Group: Former President Carter could be prosecuted for monitoring fair elections in Lebanon
The US Supreme Court endorsed Monday a broad reading of the law criminalizing “material support” to terrorism, a statute that critics argue targets legitimate free speech.
In a six to three vote, the highest US court sided with the government and found that an NGO could face prosecution for providing non-terror-related support, including rights training, to US-designated terror groups.
The case involved the Humanitarian Law Project, a human rights group, which the court ruled could face prosecution under the material support statute for providing human rights or conflict resolution training to groups including the Kurdish PKK or the Tamil Tigers.
“The material-support statute is constitutional as applied to the particular activities plaintiffs have told us they wish to pursue,” the court ruling said.
In a press release sent to RAW STORY, the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that the ruling “criminalizes” free speech, and that even former President Jimmy Carter could face potential prosecution.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to criminalize speech in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge the Patriot Act before the highest court in the land, and the first post-9/11 case to pit free speech guarantees against national security claims. Attorneys say that under the CourtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ruling, many groups and individuals providing peaceful advocacy could be prosecuted, including President Carter for training all parties in fair election practices in Lebanon. President Carter submitted an amicus brief in the case.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding the case back to the lower court for review; Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. The Court held that the statute’s prohibitions on “expert advice,” “training,” “service,” and “personnel” were not vague, and did not violate speech or associational rights as applied to plaintiffs’ intended activities. Plaintiffs sought to provide assistance and education on human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey, a designated terrorist organization. Multiple lower court rulings had found the statute unconstitutionally vague.
Created in 1996, the “material support” language was strengthened under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and reauthorized with some changes in 2004.
It has usually been used to prosecute individuals who have helped organize or finance terrorist attacks.
The law has become a popular tool for prosecutors, who have prosecuted some 150 people under the statute in the United States, obtaining convictions in around 60 cases, and sentences ranging up to life in prison.