The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the federal law criminalizing “material support” for terrorist groups, rejecting complaints that the law is so vague that it would stifle political speech by groups with peaceful intent, reports the National Law Journal. The 6-3 decision was a major victory for U.S. prosecutors, who frequently use the statute as a weapon to neutralize individuals with suspected ties to terrorist groups. In most terror cases the high court has ruled on since Sept. 11, 2001, the government has not fared so well.
The decision may be a boost for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who defended the statute at oral argument. Her Senate confirmation hearing for a seat on the Supreme Court begins next week. Georgetown University law Prof. David Cole, who argued for those challenging the law, said the ruling was a departure from Supreme Court First Amendment doctrine, marking the first time that the court has found a statute restricting speech to satisfy the demanding “strict scrutiny” standard. The court has declared that the First Amendment permits the government to make peace advocacy a crime,” Cole said. “There is no evidence in the case that teaching human rights furthers terrorism.” Chief Justice John Roberts, author of the decision, gave strong deference to “the considered judgment” of Congress and the executive branch that even benign support for groups with terrorist aims helps their violent activities.