Does The Patriot Act Violate Free Speech?

Do monkeys eat bananas? Come on Supremes, do the right thing. Report from NPR:

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that pits an individual’s right of free speech and association against a federal law aimed at combating terrorism. At issue is part of the Patriot Act that makes it a crime for an American citizen to engage in peaceful lawful activity on behalf of any group designated as a terrorist organization.

Federal law makes it a crime to provide material support to any organization designated as a terrorist group by the secretary of state. But the definition of material support includes not just providing weapons or money or bomb-making skills; it includes providing any sort of expert advice, training or personnel — including advice on how to resolve disputes peaceably or training on how to make human rights claims before the United Nations.

The nonprofit Humanitarian Law Project has a long history of engaging in such activity, mediating international conflicts and promoting human rights. But it has stopped doing some of its work for fear of being prosecuted under the material support provision.

“My speech is particularly nonviolent,” says Ralph Fertig, president of the organization. “I’ve gone to jail in the United States for my advocacy for peace.”

The federal government, he maintains, cannot constitutionally make it a crime to help others advocate lawful, peaceful solutions to international conflicts. In particular, Fertig and his organization have helped the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, make human rights claims before international bodies. They have trained Kurdish leaders in peacemaking negotiations and have brought them to Washington to lobby. But when the PKK was designated an international terrorist organization under the Patriot Act, that all stopped, and the Humanitarian Law Project went to court.

The government, arguing that the PKK had engaged in terrorist activities that have cost some 22,000 lives, said it was justified in making the organization a pariah. Thus, the government contended, even filing a legal brief on behalf of the PKK in an American court, would be a crime…

[continues at NPR]


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