Holder v Humanitarian Law Project
Human rights activists working with members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) challenged a provision of the USA Patriot Act which outlaws "material support" to "foreign terrorist organisations", even if such support takes the form of advocacy for lawful and non-violent activity.
A federal court in Los Angeles upheld the challenge on the grounds that the provision is "unconstitutionally vague" due to the use of ill-defined terms such as "training" and "service". The Supreme Court, in a majority decision (6-to-3), reversed the ruling of the lower courts. The Court held that the section of the Patriot Act does not violate the free-speech and free-associations protections of the First Amendment and is not too vague as to be unconstitutional.
The case concerned the material-support law, enacted as part of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and expanded by the Patriot Act of 2001 and 2004. The law allows Americans who offer advice to banned organisations, including legal assistance and information on conflict resolution, to be prosecuted as terrorists.
Writing the majority judgement, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that Congress intended to outlaw material support to terror groups in any form. In a dissenting judgement, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that such a broad reading of the statute raises "grave" doubts about its constitutionality and that the statute should only criminalise activity when "...the defendant knows or intends that those activities will assist the organization's unlawful terrorist actions".
URL Link: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1498.pdf
Author Organisation: US Supreme Court