From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Small win for Patriots Against PATRIOT

January 27, 2004 9:57 AM

Today's New York Times brings news of a small win in Operation American Freedom (OAF). Federal District Court Judge Audrey Collins, a Clinton appointee and former teacher, issued the ruling against one of the provisions of the PATRIOT Act. This comes only a week after President Bush urged Congress to renew parts of the act set to expire next year.

At issue was a provision in the act, passed by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that expanded previous antiterrorism law to prohibit anyone from providing "expert advice or assistance" to known terrorist groups. The measure was part of a broader set of prohibitions that the administration has relied heavily on in prosecuting people in Lackawanna, N.Y., Portland, Ore., Detroit and elsewhere accused of providing money, training, Internet services and other "material support" to terrorist groups.

In Los Angeles, several humanitarian groups that work with Kurdish refugees in Turkey and Tamil residents of Sri Lanka had sued the government, arguing in a lawsuit that the antiterrorism act was so ill defined that they had stopped writing political material and helping organize peace conferences for fear that they would be prosecuted.

Judge Collins agreed that the ban on providing advice and assistance to terrorists was "impermissibly vague" and blocked the Justice Department from enforcing it against the plaintiffs.

"The USA Patriot Act places no limitation on the type of expert advice and assistance which is prohibited, and instead bans the provision of all expert advice and assistance regardless of its nature," Judge Collins wrote in a ruling issued late Friday. As a result, the law could be construed to include "unequivocally pure speech and advocacy protected by the First Amendment."

She stopped short of issuing a nationwide injunction against the Justice Department.

The Humanitarian Law Project and the New York Center for Constitutional Rights have led the charge for a doctor from New York, Nagalingam Jeyalangim, who successfully got portions of the 1996 anti-terrorism law struck down by Judge Collins in 2001 -- just weeks after 9/11.

More from the archive in Civil Liberties, Legislation, Protest, Terrorism.

Small win for Patriots Against PATRIOT (01.27.2004)

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Jim Gilliam
Jim Gilliam


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