Report Uncovers Over-Hyped Material Support of Terrorism Prosecutions by U.S.

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Date: 
July 3, 2014

Project SALAM and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms released the May 2014 report, “Inventing Terrorism” a study illustrating the abusive and overall ineffective nature of anti-terrorism laws to protect America from terrorist attacks.  The study states that fewer than six percent of cases that the Department of Justice (DOJ) have listed as “terrorism and terrorism-related convictions,” involved real terrorist threats.  The remaining 94 percent of cases are preemptive prosecutions or cases that contained elements of preemptive prosecution.

The study defines preemptive prosecution as a law enforcement strategy adopted after 9/11 to target and prosecute individuals or organizations whose beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations raise security concerns for the government.  The criminal charges that are brought against these individuals include the material support for terrorism laws, which prohibits anyone from providing nearly all tangible and intangible types of support to designated terrorist group. The authors found that, in effect, the material support law criminalizes activities that are not otherwise illegal; such as free speech, free association, charity, peace-making, and social-hospitality.  The authors also discovered that the government has argued in several cases that Muslim defendants “were ideologically predisposed to commit the crime.”  This has resulted in individuals being convicted based on associations with others or for their participation in government manufactured and controlled criminal plots. In some cases, minor criminal activity has been characterized as supporting terrorism.

Only one percent of prosecutions on the DOJ’ list of “terrorism and terrorism-related convictions” represented individuals who were ready to engage in violent activity relating to terrorism in the U.S., calling into question whether or not these individuals posed a serious or imminent threat.  Seven individuals identified as security threats since 9/11 were not even included on any terrorist list, despite the government’s insistence on using such lists. 

Project SALAM states that their report “demonstrates that the government has manufactured most of the terrorism convictions in the country and has greatly overstated the threat of terrorism, especially from Muslim extremism.” The report concludes with several recommendations to the federal government on how to bring anti-terrorism laws more in line with actual threats.  This includes changing the material support laws to require specific intent to support violence.  According to Project SALAM, “the law becomes a trap for people who give humanitarian aid with the intent to help relieve suffering.”