High court to examine anti-terrorism law

By The Associated Press
09.30.09

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will consider whether portions of a law that makes it a crime to provide “material support or resources” to designated terrorist groups are unconstitutional.

The justices said today they would hear the Obama administration’s appeal of an appeals court ruling that declared parts of the law unconstitutionally vague. The case is Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

The 1996 law, which was amended in 2001 by the USA Patriot Act and in 2004 by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, bars financial and other aid to any group designated a terrorist organization. The individuals and groups that challenged the law argued that it prohibits aid to lawful, nonviolent activities of designated organizations. In this case, the groups work with the Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in 2007 that the ban on “material support or resources” to designated terrorists could be used to prosecute those who train members of such groups about peaceful resolution of ongoing disputes or lobbying the United Nations for disaster relief.

The administration, in calling for high court review, said the law was “a vital part of the nation’s effort to fight international terrorism.”

About 120 defendants have been charged with providing “material support,” a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and 60 have been convicted, Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the court.