(CN) – The Humanitarian Law Project lacks standing to challenge the president’s power to designate terrorist organizations in the face of “an extraordinary threat to national security,” the 9th Circuit ruled.
The human-rights group claimed that this executive authority blocked it from supporting the legal activities of two designated terrorist organizations: the Kurdistan Worker’s Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam in Sri Lanka.
The law project said it chose not to help the groups out of fear that it would also be labeled a terrorist organization.
It sued the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury, along with their top officials, alleging First and Fifth Amendment violations.
It also challenged the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to designate further terrorist organizations, and asked the district court in Los Angeles to strike down a ban on providing support or services to such organizations.
On a 2-1 vote, the 9th Circuit sided with U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins that the Humanitarian Law Project lacks standing, because it has never been designated a terrorist organization or even threatened with that label.
Judge Rymer rejected the plaintiff’s claim that self-censorship is a form of injury. The International Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) – the law that gives the president and Treasury secretary their designation power – regulates conduct, not speech, Rymer said.
“Similarly, the ban on ‘services’ to designated organizations is not unconstitutionally vague,” Rymer added.
“[Humanitarian Law Project] worries that protected speech such as independent advocacy may be caught in the net, but the Secretary does not interpret the ban this way, nor do we.”
The panel upheld Judge Collins’ dismissal of the case.
“Given no constitutional difficulties of the magnitude that requires a narrowing construction, we decline to rewrite IEEPA more narrowly,” Rymer concluded.
Judge Pregerson dissented in part, arguing that the plaintiff’s standing “should be analyzed using the less rigid standard appropriate when First Amendment rights are at stake.”
Pregerson also disagreed that the ban on “services” is valid.
“The government has taken the position and made representations that the term ‘services’ does not reach independent advocacy,” Pregerson wrote. “I doubt whether such expressed intentions and representations – no matter how earnestly made – could assuage the reasonable fears of entities who stand to have all their assets frozen if the Secretary should change course.”