Did Vice “Support” Terrorism?

Andrew March suggests that the gutsy journalist Medyan Dairieh, who embedded with ISIS militants in Syria to get an inside look at the group’s operations and produced this stunning documentary (trailer above), may have violated the law against providing material support to terrorists, given how nebulously that support is defined:

In the test case that came before the Supreme Court in 2010, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Court held that it was constitutional to prohibit a group of humanitarian legal professionals (including a retired U.S. judge) “from engaging in certain specified activities, including training PKK members to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully; teaching PKK members to petition the United Nations and other representative bodies for relief; and engaging in political advocacy on behalf of Kurds living in Turkey and Tamils living in Sri Lanka.” The Court rejected the claim that the statute “should be interpreted to require proof that a defendant intended to further a foreign terrorist organization’s illegal activities.” Instead it affirmed that the statute prohibits “‘knowingly’ providing material support” and that Congress was within its rights to choose “knowledge about the organization’s connection to terrorism, not specific intent to further its terrorist activities, as the necessary mental state for a violation.” In short, according to the Court: expert advice + coordination with a terrorist group = federal crime.

That decision means, for example, that Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center could be in violation of federal law for giving peacemaking advice to groups on the State Department’s FTO list. Any private individual who coordinates with a group on that list, or a group that the individual ought to know engages in terrorism, with the purposes of providing it advice or assistance—even on how to pursue an end to its campaign of violence—is guilty of a crime by the logic of the Roberts Court.