Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of "Anti-Terrorism" Law Targeting Activists
Saturday 11 December 2010
In late September, the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and antiwar offices of public activists in
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
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
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs