Supreme Court Hears Case On Anti Terror Law

02.23.10 | FL News Team

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case Tuesday that questions the constitutionality of a key anti-terror law. The so-called "material support" statute was passed in 1996 after the first World Trade Center attack and the Oklahoma City bombing, and has been amended several times since 9-11. It makes it a felony to provide financial support, "training," or "expert advice and assistance" to designated terrorist groups. Challengers including the Humanitarian Law Project sued in 1998 claiming the wording of the law defining "material support" is so vague that it essentially criminalizes Americans' First Amendment rights to free speech and association. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed that the current law is unconstitutional because it fails to clearly define what kind of "training" activities are prohibited.

 The Humanitarian Law Project wants enough room in the law to support humanitarian and peace-building efforts with designated terrorist organizations such as the PKK in Turkey and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. In the Justice Department's appeal, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan argues that giving support of any kind allows terror groups to devote more of their resources to violent activities. Among those siding with the Humanitarian Law Project are Americans who were blacklisted during the "Red Scare" of the 1940s and '50s and former President Jimmy Carter. Retired military officers and the Anti-Defamation League are siding with the Justice Department.