Jurisdiction in Lindh case?

This may be moot now, but I’m still curious. One of the charges Lindh plead to fell under [URL = http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/pIch113B.html]Title 18 U.S.C. § 2339A. That article begins:

Since the specified events took place outside the States, how could Lindh be charged under this code? Looking through that chapter, the only explanation of jurisdiction I saw was in reference to civil actions. Can any lawyers out there parse the above quote for us, specifically “within the United States”, or could someone find a link showing how this code applies to someone outside the country?

Damn! ‘Preview Reply’ should not be right next to ‘Submit Reply’.

Technically, that isn’t a matter of jurisdiction, but instead an element of the crime.


I don’t think Lindh was indicted under that particular section of the Code, but rather Sec. 2339B, “Providing Material Support to Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations”. That part starts out “Whoever, within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States…”. His indictment is at http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/2ndictment.htm

Whoops. That should be


Thanks, pravnik. Next question: How is ‘jurisdiction’ defined here?

According to my friend who was an assistant AG with the DOJ, of whom I recently asked this very question, jurisdiction is conferred through US Const. Art III Section 2, which provides in pertinent part "The Trial of all Crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress by law may have directed. (emphasis added).

In short, because crimes may be committed outside of the States and yet still be sujbect to the Federal court’s jurisdiciton, therefore Congress may criminalize a US citizen’s conduct in Afghanistan.

Personally, I don’t buy that rationale. I think that Constitutional language my friend cited only pertains to a person’s actions within the country but outside of a state, as for instance within D.C. or Puerto Rico, or the Northwest Territories as then existed at the time the Constitution was adopted.

Jurisdiction gnenerally means the right of a court to legitimately rule on the the controversy before it.

PatrickM, you’re friend was halfway right (and you’re wrong) about that part of Art. III, but it’s talking about venue, not jurisdiction. (Where, not whether.)

The real answer to the jurisdictional question is that Lindh is a citizen of the U.S. and he was aiding an organization [allegedly] attacking the U.S. Most countries recognize the right of a nation to police its own citizens, regardless of where their illegal actions take place. The exercise of jurisdiction as against someone merely because their crimes are directed at that nation’s citizens is more controversial, but there in precedent in the U.S. courts for doing so. (One of the interesting things about jurisdiction is that while countries differ as to what are legitimate basis for exercising jurisdiction, there’s pretty much unanimous support, at least as an academic matter, for the idea that it is the country itself that determines where its jurisdiction lies, not any foreign nation.


Is there a standard the U.S. uses to determine it’s jurisdiction? Is determined on a case-by-case basis? Law-by-law? Or is it always global? If an American goes to Amsterdam and smokes some pot in a coffee shop, can they be prosecuted in the U.S. when they return?

Law-by-law. For example, s. 2339B has an extraterritorality clause.

Absent that, the feds wouldn’t have jurisdiction.


:smack: I’d been so focused on 2339A, I didn’t read all of 2339B. Thanks, Sua!