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From Wire Reports:

Judge's Ruling Indicates Part of PATRIOT Act Is Unconstitutional

On June 21, a federal judge dismissed the Justice Department's case against seven persons charged with funneling charitable donations to People's Mujahedin, a group thought to have been partly responsible for the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Judge Robert M. Takasugi of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that a law passed by Congress in 1996 that classified certain foreign groups as "terrorist organizations" is ''unconstitutional on its face.'' The law makes it a crime to provide ''material support'' to any foreign organization deemed by the State Department to be a national security threat. Therefore, the judge ruled, the law cannot serve as the basis for criminal charges. ''I will not abdicate my responsibilities as a district judge and turn a blind eye to the constitutional infirmities," opined Takasugi. Because the government's list of "terrorist organizations" was secret, the judge concluded, ''The defendants are deprived of their liberty based on an unconstitutional designation that they could never challenge.''

The defendants in the case had been collecting money from travelers at the L.A. airport, saying the donations— amounting to over $1 million by Justice Department estimates— would be used for charitable relief efforts in Iran. Instead, the government charged, the money went to support People's Mujahedin military camps in Iraq.

The government's case against John Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen accused of aiding the al-Quaida in Afghanistan, deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. Justice Department, is based partly on the antiterrorism law now ruled unconstitutional by Judge Takasugi. makes it a crime to provide ''material support'' to any foreign organization that the State Department deems a threat to national security. But the law gives these groups ''no notice and no opportunity'' to contest their designation, a violation of due process, Takasugi ruled.

The Justice Department may appeal the ruling.


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This story was published on July 3, 2002.
  
JULY 2002
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