Criminalizing Dissent in America under the Anti-Terrorism Legislation: Going After Political Organizers
Justice Department Prepares for Expansion of Law Prohibiting ‘Material Support’ for Terrorism
by Michael Deutsch
November 15, 2010
In late September the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and anti-war 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 anti-war 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 non-violent 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 quite clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on accusing public non-violent political organizers, many 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, later increased to 15 years, to anyone in the U.S. 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 to 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.