a human rights activist working for an NGO in Sri Lanka. After a hard day's work in a humid
office building, you walk into your apartment, fire up your laptop and fire off
the following tweet:
workshop with @LTTE and Sri Lankan govt. about easing roadblocks for medical
supplies to be trucked in. Conf.
going well, God-willing."
you're now a terrorist.
It sounds like
the plot of an action movie. But
according to a controversial 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, NGOs--and
those who work on their behalf--could be held criminally and civilly liable for
providing nonviolent, material support to designated terrorist groups.
In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project,
the Court extended the Patriot Act's prohibition on material support to
terrorist groups to include "expert advice, assistance, and
personnel". Under the
contentious 6-3 decision, aiding and abetting the enemy could be as innocent as
providing antibiotics to refugees ...or as amorphous as sending out a tweet.
already has its share of detractors.
Former President Jimmy Carter and linguist Noam Chomsky have already
come out against it, warning that the decision could hamper the work of NGOs
around the world and endanger the lives of civilians in war-torn areas,
including women and children. But
is promoting social justice in Sri Lanka the same as shouting fire in a crowded
Leiter, who is
Israeli, seems like an unlikely proponent for the new ruling. But already her group, Shurat Haddin,
is using the Holder decision to sue
social media giants such as Twitter, accusing them of violating U.S.
anti-terror laws by hosting the accounts of Hezbollah, al-Shabaab, and other
terrorist groups . In a recent
interview with the Jerusalem Post,
Darshan-Leiter claims that unless the accounts are deleted, the
California-based tech company could face fines, even indictments.
determines who is and isn't a terrorist?
the Supreme Court, that task falls to Congress and the Executive Branch. But even then, the issue is murky. The State Department has designated the
MEK, or Mujaheddin al Khalq, as a terrorist group for its involvement in the
1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Yet
according to the International Herald
Tribune, politicians as diverse as Patrick Kennedy and former Homeland
Security chief Tom Ridge have endorsed the group, as well as former chief of
staff Andrew Card, Richard Perle, and many others.
Democrat, even voted for a non-binding resolution endorsing the group. Yet organizations like Hezbollah--which
has a social service wing as well--are conspicuously excluded.
As the global
war on terror continues, the only sure advice seems to be: watch what you
By John Winn