January 27, 2004
of Patriot Act overturned by courts
Federal judge says the wording of a passage involving
expert advice to terrorist groups is too vague.
Associated Pressuthor info
LOS ANGELES For the first time, a federal judge
has declared unconstitutional a section of the USA Patriot
Act that bars giving expert advice or assistance to groups
designated foreign terrorist organizations.
In a ruling handed down late Friday and made available
Monday, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said the ban
is impermissibly vague in its wording.
The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, spokesman
Mark Corallo said in a statement from Washington.
Corallo called the Patriot Act the federal anti-terrorism
statute passed in the aftermath of Sept. 11 an
essential tool in the war on terror and asserted
that the portion at issue in the ruling was only a modest
amendment to a pre-existing anti-terrorism law.
David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who
argued the case on behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project,
declared the ruling a victory for everyone who believes
the war on terrorism ought to be fought consistent with
It Is the first federal court decision declaring
any part of the Patriot Act unconstitutional, he
The case before the court involved five groups and two
U.S. citizens seeking to provide support for lawful, nonviolent
activities on behalf of Kurdish refugees in Turkey.
The Humanitarian Law Project said the plaintiffs were
threatened with 15 years in prison if they advised groups
on seeking a peaceful resolution of the Kurds campaign
for self-determination in Turkey.
The judges ruling said the law, as written, does
not differentiate between impermissible advice on violence
and encouraging the use of peaceful, nonviolent means
to achieve goals.
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, the judge said.
The ruling specified that the plaintiffs seek to provide
support to the lawful, nonviolent activities
of the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an advocate group for the Tamil
people in Sri Lanka. Both groups are on a list issued
by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in 1997
of foreign terrorist organizations.
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tiger rebels have been engaged
in a two-decade civil war that has killed more than 65,000
people. Turkeys military has been battling Kurdish
rebels seeking autonomy since 1984, a fight that has left
some 37,000 people dead.
Under the Patriot Act, the U.S. prohibition on providing
material support or resources
to terrorist groups was expanded to include expert
advice or assistance.