The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a law that bars Americans from providing support to foreign terrorist groups, rejecting arguments that it violated constitutional rights of free speech and association.

The decision came in the first test to reach the Supreme Court after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of a case pitting the right of U.S. citizens to speak and associate freely against the government’s efforts to fight terrorism.

In a victory for the Obama administration, the justices voted, 6-3, to reverse a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that declared parts of the law unconstitutionally vague.


The law barring material support was first adopted in 1996 and strengthened by the USA Patriot Act adopted by Congress right after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was amended again in 2004.

The law bars knowingly providing any service, training, expert advice or assistance to any foreign organization designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the law was constitutional and rejected the specific challenge before it. He said the court did not address the “more difficult cases” that may arise under the law in the future.

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