Material support is defined somewhat differently in different contexts, making it difficult for nonprofit organizations to navigate the prohibition when working in areas controlled by or in proximity to listed terrorist groups.

The primary definition is found in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA):

Material support: Any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (one or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.  (18 U.S.C. §2339A).

The AEDPA further defines the non-tangible forms of support as follows:

Training: instruction or teaching designed to impart a specific skill, as opposed to general knowledge.

Expert advice or assistance: advice or assistance derived from scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines material support differently:

Material support (INA): to commit an act that the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons (chemical, biological, or radiological weapons), explosives, or training

  • for the commission of a terrorist activity;

  • to any individual who the actor knows, or reasonably should know, has committed or plans to commit a terrorist activity;

  • to a terrorist organization or to any member of such an organization or

  • to a terrorist organization, or to any member of such an organization, unless the actor can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the actor did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that the organization was a terrorist organization. (8 U.S.C. §1182 (a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI))

Under the INA, terrorist organization is defined as:

Terrorist organization (INA): an organization –

  • designated under section 1189 of the act;

  • otherwise designated, upon publication in the Federal Register, by the Secretary of State in consultation with or upon the request of the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security, as a terrorist organization, after finding that the organization engages in terrorist activities; or

  • that is a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup which engages in, terrorist activities .