs the Khalid bin Mahfouz[e]s of the world would like to impose on brave souls like Rachel — i.e., a tacit concession to dhimmitude.

Assemblyman Lancman’s remarks on the Assembly floor are viewable here.