Reforming the Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by Prohibitions on Material Support to “Terrorist Organizations” released by the organization’s Liberty and Security Committee
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WASHINGTON – Today, a bipartisan coalition of former government officials, scholars, practitioners, and other experts serving on the Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee have proposed reforms to federal laws prohibiting material support for terrorism that are needed to ensure constitutional liberties. The recommendations come at an especially critical time, as yesterday the Humanitarian Law Project filed its opening brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, challenging the application of federal material support laws to punish pure speech that seeks to further lawful, non-violent ends.
The consensus report, Reforming the Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by Prohibitions on Material Support to “Terrorist Organizations,” proposes eight reforms to remedy serious First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns created by existing federal law. The Liberty and Security Committee calls for narrowing the scope of conduct prohibited by the material support statute, so that pure speech furthering lawful ends would not be considered criminal conduct. As the statement notes:
Our government should have the tools needed to apprehend and punish not just terrorist leaders, but also those who work to facilitate and enable acts of terrorism. But in providing the legal authority to prohibit and punish such conduct, it is essential that the law respect constitutional freedoms.
The report also calls for reforms to protect the due process rights of organizations in the United States that are designated as “terrorist organizations” to challenge these executive branch decisions in court.
“Prohibiting assistance to terrorist organizations is an important tool in our nation’s efforts to combat terrorism, but we must also ensure that Americans’ constitutional freedoms are protected, including the rights to free speech and freedom of association,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for the Constitution Project. “Our current laws are so broad that it could be a criminal act to attempt to convince members of a group designated as ‘terrorist’ to pursue peaceful tactics. The recommendations made in Reforming the Material Support Laws strike the proper balance between combating terrorism and respecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Click here to view Reforming the Material Support Laws.