[JURIST] Portions of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text] and its 2004 amendment, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act [text] which make it a crime to help groups considered to be terrorist organizations by the US government are too vague, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday. Judge Harry Pregerson noted that the statutes could theoretically be used to prosecute people who trained members of foreign organizations on ways to "use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve ongoing disputes," and struck down those ambiguous portions of the statute. Pregerson affirmed a 2005 District Court decision declaring portions of the law too vague.
The case, filed by the Humanitarian Law Project [advocacy website] on behalf of the Kurdish Workers Party [FAS backgrounder] in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [CFR backgrounder] in Sri Lanka, challenged provisions of the law including training, expert advice and services in the definition material support to terrorist organizations. The statute, first amended by the USA Patriot Act after Sept. 11, was successfully challenged in 2003, which lead to the 2004 amendment specifying that the ban on material support applied only to organizations known to be on the US terror list. The Ninth Circuit ruled Monday that the amendments were still too vague, saying it would be difficult for a lay person to distinguish between "teaching someone to petition international bodies for tsunami-related aid, [and] one [that] is imparting a 'specific skill' or 'general knowledge'"to terror organizations. Reuters has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has local coverage.