Supreme Court Upholds Material Support of Terrorism Law

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the material support to terrorism statute. The opinion in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project is here.

According to the opinion, the plaintiffs were challenging specific provisions, including:

....material support—“training,” “expert advice or assistance,” “service,” and “personnel”—asserting violations of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause on the ground that the statutory terms are impermissibly vague, and violations of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. They claim that §2339B is invalid to the extent it prohibits them from engaging in certain specified activities, including training PKK members to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully; teaching PKK members to petition the United Nations and other representative bodies for relief; and engaging in political advocacy on behalf of Kurds living in Turkey and Tamils living in Sri Lanka.


The Court ruled:

The material-support statute, §2339B, is constitutional as applied to the particular forms of support that plaintiffs seek to provide to foreign terrorist organizations.

Justice Breyer, joined by Sotomayor and Ginsberg, filed a dissenting opinion.

Like the Court, and substantially for the reasons it gives, I do not think this statute is unconstitutionally vague. But I cannot agree with the Court’s conclusion that the Constitution permits the Government to prose-cute the plaintiffs criminally for engaging in coordinated teaching and advocacy furthering the designated organizations’ lawful political objectives. In my view, the Government has not met its burden of showing that an interpretation of the statute that would prohibit this speech- and association-related activity serves the Government’s compelling interest in combating terrorism. And I would interpret the statute as normally placing activity of this kind outside its scope.

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    Sad (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 03:09:03 PM EST
    And, politicizing crime, really weakens justice and integrity. It appears to be nothing less than vindictiveness and collective punishment.

    Breyer quote:

    Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of reading his dissent aloud in the courtroom. "Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights," he said. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.

    Just was on a conference call (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:05:19 AM EST
    with the CCR and Ralph Fertig about the case.

    Will write something about it later.

    Patt Morrison, LAT, interviews Fertig: (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:11:51 AM EST
    Travel as Material Support? (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 03:14:50 PM EST
    Travel Warning
    Bureau of Consular Affairs
    Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

    June 20, 2010

    The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those locations.  The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip.  This warning replaces the Travel Warning issued August 14, 2009 to update information on the general security environment in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

    coincidence, or standard warning?

    Professor David Cole Speaks (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 07:16:55 PM EST
    The decision has deeply disturbing implications. It means that when President Jimmy Carter did election monitoring in Lebanon, and met with all of the parties to the election -- including Hezbollah, a designated "terrorist group" -- to provide them with his advice on what constitutes a fair election, he was committing the crime of providing "material support," in the form of "expert advice."

    It means that when The New York Times and The Washington Post published op-eds by a Hamas leader, they were engaged in the crime of providing "material support" to a designated terrorist group, because to publish the op-ed they had to coordinate with a spokesperson from Hamas.

    And it means that my clients, a retired judge and an established human rights group, cannot continue to work for peace and human rights without risking long prison terms....

    ...This is the same sort of deferential approach that the Supreme Court took to anti-Communist laws in the early days of the McCarthy era.

    via digby

    And of course the very labeling a group "terrorist" is a political act. The US government has supported many so called "terrorist" groups with military training when it was useful. And the converse would be the designation of groups as allies who fall into the category of "freedom fighters" even though. practically speaking" they bear little distinction from those deemed "terrorist".  

    Material Support? (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:32:36 PM EST
    The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.

    The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.


    Under The Wire (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 04:20:25 PM EST
    Well it turns out that the Taliban is not a terrorist group yet:

    Washington (CNN) -- The State Department intends to designate the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) as a "foreign terrorist organization" after the suspect charged in the failed Times Square bombing admitted to being trained by the group, two senior officials tell CNN.

    Both officials called the decision to designate the group inevitable after Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, entered pleas of guilty Monday in federal court to all 10 counts he was facing after the botched attempt to ignite a vehicle bomb in Times Square on May 1.