Did Michael Mukasey and Rudy Giuliani Provide Material Support to Terrorists?


Writing in The New York Times, Georgetown University law professor David Cole notes that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and former national security adviser Frances Townsend arguably violated the federal ban on providing "material support" to terrorist groups when they spoke at a conference in Paris last month. The gathering was sponsored by the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that the State Department considers a "foreign terrorist organization." Cole, who represented the Humanitarian Law Project in its unusuccessful First Amendment challenge to the material support ban, notes that the government says the law applies even to speech advocating legal, nonviolent activities if it is "for the benefit of" a terrorist group. Under that reading of the law, Cole notes, it is a felony "to file an amicus brief on behalf of a 'terrorist' group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group's 'terrorist' designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances." Hence Mukasey et al. could be prosecuted for providing material support to terrorists by speaking in support of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Cole, of course, is not arguing that Mukasey and the others should be punished for their speech. Rather, he wants Congress to narrow the material support law so that it excludes speech like theirs.

I discussed the wide sweep of the material support ban in a column last year.