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Free speech v. national security: Supreme Court upholds federal ban on support for “terrorist” organizations

by AirTalk®

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A demonstrator flashes a V-sign before outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Worker`s Party) flag on November 13 2005, during the 'democracy and peace' demonstration organized by local non-governmental groups and pro-Kurdish parties in Diyarbakir, predominantly Kurdish city of southeastern Turkey. Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that U.S. citizens may not advise or aid certain organizations designated by the State Department—even toward its nonviolent ends. The challenge was brought by Ralph D. Fertig, a civil rights activist prosecuted for advising Kurdish militants in Turkey on peaceful ways to meet their goals. The group is among thirty or so designated groups that include Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Khmer Rouge. Should prosecutors draw a distinction between support for peaceful and violent activities of these organizations? Did the Court unfairly violate citizens’ 1st amendment rights? Or, is any support for known terror groups tantamount to advocating violence? And, what if a supporter has no knowledge of a group’s other activities?

Full list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (via


Ralph D. Fertig, civil rights activist who challenged the law; Professor, USC School of Social Work

Shane Kadidal, Senior Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, No. 08-1498

John Eastman, Founding Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, which filed an amicus brief in support of the government in this case [PDF].

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