Multimedia resources for the Supreme Court case: Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

March 9, 2010

On Feb. 23, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP). At issue is the constitutionality of a provision in the USA Patriot Act that makes it a crime to provide “material support or resources” to any group that the government has labeled as a terrorist organization.

The Constitution Project and Charity and Security Network held a panel event where speakers discussed the case in regards to the First Amendment’s free speech provision and the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. This event was broadcast on C-SPAN.

On March 4, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a live two-hour magazine program on WAMU 88.5 based in Washington D.C, featured a discussion surrounding the issues involved in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case.  The full transcript from that program is available here.

Legal Roadblocks for U.S. Famine Relief to Somalia Creating Humanitarian Crisis

January 27, 2010

The unfolding crisis in Somalia illustrates a common dilemma U.S. nonprofits face when trying to conduct humanitarian operations in territory controlled by entities listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). The humanitarian imperative to provide urgently needed food to nearly two million people in an area controlled by al-Shabaab, a listed SDGT, conflicts with the “strict liability” standard against supporting terrorists that even has State Department employees fearing sanctions by the Treasury Department. Now the U.S. government's response to the famine in Somalia is forcing it to confront the same onerous hurdles current national security laws create for nonprofits.   

Chart: How Many Children Could be Helped if Frozen Charitable Funds Were Released?

November 9, 2009

The Office of Foreign Assets Control report for 2009 indicates up to $19.8 million in assets have been frozen for individuals and entities on its watchlist. There is no public information on how much of that comes from charities, but news reports indicate at least $7 million in U.S. charitable assets are frozen.

Instead of the money remaining frozen at Treasury, the money could be used to help millions of children and families in need. As an example, we used statistics from the US Fund for UNICEF* to illustrate how frozen funds could be used for immunizing children, clean water and shelter for displaced families.

KindHearts Settlement Ends Litigation

September 16, 2009

On May 1, 2012, lawyers for KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, the Ohio-based charity shut down “pending investigation” by the Treasury Department in February 2006, announced a settlement agreement with Treasury ending the litigation on terms favorable to the charity. In 2009 the federal district court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled that the process Treasury used to shut the charity down while investigating alleged ties to terrorism violated the constitution, and ordered further proceedings on what remedy Treasury should provide.

Summary of Economic Sanctions Laws and Regulations Authorizing Treasury to Shut Down Charities

September 15, 2009

The legal authority for the Department of Treasury to designate a person or organization as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) or freeze assets "pending investigation" is based on laws providing for economic sanctions against foreign nations, going back to the Trading With the Enemy Act in 1917 and ending with the Patriot Act.  

Panel Event- Dilemma for US NGOs: Counterterrorism Laws vs. the Humanitarian Imperative

July 1, 2009

The legal constraints national security laws impose of U.S. charitable organizations cause tensions with international law and codes for humanitarian aid and development programs. The standards and principles expressed in the Geneva Conventions and International Red Cross Code of Conduct could be emulated by the U.S and incorporated into future polices.

This panel discussion featured NGO leaders and experts from the U.S. who shared their expertise on humanitarian codes, charitable groups and donors affected by U.S. laws and regulations.

Examples of Negative Impact of U.S. Counterterrorism Laws on Charities and Philanthropy

July 1, 2009

U.S. counterterrorism laws and policies have had negative impacts that make it more difficult for charities and grantmakers to operate and in some cases, block donations for charitable programs from being used at all. The examples below, based on news reports and OMB Watch publications, illustrate this collateral damage. Changes in policy can support the work of charities, which often addresses the root causes of terrorism, without diminishing public safety. 

Selective Enforcement: Charities Targeted for Harsher Sanctions

June 29, 2009

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated nine U.S. charities as supporters of terrorism, seizing all property, blocking all funds and effectively closing all programs. In contrast, the for-profit corporations Halliburton and Chiquita Brands International have only had to pay fines for very similar alleged violations, and their operations have not been interrupted or shut down. There has been no explanation from OFAC.

Analysis: 2006 Treasury Dept. Voluntary Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines

May 21, 2009

On Sept. 29, 2006 the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released updated Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S.-Based Charities, its third version of recommendations for charities since 2002. The new Guidelines reflect Treasury consideration of public comments on a December 2005 revision of the original Guidelines, published in 2002. A new Annex provides an unconvincing explanation of Treasury's perception that terrorist abuse of charities is a substantial problem. The 2006 Guidelines place greater emphasis on their voluntary nature, saying charities should apply them to a degree commensurate with their risk of "abuse and exploitation" by terrorists. However, the fundamental problems that lead the nonprofit sector to call for withdrawal of the Guidelines remain unchanged.