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Supreme Court's hard line on supporting terrorists is the right line

The court’s Holder ruling was a crucial victory in the fight against terrorism.

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In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Supreme Court last month rightly upheld the ban on “material support” for designated foreign terrorist organizations to include seemingly benign support and training. The importance of this ruling lies not just in holding that this preventive criminal provision is constitutional but in the reaffirmation of America’s most basic counterterrorism policy.

This policy seeks not only to prevent terrorist attacks against US interests, but to delegitimize foreign organizations whose terrorist activities taint all that they do, regardless of the cause. If a group uses terrorism, then anything it does to advance its cause – even if legitimate in isolation – is illegitimate and cannot be supported directly. It is the use of terrorism as a tactic – a non-state organization’s purposeful targeting of noncombatants and civilians with violence for political purposes – that US policy targets.

In rejecting the plaintiff’s arguments, the Court reaffirmed the longstanding US counterterrorism policy predating 9/11 – President Clinton signed it in to law, the Patriot Act expanded it, the Bush administration refined it, and the Obama administration defended it.

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