Give some advice to Hamas or al Qaeda about how they can peacefully achieve their objectives — and the Supreme Court might call it material aid.
Last month, the Supreme Court exposed Americans to jail sentences of up to 15 years just for giving advice to groups the U.S. government considers untouchable. In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the court ruled that the USA Patriot Act’s expanded definition of “material support” for “foreign terrorist organizations” passes Constitutional muster. The broad wording of the statute not only makes it a crime to support violent activities, but also prohibits Americans from offering “services” or “training, expert advice or assistance” to any entity designated as a terrorist group.
Providing weapons, materials or know-how that might help terrorists commit violent acts has long been a crime, but it was only with the rushed passage of the Patriot Act just weeks following the 9/11 attacks that “expert advice or assistance” was added to the definition of “material support.”
The Constitution offers Americans the freedom of speech and association. There are only a few exceptions — you don’t have a right to associate with people conducting a criminal act, and your freedom of speech doesn’t extend to “fighting words,” inciting a riot or other forms of speech that might lead to violence.
In criminalizing non-violent speech, the ruling is anathema to our system of constitutional government. In this article I’ll demonstrate just how easy it is to violate the Patriot Act by giving some peaceful advice to a few of the 45 groups the State Department has designated as foreign terrorist organizations.