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

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

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. â€| 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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