Terrorism Is Free Speech
By Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | February 3, 2004
Freedom of speech permits supporting terrorism, as long as you are only providing "expert advice and assistance" to groups the federal government has designated as “foreign terrorist organizations.” So says a California district judge, in a decision that can only be disheartening for those on the frontlines of the struggle against terrorism. We can hope the decision will be set aside on appeal, but it nevertheless shows how vulnerable our legal instruments are against international terrorism -- and how powerful the influence is of those who would dismantle existing Homeland Security legislation.
In a decision released January 26, Federal Judge Audrey B. Collins (Central District of California), ruled in Humanitarian Law Project, et al. v. Reno et al. that the U.S. Departments of State and Justice cannot stop groups from providing "expert advice and assistance" to either the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.
The plaintiffs had brought their suit in 1998, after passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law, most of which was initially upheld by Judge Collins. However, she agreed with the plaintiffs that the prohibition against providing "expert advice and assistance" was “impermissibly vague.” The newest decision comes in a new phase of the case based on the post-9/11 Patriot Act’s similar prohibitions. “The USA Patriot Act places no limitation on the type of expert advice and assistance which is prohibited and instead bans the provision of all expert advice and assistance regardless of its nature,” said Collins. She specifically cited the provision that makes it a crime to provide personnel and training to designated terrorist groups as unenforceable, saying that it was sufficiently vague to raise First and Fifth Amendment issues. (Surprisingly, she rejected arguments by the plaintiffs that the law was too general and that it gave the Secretary of State “virtually unreviewable authority” to designate a group as a foreign terrorist organization.)
As the New York Times noted , Judge Collins is the first federal judge actually to strike down part of the Patriot Act. But this is not the first legal challenge to aspects of the war on terror. California courts have made earlier attempts to weaken anti-terrorism legislation introduced in 1997. In 1998, the infamous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that fundraising for the lawful activities of a foreign terrorist organization is protected by the First Amendment, if there is no specific intent to further the group’s illegal ends . That decision, resulting from a complaint by pro-terrorist Arab groups, would have allowed Hamas, Palestinian Jihad and others to openly raise money in the United States. Had it not become moot after 2001, the decision also would have allowed most of those tried or indicted since 9/11 to remain free, and the terrorist-funding Islamic “charities” the Bush administration has closed down to remain open and active.
Judge Audrey Collins, who was appointed to the court in 1994 by Bill Clinton, is a product of Affirmative Action. Her decision follows a familiar pattern of California jurisprudence that the Supreme Court routinely overrules in some 80 percent of the cases, far more than for any other court. Indeed, California judges are the ones who declared that God has no place in the Pledge of Allegiance and who have twice attempted to cripple the nation’s already limited legal defenses against terrorism.
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