Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a First Amendment challenge to the federal law that prohibits the provision of “material support” to groups that have been designated as “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs) by the Justice Department.  There are 44 such groups, including al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. 

Human rights groups have been critical of the Court’s decision.  They view the law as an obstacle to constructive dialogue between Americans and foreign groups that might be reasoned with and that might eventually become our friends.  The authors of an op-ed that ran on June 29 in The New York Times, “Why We Talk to Terrorists,” argue that “to assume that it is invariably wrong to engage any of these groups is a grave mistake,” and that “hindering all informed interaction with terrorist groups will harm both our national security and the prospects for peace in the world’s seemingly intractable conflicts.”  Ralph Fertig, the man who spearheaded the legal challenge to the statute, argues that he is being prevented from meeting with Kurdish leaders – whose affiliation with any FTOs is unknown to him – to teach them how to press their human rights claims before the United Nations.