Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Expansive Reading of Material Support Law

The Supreme Court rejected first amendment claims and upheld a federal law on providing “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. The material support law (found in the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)) is the darling of prosecutors and widely ridiculed by civil libertarians for allowing virtually any act to be classified as material support. The ruling is a victory for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and a loss for civil liberties. Notably, however, even the conservatives on the Court found the interpretation of the Obama Administration to be too extreme.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion and agreed that material support includes giving intangible assistance to groups labeled by the State Department as terrorist organizations. Roberts noted “[s]uch support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends . . . It also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups; legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members and to raise funds; all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.” Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority decision.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer rejected such claims, noting that there is a clear difference between giving money to such an organization and teaching human rights law. Various groups argued that they were trying to steer such organizations away from terrorism by teaching them how to work within international law principles and procedures. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. It is a reassuring vote by Sotomayor who was viewed as being both pro-law enforcement and weak on free speech while on the Second Circuit.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued the case herself, but took such an extremist position that even Roberts balked: “The government is wrong that the only thing actually at issue in this litigation is conduct” and not speech. As a limit on potential abuse, the Court insisted that only conduct directed by such groups would be covered and not “independent advocacy.” That line of distinction, however, was left maddeningly vague and will likely cause considerable uncertainty in the lower courts.

Among the challengers was Ralph D. Fertig, a civil rights activist who wanted to help the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey find peaceful ways to achieve its goals.

Here is the opinion: 08-1498

For the full story, click here.

29 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Expansive Reading of Material Support Law”

  1. From linked article posted by BIL: “Most worrying of all? The court says that it should keep out of this discussion because it involves international relations and international treaties. See why you should be scared to death of ACTA? The courts are effectively admitting that once you get these “international obligations” in place, the courts should mostly stay out of the discussion, even if it violates the basic tenets of US law. That’s downright scary.”

    The Court gives the government a lot of leeway when it balances citizens interests v government interests. An old SCOTUS decision “Egan v Dept. of the Navy” took not only various oversight agencies but the court itself out of the review loop regarding the granting or withholding of security clearances in Title VII cases with scary language and later decisions by various Courts have expanded that hands-off approach. Even if you can prove that you were discriminated against by effect and/or intent in the withholding or revoking a security clearance, there is no review beyond the ‘appropriate’ granting authority or limited review by the EEOC.

    These kinds of decisions completely undermine the tripartite nature of government and the protections it provided. What happens when public information s withdrawn from an internet provider and copy writed? Does that make a web archiving site a criminal? Will whole blocks of information just disappear from history allowing that void to be first witheld then re-written al’a Orwell.

  2. Fair warning. If you value the 1st Amendment at all, the article will piss you off.

  3. Asterix,

    It is as simple as this “We like to be on Top, not bottom”, “We like to F***, not be F****d with.”

    Besides not many places could hold all of the persons subject too detainment.

  4. Since US taxpayers’ money is going to Afghan warlord “contractors” and the selfsame money is making its way to the Taliban, why isn’t the entire NATO military command in prison?

  5. I agree that many people on the right consider Obama a socialist. Of course this is a total misunderstanding of reality. This misunderstanding results in faulty analysis of the problems which face us, coupled with very poor “solutions” to these problems.

    While this is going on we have a another poor analysis which occurs on the left. This poor analysis has kept the left wing from being honest about Obama and other Democrats and opposing some truly despicable policies. Many people on the left believe the problem only lies with the misunderstanding of the right, when in fact, the problem lies with misunderstandings by both the left and the right.

    Meanwhile the ruling elite sits back and does as it pleases. The ruling elite does not share the misunderstandings of the rest of our population. They do know how to use those misunderstandings to keep common people from having an accurate understanding of the political and economic situation we actually face.

    In order for this cycle to break, people on both the right and left must grapple with what is actually happening. It will take an unflinchingly honest assessment of the situation. Only then, do people have any chance to stop the destruction of our economy and restore the rule of law.

  6. Bryon,

    It is safe to say that this reminds me of an old joke and I am unsure how Clarence Thomas would rule. But imagine the quandary he would be in if he was the sole judge on a case that involved a Klansman Trial.

    The DOJ is even prosecuting there own.

    …. Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information.

    Which is totally untrue. The attorney’s represented some of the prisoners at Gitmo.

    Spin this stuff anyway that suits you at the time.

    See what the US AG has to say about the act. I know Saul. He is fairly decent for being a US Attorney.

  7. Bryon,

    The way I see it is as follows: Disenfranchisement. Remember the kid your momma did not want you to play with. This is the new them. If it is interpreted as it has been, then you can’t even give a nod or a wink as this is encouraging them. I know this sound fucked up, because it is.

    The attorney I am speaking of went into private practice from the DOJ and spoke with someone in a totally unrelated matter.

    Speaking of which on another related but unrelated area. The DOD did this:

    CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Oct. 19, 2007
    U.S. Officer Acquitted Of Aiding Enemy

    (CBS/AP) A former U.S. commander at the jail that held Saddam Hussein was acquitted Friday of aiding the enemy by loaning an unmonitored cell phone to an inmate, but a military judge convicted him of three lesser charges.

    Lt. Col. William H. Steele, 52, had faced a life sentence if convicted of accusations he allowed high-ranking former regime prisoners use of his cell phone for unmonitored calls.

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