The United States Supreme Court has agreed to review the constitutionality of a statute banning "material support" to terrorists. The case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, et al., is the latest iteration of a decade-long fight brought by groups seeking to provide support services to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Both the District Court for the Central District of California and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have already held that three components of the statutory definition of material support—"training," "expert advice or assistance," and "service"—are unconstitutionally vague. In asking the Supreme Court to review the lower court's findings, the Justice Department explained that the law "is a vital part of the Nation's effort to fight international terrorism" and that the specific provisions are not unconstitutionally vague. The government's brief explained, "each of these terms has an established meaning and is readily understandable by persons of ordinary intelligence."
Since 2001, the United States has charged approximately 120 defendants with violation of the material support statute. Many of those cases have involved the provisions in question, and more than half of those cases ended in conviction. Although two lower courts have struck down this important anti-terror law, the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari provides an opportunity to clarify that this statute is not only necessary, but lawful.
Although a date hasn't been set for oral arguments yet, the Court will receive written and oral arguments during its current term. In addition to the briefs by the named parties, this case will likely result in a large number of amici briefs on behalf of both the government and the individuals challenging the law.