By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press
January 26, 2004

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - For the first time, a federal judge has declared
unconstitutional a section of the USA Patriot Act that bars giving expert
advice or assistance to groups designated foreign terrorist organizations.

In a ruling handed down late Friday and made available Monday, U.S. District
Judge Audrey Collins said the ban is impermissibly vague in its wording.

The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, spokesman Mark Corallo
said in a statement from Washington.

Corallo called the Patriot Act - the federal anti-terrorism statute passed
in the aftermath of Sept. 11 - "an essential tool in the war on terror" and
asserted that the portion at issue in the ruling was only a modest amendment
to a pre-existing anti-terrorism law.

David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who argued the case on
behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project, declared the ruling "a victory for
everyone who believes the war on terrorism ought to be fought consistent
with constitutional principles."

"It Is the first federal court decision declaring any part of the Patriot
Act unconstitutional," he said.

The case before the court involved five groups and two U.S. citizens seeking
to provide support for lawful, nonviolent activities on behalf of Kurdish
refugees in Turkey.

The Humanitarian Law Project said the plaintiffs were threatened with 15
years in prison if they advised groups on seeking a peaceful resolution of
the Kurds' campaign for self-determination in Turkey.

The judge's ruling said the law, as written, does not differentiate between
impermissible advice on violence and encouraging the use of peaceful,
nonviolent means to achieve goals.

"The USA Patriot Act places no limitation on the type of expert advice and
assistance which is prohibited and instead bans the provision of all expert
advice and assistance regardless of its nature," the judge said.

The ruling specified that the plaintiffs seek to provide support to "the
lawful, nonviolent activities" of the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an advocate group for the Tamil people in
Sri Lanka. Both groups are on a list issued by former Secretary of State
Madeline Albright in 1997 of "foreign terrorist organizations."

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tiger rebels have been engaged in a two-decade civil
war that has killed more than 65,000 people. Turkey's military has been
battling Kurdish rebels seeking autonomy since 1984, a fight that has left
some 37,000 people dead.

Under the Patriot Act, the U.S. prohibition on providing "material support"
or "resources" to terrorist groups was expanded to include "expert advice or

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