6

Time wrote in relation to the 2011 famine in Somalia:

US aid officials and any aid worker handling US food suddenly had a legal obligation to ensure none of benefitted al Shabab, even inadvertently. [...]

Perhaps realizing it had unwittingly helped cause a famine, earlier this month the US tried to reassure aid workers that it would not prosecute them if they accidentally ended up aiding or abetting al Shabab.

Is/was there something in US law that could be read so broadly, that inadvertent help to terrorists could be prosecuted?

1 Answer 1

14

Yes

Most statutes can be read broadly or narrowly.

The relevant one here is:

Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, ... To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization ..., that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity ..., or that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism ...

Al Shabab qualifies as a terrorist organisation on all three counts.

Food is captured under "material support or resources":

the term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials;

Aid organisations know that to distribute aid in areas controlled by al Shabab, al Shabab will take a cut. Read broadly, a zealous prosecutor and an unsympathetic judge/jury could find, as a matter of fact, that sending supplies into an area where the sender knows that some will be diverted to a terrorist organisation is "knowingly [providing] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization" even if that was not the intention.

1
  • In this case, the answer to the question "did the defendant know that some of the supplies would be diverted to a terrorist organization?" would be a matter of fact, but the answer to the question "given that the defendant knew that some of the supplies would be diverted to a terrorist organization, did they violate paragraph thus-and-such of law?" would be a matter of law. Apr 12 at 16:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .