Humanitarian Law Project and the Supreme Court's Construction of Terrorism

By Said, Wadie E. | Brigham Young University Law Review, September 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Humanitarian Law Project and the Supreme Court's Construction of Terrorism


Said, Wadie E., Brigham Young University Law Review


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 1456

II. Pre-9/11 Terrorism Jurisprudence ......................................... 1459

A. The First Appearance of "Terrorism" ................................... 1460

B. Criminal Syndicalism ............................................................ 1461

C. From World War II Through the Cold War ......................... 1465

D. Domestic Terrorism and the Ku Klux Klan ........................... 1471

E. Terrorism in New Contexts .................................................. 1472

F. Terrorism as a Basis for Heightened Punishment ................... 1477

G. Terrorism and Immigration ................................................. 1479

1. AADCv. Reno ............................................................. 1479

2. Zadvydas v. Davis ......................................................... 1480

III. Post-9/1 1 Terrorism Jurisprudence ...................................... 1482

A. Terrorism's Impact on Ordinary Criminal Cases ................... 1483

B.Post-9/ll War on Terror Cases ........................................... 1485

1V. HOLDER V. HUMANITARIAN LAW PROJECT- DESCRIBING A WORLD WHERE TERRORISM IS THE ENEMY, NOT ANY ONE GROUP ..................................................................................... 1486

A. Section 2339B ..................................................................... 1487

B. The Plaintiffs ....................................................................... 1490

C. Specific Intent ..................................................................... 1491

D. Vagueness ........................................................................... 1494

E. First Amendment Challenges - Freedom of Speech ............... 1498

1. Standard of review ....................................................... 1498

2. The issue and subsequent analysis ................................. 1499

3. Material support providing "legitimacy" ....................... 1500

V. Conclusion ................................................................................. 1508

I. INTRODUCTION

In June 2010, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ("HLP"), upholding the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B ("§ 2339?"), the criminal ban on providing material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations ("FTOs").1

The opinion, which represents the culmination of a lengthy legal dispute, generated immediate commentary for its contribution to First Amendment jurisprudence2 because it sustained the criminalization of providing material support in the form of speech, whether through "training," "expert advice or assistance," "service," and "personnel" to an FTO, even when the support was intended for peaceful purposes, such as petitioning the United Nations for relief or engaging in political advocacy on the FTO's behalf.3 The focus on the First Amendment implications of the decision is understandable, given the high stakes involved; a conviction under the statute can, in regular circumstances, garner up to fifteen years in prison, with a life sentence possible for material support that can be tied to any actual loss of life.4

In addition to the constitutional significance of the opinion, HLP marks the first time the Supreme Court has delved into a lengthy discussion of what it believes counts as terrorism.5 Prior Supreme Court opinions, whether before or after September 11, 2001, tended to consider terrorism as a tactic that nations or groups hostile to the United States engaged in, without further defining what activities qualified under the term. Stated differently, the Supreme Court had never before discussed its perceptions of what constitutes terrorism, preferring instead to place limits on "terrorist activity," without elaborating much further.

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