Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Anti-Terrorism" Law Expansion Targets Activists

Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of "Anti-Terrorism" Law Targeting Activists


by Michael Deutsch


December 11, 2010


In late September, the FBI carried out a series of

raids of homes and antiwar offices of public activists

in Minneapolis and Chicago. Following the raids, the

Obama Justice Department subpoenaed 14 activists to a

grand jury in Chicago and also subpoenaed the files of

several antiwar and community organizations. In

carrying out these repressive actions, the Justice

Department was taking its lead from the Supreme Court's

6-3 opinion last June in Holder v. the Humanitarian Law

Project, which decided that nonviolent First Amendment

speech and advocacy "coordinated with" or "under the

direction of" a foreign group listed by the Secretary

of State as "terrorist" was a crime.


The search warrants and grand jury subpoenas make it

clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on

accusing public nonviolent political organizers, many

of whom are affiliated with Freedom Road Socialist

Organization (FRSO), of providing "material support"

through their public advocacy for the Popular Front for

the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The

Secretary of State has determined that both the PLFP

and the FARC "threaten US national security, foreign

policy or economic interests," a finding not reviewable

by the courts, and listed both groups as foreign

terrorist organizations (FTO).


In 1996, Congress made it a crime - then punishable by

10 years, which was later increased to 15 years - to

anyone in the US who provides "material support or

resources to a foreign terrorist organization or

attempts or conspires to do so." The present statute

defines "material support or resources" as:


... any property, tangible or intangible, or service,

including currency or monetary instruments or financial

services, lodging, training, expert advice or

assistance, safe houses, false documentation or

identification, communications equipment, facilities,

weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel and

transportation except medicine or religious materials.


In the Humanitarian Law Project case, human rights

workers wanted to teach members of the Kurdistan PKK,

which seeks an independent Kurdish state, and the

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought

an independent state in Sri Lanka, how to use

humanitarian and international law to peacefully

resolve disputes and obtain relief from the United

Nations and other international bodies for human rights

abuses by the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka. Both

organizations were designated as FTOs by the Secretary

of State in a closed hearing, in which the evidence is

heard secretly.


Despite the nonviolent, peacemaking goal of the

Humanitarian Law Project's speech and training, the

majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted

the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole

new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided

that any support, even if it involves nonviolent

efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since

it "frees up other resources within the organization

that may be put to violent ends," and also helps lend

"legitimacy" to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for

the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack

of any evidence, further opined that the FTO could use

the human rights law to "intimidate, harass or

destruct" its adversaries, and that even peace talks

themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for

further attacks. Thus, the Court's opinion criminalizes

efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they

in any way cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.


The Court distinguishes what it refers to as

"independent advocacy," which it finds is not

prohibited by the statute, from "advocacy performed in

coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign

terrorist organization," which is, for the first time,

found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line

demarcating where independent advocacy becomes

impermissible coordination is left open and vague.


Seizing on this overbroad definition of "material

support," the US government is now moving in on

political groups and activists who are clearly

exercising fundamental First Amendment rights by

vocally opposing the government's branding of foreign

liberation movements as terrorist and supporting their

struggles against US-backed repressive regimes and

illegal occupations.


Under the new definition of "material support," the

efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the

elections in Lebanon and coordinate with the political

parties there, including the designated FTO Hezbollah,

could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the

publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from

Hamas or other designated groups by The New York Times

or The Washington Post, or the filing of amicus briefs

by human rights attorneys arguing against a group's

terrorist designation or the statute itself could also

now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this

draconian expansion of the material support law will

not be a former president or the establishment media,

but members of a Marxist organization who are vocal

opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and

the US policies supporting these repressive governments.


In his foreword to Nelson Mandela's recent

autobiography "Conversations with Myself," President

Obama wrote that "Mandela's sacrifice was so great that

it called upon people everywhere to do what they could

on behalf of human progress. … The first time I became

politically active was during my college years, when I

joined a campaign on behalf of divestment, and the

effort to end apartheid in South Africa." At the time

of Mr. Obama's First Amendment advocacy, Mr. Mandela

and his organization the African National Congress

(ANC) were denounced as terrorist by the US government.

If the "material support" law had been in effect back

then, Mr. Obama would have been subject to potential

criminal prosecution. It is ironic - and the height of

hypocrisy - that this same man who speaks with such

reverence for Mr. Mandela and recalls his own support

for the struggle against apartheid now allows the

Justice Department under his command to criminalize

similar First Amendment advocacy against Israeli

apartheid and repressive foreign governments.



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