According to Reuters, on Monday, June 21, “The Supreme Court…upheld a law that bars Americans from providing support to foreign terrorist groups…” On the surface, a law like this sounds totally fine, right? I mean, foreign terrorists attacked our shores, took down the Twin Towers, caused massive loss of life, fear for our safety, and a still ongoing war. This would seem, on the surface, to be a fine law which everyone should support. Even the most cursory scrutiny, though, shows that maybe we shouldn’t be so supportive of this new law. That is, unless the First Amendment is relative.
Anti-Terrorism Law: What It Says:
“The law bars (individuals from) knowingly providing any service, training, expert advice or assistance to any foreign organization designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist,” according to Reuters.
Well, the first problem here is one of relative intelligence: how are any of us to know what a terrorist organization is? While it says “knowingly,” the 15-year prison term attached to this law makes the prospect of doing any work for anyone a problem! People are going to start turning away work because they don’t want to even potentially be associated with anyone who is suspect.
Anti-Terrorism Law: Chief Justice Roberts Sees Challenges Ahead:
While writing for the majority in this case, Chief Justice Roberts went as far to say that the most difficult challenges are yet to come. Because of this new anti-terrorism law, groups like “The Humanitarian Law Project in Los Angeles,” would be deemed terrorist abiders. The Humanitarian Law Project provided nonviolent assistance to a group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, who are the lead Kurdish political party in Turkey. The government classifies them as terrorists.
So, even though the work the Humanitarian Law Project did for them was nonviolent, the Humanitarian Law Project could go to jail. Is this the end; you’re either with us or you’re against us? Us v. Them? No gray area; no middle ground; no bridge to the proverbial other side? Closing down channels of communication is what keeps people operating in caves in the desert. Ever consider that?
Anti-Terrorism Law: What the Judges Are Really Thinking:
From the language the dissenting opinion used, this sounds to be an ongoing debated decision. “Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented with Breyer saying the court majority ultimately ‘deprives the individuals before us of the protection that the First Amendment demands.'” When you get into First Amendment cases, We the People don’t go quietly.
Anti-Terrorism Law: Conclusion:
When people are afraid for their own safety, they cower toward the back of the bus. Where would we be today without the courage of individuals like Rosa Parks? We don’t need to instill fear and cloud people’s minds with doubt. We need to keep the channels of communication open, hope that terrorists get hip to this new attitude, and make people unafraid to turn folks in when they have helped people in the past who could practice terrorism in the future.