Department of Pre-Crime

Mother Jones
by Eric Umansky

02/29/08

There’s a reason material support has become such a popular charge, a reason it’s central to many of the government’s most questionable cases: The laws are a prosecutor’s dream. They don’t require evidence of a plot or even of a desire to help terrorists. They give the government a shot at convictions traditional criminal laws could never provide. ‘The administration adopted the preventive paradigm, i.e. ‘We’ve got to stop people before they’ve done something wrong,” says David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who’s the author of several books about the effect of anti-terror laws on the justice system. ‘There’s tremendous pressure to expand grounds of criminal activity, to prosecute people who might represent a threat. The material-support provisions have been the principal vehicle for pushing that envelope.’ The question is whether that approach has made us any safer...

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