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www.amperspective.com Online Magazine

Executive Editor: Abdus Sattar Ghazali


AMV welcomes ruling against part of Patriot Act

January 27, 2004 – The American Muslim Voice is delighted to know that LA District Judge Audrey Collins has declared a provision of the USA Patriot Act, which bars giving expert advice or assistance to groups designated foreign terrorist organizations, as unconstitutional.

In a 36-page ruling handed down on Jan. 23 and made available on Jan. 26, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said the ban on providing "expert advice or assistance" is impermissibly vague in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.

The AMV agrees with Judge Collin’s findings that such wording is disturbingly vague and can be easily abused by the administration.

The AMV is disappointed at the call of President Bush to make permanent the sunset clauses in the Patriot Act that are set to expire on December 31, 2005.

The AMV reaffirms to continue to work to advocate for the repeal of sections of the Patriot Act that violate the constitution while failed to enhance the national security. 

Citing free speech, judge voids part of anti-terror act

For the first time, a federal judge has struck down part of the sweeping antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, joining other courts that have challenged integral parts of the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, Washington Post said.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collin’s 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's ruling said.

The AMV is disappointed at the call of President Bush to make permanent the sunset clauses in the Patriot Act that are set to expire on December 31, 2005. The AMV reaffirms to continue to work to advocate for the repeal of sections of the Patriot Act that violate the constitution while failed to enhance the national security. 

Judge Collin’s 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's ruling said.

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, which brought the suit, 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 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."

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."

Lawyers for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed the lawsuit on grounds that there is not "a genuine threat of imminent prosecution" of those who would assist the groups in question. They also argued that the advice they sought to offer on international human rights, peacemaking and advocacy is "not even arguably expert."

The judge disagreed, citing the plaintiffs' long history of work in the field of human rights.

David Cole, an attorney and Georgetown University law professor who argued the case on behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project, said the ruling marks the first court decision to declare a part of the Patriot Act unconstitutional.

Collins' ruling follows a December decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn portions of a sweeping 1996 anti-terror law which preceded the Patriot Act. A three-judge panel found the law's reference to financial assistance or "material support" to terrorist organizations was over broad.

Another challenge to the Patriot Act is pending in Detroit where the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the Act gives federal agents unlimited and unconstitutional authority to secretly seize library reading lists and other personal records.