Constitution Project Releases Report on Reforming Material Support Statutes

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Matthew Allee
(202) 580-6922 or
mallee@constitutionproject.org

Constitution Project Releases Report on Reforming Material Support Statutes

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

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
 
To view Reforming
the Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by
Prohibitions on Material Support to "Terrorist Organizations," go to:
http://www.constitutionproject.org/manage/file/355.pdf
strike the proper balance between combating terrorism and respecting the constitutional rights of all Americans."

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The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at http://constitutionproject.org/.

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