The highest court in the US will hear a case that may redefine the difference between humanitarian aid and aiding and abetting terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and Tamil Tigers.
The Humanitarian Law Project, a left-wing special interest group, contesting part of federal law that prohibits "material support" to terrorists and nations such as Iran.
The HLP in their lawsuit claims that it is difficult to determine who are the terrorists and whether assisting them by lecturing about peace proposals, teaching them English, or rendering medical treatment equates with supporting terrorists and terrorism.
The Humanitarian Law Project described its support to the groups as "teaching and advocating the use of international law and other nonviolent means to reduce conflict, advance human rights and promote peace."
As the law now stands, suspects providing such services to Hamas, for example, may be sentenced to upwards of 10 years in federal prison.
The USA Patriot Act makes it a crime to provide any form of support, including humanitarian assistance, to groups on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The legal dispute arose from advice given by the Humanitarian Law Project to the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. Both groups are listed by the State Department as terrorist organizations.
From 2004 through 2009, the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, conducted hundreds of attacks, including several suicide bombings and political assassination attempts. According to the FBI, LTTE is responsible for the murders of over 4,000 people since 2006. The terrorist organization was the first to use suicide attacks on a widespread basis, a tactic subsequently adopted by al Qaeda and Hamas, among others. Most of LTTE's funding and weapons procurement came from a network of international front charities and non-governmental organizations controlled by LTTE.
The HLP lawsuit is the first constitutional test of the "material support" provision of the USA Patriot Act since Congress approved it after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Government lawyers argue that the law is an effective method of combating terrorists who often lack clearly defined borders and can surrepticiously attack targets at will. The U.S. solicitor-general states that there is nothing ill-defined about the law. (The Examiner)