Stone: 'Material Support' and the First Amendment

'Material Support' and the First Amendment
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
June 23, 2010

In Monday's decision in Holder v. Humanitariam Law Project, a divided Supreme Court upheld a provision of the Patriot Act making it a crime for any person knowingly to provide "material support" to a foreign terrorist organization. "Material support" is defined to include not only money, weapons and facilities, but also "advice or assistance."

The plaintiffs, who challenged the constitutionality of the statute under the First Amendment, want to advise several terrorist organizations, which engage in political and humanitarian as well as violent activities, how to use international law to resolve their disputes peacefully, and to engage in political advocacy on behalf of these organizations and their causes.

Can an American citizen who is sympathetic to such an organization deliver a speech or write a blog arguing that the organization's activities are morally defensible? Can an American citizen who supports such an organization send it a book about how best to present its case to the International Court of Justice?

Geoffrey R. Stone