Free Speech or Support for Terrorists? Supreme Court Weighs Key Patriot Act Provision

In court papers, lawyers for Fertig argue that the statute forbids "pure political speech promoting lawful, nonviolent activity."

But in its briefs, the government points out that the PKK has waged a "violent insurgency" since its founding in 1974. The government says that Fertig and other petitioners are able to express "any views they wish" about the PKK, but that the statute "prevents petitioners from contributing resources of various kinds that further those groups' activities."

It is the definition of resources that divides the parties in the case and the fact that many groups that have terrorist designations also work for humanitarian purposes.

Fertig says that his advice, unlike a financial donation , should not be linked to support of terrorism.

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But the government insists, "Petitioners remain free ... to lobby Congress, to teach and advise on human rights, to promote the peaceful resolution of political disputes, and to advance for the human rights of minority populations. What petitioners may not do under the statute is something different: engage in certain activities in coordination with, or under the direct or control of, groups that they know have been designated as terrorist organizations or have engaged in terrorist activity."

Samp says that what Fertig calls "free speech" is actually advice that will help terrorists.

"Pure speech can aid terrorists," Samp says. "If you teach them how to advance their cause in the United Nations, for example, that means you are freeing up their resources so then they can use that same money to buy bombs. "

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Schrich hopes that Congress could have another shot at narrowing the law, clarifying the line between her intent to provide humanitarian assistance and the government's national security interests.
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