FBI Use of the "Material Support" Statute
Understanding Counterterrorism Issues
FBI Testimony on our Use of the “Material Support” Statute
You’ve heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child”? It’s just as true, when you think about it, about “raising” terrorists.
Behind every bomber stands a complex network of people and organizations that have to fund the enterprise; train, house, feed, support, and arm the terrorist; coordinate the plot internationally; talk to each other via phone or email about it; raise operating funds from suspecting and unsuspecting donors; open bank accounts; buy weapons; buy airline tickets; lease cars; rent apartments or motel rooms, arrange logistics...in fact, buy and pay for every single dimension of bringing off a murderous plot.
And that’s the good news.
Today’s terrorist cells are notoriously difficult to penetrate, much less join. But these complex and myriad networks need money and communications to operate, and these very networks leave trails that can be traced back to the cells...which leads to identifying the leadership...which leads to breaking up plots and preventing acts of terrorism.
That’s why Assistant Director Gary Bald—joined by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Wray and Daniel J. Bryant of the Department of Justice—testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today on “Joining Terrorist Groups: An Examination of the Material Support Statute.”
A little history. The Material Support Statute—which prohibits support in any form and in any measure to all who encourage, plan, or engage in terrorism—has been an important tool for many years in assisting law enforcement with its investigations of terrorism. In fact it was used to break up a terrorist cell in North Carolina months prior to 9/11/01. But in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks, the application of this statute was broadened by the USA PATRIOT Act specifically to help prevent acts of terrorism.
How broadened? To include criminalizing the “facilitating” roles mentioned above: identifying the people who raise and move funds, provide the training, recruit the terrorists, and procure the supplies. And to stiffen the criminal penalties for engaging in these activities. In Mr. Bald’s words, “it is this type of terrorist who is the most prevalent in the United States.”
In his testimony, Mr. Bald addresses very specific questions—including the categories of “material support” cases—and he describes in detail 11 recent and pretty eyepopping investigations that have resulted in shutting down support structures for terrorism across America.
We highly recommend you read Mr. Bald’s testimony and judge for yourself how necessary and effective this legislative tool is in keeping terrorists out of America’s communities.