Is the Jimmy Carter Center providing material support for terrorism?

The Carter Center, as well as Jimmy Carter himself, have been investing time and resources with designated terrorist organization aimed, allegedly, at promoting peaceful goals.

 (photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
(photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
The US probably has the most extensive laws prohibiting the support of terrorism that exist anywhere in the Western world. In the US, it is highly illegal to offer any type of assistance to a designated terrorist organization. This comes from a widely supported approach that combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order.
US law not only prohibits providing monetary support for terrorist organizations but also prohibits granting material support, which includes training, expert advice, assistance, service, etc.
For anyone involved in counter-terrorism, and presumably also those who engage in or wish to engage in aiding terrorist organizations, the most important guidelines were provided by the Supreme Court in Holder V. Humanitarian Project from 2010.
The Supreme Court then endorsed the government’s position that terrorist organizations are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contribution to such an organization facilitates that conduct. It also rejected the position that ostensibly peaceful aid would have no harmful effects.
That brings us back to the Carter Center. The Carter Center, as well as Jimmy Carter himself, have been investing time and resources with designated terrorist organization like Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aimed, allegedly at promoting positive, peaceful goals. For example, the promotion of inter-Palestinian reconciliation.
To further this objective, the Carter Center has hosted senior members of these organizations in its establishments, provided mediation services, consultation, etc., There is certainly room for debating the worthiness of such a cause – however, that is not the question at hand. The question at hand is whether or not such behavior violates US law and constitutes material support for terrorism.
Let’s take another step back.
According to US law, the provision of expert advice or assistance otherwise known as material support, even if meant to promote peaceful and lawful conduct, can facilitate terrorism.
The logic is simple. Any service provided to a terrorist group can help free up other resources within the organization. Taking into account that a terrorist organization, ultimately, aims at executing acts of terror, by freeing resources from other needs, you are very likely to contribute to the organization’s illegal acts of violence, whether you intended to do so or not.
Moreover, services provided by legitimate organizations (like the Carter Center) can certainly contribute to the terrorist organization’s own legitimacy. An increase in legitimacy can make it easier for these groups to grow, recruit members and funds and ultimately generate more violence.
Hence, it doesn’t matter what the Carter Center’s intentions are, whether they mean well, or are aimed at the promotion of what they believe to be an advancement of peace. Jimmy Carter is a former president, however, he is and has been a citizen for many years. The law now must apply to him, as well as his non-profit organization, as it does to all other American citizens.
It should be known that the Carter Center took an active role in the Holder case back in 2010. At that time, the Center filed an amicus brief in which they essentially argued that if the Supreme Court upholds the law regarding material support for terrorism, it would make much of their activity illegal. Despite the ruling of the Holder judgment, the Carter Center has not ceased these types of activities.
What further complicates the situation is that the Carter Center applied for and received USAID grants, which since 2010 amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Any organization that receives USAID grants must sign a certification in which it states that it did not provide, within the previous 10 years any material support or resources to any terrorist organization.
This means that if the Carter Center was found to have provided material support for a designated terrorist organization, it is not only risking criminal penalties, but it can also mean that it has fraudulently taken many millions of dollars from American taxpayers over the years.
A case brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) against the Carter Center in late 2015 (the seal was just recently lifted) argued that funds should be returned to the US government for these exact reasons.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to dismiss the case; however, the DOJ’s arguments do not refer to the essence of the claim, which was the provision of material support to terrorist organizations. Rather, its arguments are based on technical legal arguments, such as the arguments against the suitability of the FCA and the fact that information regarding the Carter Center’s activities can be found in publicly available sources. 
The writer is the director of the International Legal Forum and specializes in human rights and international law.