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080. Where Does America Draw the Line on Consorting with Terror Groups?
April 15, 2008

Where Does America Draw the Line on Consorting with Terror Groups?

By Jeffrey Imm


According to the U.S. State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) listing, Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is a federal crime to provide "material support or resources" to a designated FTO. But the Washington Post, the New York Times, at least one of the Holy Foundation Trial criminal trial jurors, and Mr. Jimmy Carter do not accept that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Mr. Carter is meeting with the Hamas terrorist group and seeks to influence American foreign policy in regards to that group. As Mr. Carter embraces members of the Hamas terrorist group, what are the consequences of American tolerance of those who defend, consort with, and provide a platform of legitimacy for terrorist groups?

Many are outraged by the actions of those who provide legitimacy, defense, and a platform for Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as Hamas. But until such individuals and groups face federal legal consequences for their actions, the emboldened supporters of terror groups will only continue to grow, undermining American law and American foreign policy.

Terror Trials and Hamas' Designation as a Terrorist Group

Six months ago, the United States federal government was vigorously prosecuting five Holy Land Foundation (HLF) defendants for providing financial support to Palestinian charity committees that they knew were controlled by the terrorist group Hamas. The HLF criminal trial ended in a mistrial; in four months, the HLF criminal case is scheduled for a retrial. There has been analysis on the causes of the HLF mistrial by numerous counterterrorism experts, including reporting by The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) of jury room bullying.

A key point in the HLF trial was that it is a crime to provide material support to Hamas, because Hamas is a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). But one juror in the HLF trial clearly communicated that there was a question as to whether Hamas really was a "terrorist" organization or not. The fact that Hamas was and continues to be clearly defined as a terrorist organization on the United States Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) listing was not really important to this juror.

The Dallas Morning News reported that this HLF trial juror: "said that that he believes the Palestinians 'are oppressed by the Israeli government.' He also had difficulty calling Hamas a terrorist group. 'Part of it does terrorist acts, but it's a political movement. It's an uprising.' " IPT further reported that the juror's views of Hamas were: "[i]t is marked as a terrorist organization. My personal viewpoint, I didn't know too much before. I see it as a political struggle. Our country was founded on a terrorist act. The Boston Tea Party wasn't a tea party, dude. It was a rebellion against the king's wrath. They fought back against an oppressive government."

This remains a key issue in counterterrorism prosecutions: if significant segments of the American public do not accept the government's designation of a terrorist group, how can trial juries reach agreement on criminal prosecutions of individuals associated with such terrorist organizations?

Prior to the HLF criminal trial, noted counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson and others questioned the mixed messages sent by departments within the federal government in attending a Labor Day conference held by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which itself was an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF criminal trial, and whose conference had a number of Islamist extremist speakers. Clearly the inability to convey a consistent message to government agencies in dealing with groups associated with or suspected of association with terrorist funding is a serious problem.

But how much more of a problem is the unwillingness of American political leadership to take action against those individuals and organizations that would consort with and provide a political platform to such FTO-designated terrorist groups? And how will the actions of American Hamas sympathizers impact future terrorist trials involving Hamas and other FTO-designated groups?

The jurors in the next HLF trial scheduled for August 18 (and in future Hamas terror trials) may certainly be impacted by what the U.S. government does or does not do, in regards to Mr. Carter's planned meetings with the terror group Hamas. Failure of the U.S. government to act will speak just as loudly as action will. The issue at stake is determining whether the U.S. government means what it says about Foreign Terrorist Organizations, or whether it is going to go down the slippery slope of tolerating those would defend and consort with such terrorist groups, when legal remedies should exist to prevent this.

Pro-Terrorist Bullying of Public Opinion -- Because They Can

Individuals and groups have come to learn that they can ignore the U.S. designation of Hamas as a terrorist group, and bully their views on Hamas into the mainstream of American public opinion. Private citizens can refuse to accept the designation of Hamas as a terrorist group without consequences, major U.S. media can promote Hamas propaganda without consequences, and now a former president, Jimmy Carter, seeks to meet with the Hamas terrorist group. Will this also be without consequences?

Despite criticism from the U.S. State Department and the House Foreign Relations chairman (Democratic Congressman Howard Berman), Mr. Jimmy Carter has announced plans to meet with Hamas terrorist group leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria on Friday, April 18. In addition, the Associated Press reports that Mr. Carter has already met with Hamas' Nasser al-Shaer on Tuesday, April 15 at a West Bank reception.

On April 15, Mr. Carter was denied the right, presumably by Israel, to go to Hamas-controlled Gaza. During all of this, Mr. Carter seeks to abuse his U.S. Secret Service protection as a former president, to obtain U.S-taxpayer funded security services while he meets with a terrorist group as a private citizen. Mr. Carter is meeting with the Hamas terror figures, despite the publicly stated wishes of the U.S. State Department for him not to do so.

On April 14, the Associated Press reported that Mr. Carter "hoped to help open talks between Hamas and U.S. leaders, saying Washington's policy of not meeting with people it labeled terrorists was counterproductive".

In February 2006, after the Hamas terrorist group won elections among Palestinians, Mr. Carter was among the first to call for the recognition of Hamas as a legitimate organization, telling CNN that " 'there's a good chance' that Hamas would become a non-violent organization, and that Hamas "told me they want to have a peaceful administration". Moreover, Mr. Carter told CNN that Hamas is 'highly disciplined' and capable of keeping any promise of nonviolence it might make. A few weeks prior to that interview, the Jerusalem Post and Fox News reported that Mr. Carter stated in a CNN interview that while Hamas may be considered "so-called terrorists," so far "there have been no complaints of corruption against [their] elected officials."

Time has proven how wrong Mr. Carter was regarding Hamas' "peaceful" intentions. In addition to its military takeover of Gaza, Hamas has continued its military build-up, and continued its terrorist attacks on Israel over the past two years. Reports have detailed how Hamas has built an army of 20,000 men trained in Iran and Lebanon. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "[a]lmost 700 rockets and 470 mortars fired from Gaza have struck southern Israel since the beginning of the year." Hamas itself claims that it has fired 2,252 rockets at Israel and is proud of its "military" actions against Israel, while at the same time proudly stating that Hamas uses "human shields" of women and children around their missile sites to try to prevent Israel from retaliating against Hamas missile strikes. Hamas has proudly claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in February 2008 that killed a 73-year old Israeli woman, and in March 2008 Hamas blessed a "heroic" attack on a Jewish seminary in Israel killing 10.

The International Herald Tribune has recently reported on how "Hamas ratchets up its rhetoric against Jews", with Hamas television praising terrorist missiles, suicide bombing, and Jihad. MEMRI has also recently reported on how Hamas Cleric Wael Al-Zarad calls for the annihilation of Jews and of Israel. Hamas leaders continue to call for terrorism not only against Israel, but also call for Islamist terrorism to "conquer" Rome, Europe, and America. Hamas television promotes teaching children to "kill" U.S. President Bush.

This is the "peace-loving" Hamas that Mr. Carter seeks to meet.

Mr. Carter is not just any private citizen. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a former president of the United States. Mr. Carter enjoys the protection of the U.S. Secret Service, whose duties clearly should not include protecting private citizens in meetings with terrorist groups. By seeking to meet with representatives of the Hamas terrorist group, Mr. Carter is effectively choosing to use his status as a former president to bully American public opinion into ignoring the government's designation of Hamas as a terrorist group.

Consequences for Meeting Foreign Terrorist Organization Groups

The failure of American political leadership to clearly and unequivocally define its enemy in terms of Islamist terror organizations remains a key weakness in American national security. The actions of the Washington Post and the New York Times in promoting Hamas propaganda were emboldened by the lack of such political leadership on this key national security issue. Clearly future American political leadership needs to rectify this lack of clarity on the identity of a wartime enemy, as well as clarify the consequences for consorting with the enemy, and providing propaganda support for the enemy.

Nonetheless, Mr. Carter has made a strategic error in his goal of meeting with and seeking to act as a negotiator with leaders of a Foreign Terrorist Organization in a foreign nation -- his actions could be construed as falling within the Logan Act.

The Logan Act (U.S. Code Title 18,953) states:
"Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on the Logan Act, in the case of Agee v. Muskie, the Logan Act was argued "to revoke Agee's passport on the basis that his activities abroad were causing serious damage to the national security or foreign policy of the United States". Agee's meetings with Iranian "militants" were found to fit the definition of "insurgents" within U.S. Code Title 18,11 "Foreign government defined", which "includes any government, faction, or body of insurgents within a country".

Legislative history in the CRS report on the Logan Act shows that Mr. Carter's actions are very similar to those that necessitated the creation of the Logan Act, where Mr. Carter seeks to force himself in the position to be an unwelcome "communicator" - negotiator between the Hamas terrorist group and the United States; the United States has a "dispute" with Hamas in that it views Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

On April 13, Associated Press reported that "[t]he State Department says it advised Carter twice against meeting representatives of Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization." On April 14, however, Mr. Carter told Haaretz that he had a discussion with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch "which was very pleasant, never a single negative word and not a single request that I modify my itinerary."

Clearly, the U.S. government must do more than "advise" Mr. Carter, it must warn him that he will be breaking the law by meeting with Hamas and that there will be legal consequences. Mr. Carter must be told unequivocally that the U.S. government will take legal action under federal criminal law, if he continues with such actions. It is past time to set an example that there are consequences to those who would consort with and defend terrorist organizations. There must be consequences for private citizens who would meet with enemy Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The U.S. government should make an example of this high-profile individual flaunting American law and policy. If Mr. Carter holds these meetings with the Hamas terrorist organization, the U.S. government has the responsibility to prosecute Mr. Carter under the terms of the Logan Act.

If legal scholars determine that the Logan Act does not sufficiently apply to Mr. Carter's actions, then it is the responsibility of Congress to propose new legislation that does address this defiance against American policy. Allowing private citizens to work and meet with Foreign Terrorist Organizations undermines the stated intent of section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in FTO designation: "stigmatizes and isolates designated terrorist organizations internationally". Mr. Carter's actions are intended to directly defy the intent of this law, by seeking to give credibility and international support for the Hamas terrorist organization.

Furthermore, the U.S. government must object at Mr. Carter's abuse of his U.S. Secret Service protection in being used to facilitate security while he meets with terrorist organizations. As a division of the Department of Homeland Security, it is clear that it is not the mission of the U.S. Secret Service to assist in the security of private citizens meeting with terror groups. It is the responsibility of the U.S. government to deny U.S. Secret Service protection in such matters.

No American citizen has the right to defy federal law. The U.S. government needs to send a signal and make an example that there will be consequences for those who consort with and defend terrorist organizations.


Sources and Related Documents:

April 15, 2008 - Reuters:  Carter, defying Israel, meets Hamas ex-minister
April 15, 2008 - Associated Press:  Palestinians say Jimmy Carter embraces Hamas leader; former president also visits Arafat grave
April 15, 2008 - Reuters: Carter says request to enter Gaza turned down
April 15, 2008 - Associated Press: Ex-president Carter offers to be "communicator" between Hamas, US, then Israel
April 14, 2008 - Associated Press: Carter wants US talks with Hamas
April 14, 2008 - Associated Press: Carter's Hamas meeting condemned by House Foreign Relations chair
April 14, 2008 - Haaretz: Jimmy Carter: Israel must talk to everyone
April 13, 2008 - Associated Press: Carter defends meeting with Hamas
April 11, 2008 - Associated Press: Rice Criticizes Carter Over Hamas Plans
February 2, 2006 - CNN: Jimmy Carter: Give Hamas a chance
January 20, 2006 - Jerusalem Post: Carter: Hamas involvement in PA elections good
January 23, 2006 -- Fox News report of Carter quotes
The Logan Act (U.S. Code Title 18,953)
February 1, 2006 - Congressional Research Service Report: "Conducting Foreign Relations Without Authority: The Logan Act" - Michael V. Seitzinger
Foreign government defined (U.S. Code Title 18,11)
April 8, 2008 - U.S. State Department: Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) - Legal Ramifications of Designation
April 11, 2008 - MEMRI: Hamas MP and Cleric Yunis Al-Astal in a Friday Sermon: We Will Conquer Rome, and from There Continue to Conquer the Two Americas and Eastern Europe
April 12, 2008 - Jerusalem Post: 'Since disengagement Hamas has built up a force of 20,000'
April 13, 2008 - WorldNetDaily.com - Hamas terrorists join Jimmy Carter fan club
April 6, 2008 - The Hamas terror war against Israel -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
April 1, 2008 - International Herald Tribune: Hamas ratchets up its rhetoric against Jews
March 30, 2008 - MEMRI: In Puppet Show On Hamas TV, Child Stabs President Bush to Death, Turns White House Into Mosque
March 7, 2008 - Jerusalem Post: Hamas 'blesses' terror attack at Jerusalem seminary
March 7, 2008 - News.Com.au: Hamas hails 'heroic' attack -- at Jerusalem seminary
February 29, 2008 - MEMRI: Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: We Used Women and Children as Human Shields
February 28, 2008 - MEMRI: Hamas Cleric Wael Al-Zarad Calls for the Annihilation of Jews and States: "As Muslims, our blood vengeance against them will only subside with their annihilation"
February 13, 2008 - Associated Press: Hamas issues glossy magazine in Gaza praising its military wing, rocket attacks on Israel
February 7, 2008 - Associated Press: Hamas calls suicide bombing in 'self-defense'
March 15, 2007 - The HAMAS Terror Organization - update for 2006 -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
May 3, 2006 - WorldNetDaily: Report: Hamas subcontracts terror group for attacks
April 11, 2006 - The forked tongue of Hamas -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 15, 2008 - Dallas Morning News: Holy Land retrial set for Aug. 18
December 14, 2007 - Summary of Special Panel on Holy Land's Ties to Hamas & Muslim Brotherhood - The Counterterrorism Blog - by Andrew Cochran
December 10, 2007 - The Investigative Project on Terrorism: Exclusive IPT Investigation Uncovers HLF Jury Room Bullying - by Michael Fechter
November 27, 2007 - Holy Land Mistrial: Judging a Designated Terrorist Entity - by Matthew Levitt
October 23, 2007 - Dallas Morning News: 'There was not enough evidence' (including Mr. Neal's comments)
October 22, 2007 - Dallas Morning News: Judge declares mistrial in Holy Land Foundation case
August 28, 2007 - DOJ, ISNA & HLF - The Counterterrorism Blog - by Steven Emerson
August 30, 2007 - ISNA and Jihad: Why DOJ's Involvement in ISNA Conference Sends The Wrong Message - The Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm
Wikipedia: Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development
September 4, 2007 - AP: Hamas bans public prayer in Gaza
June 22, 2007 - Reuters: Hamas scores publicity coup in U.S.
June 20, 2007 - Washington Post: Engage With Hamas - We Earned Our Support - Ahmed Yousef
June 20, 2007 - New York Times: What Hamas Wants - Ahmed Yousef
October 26, 2007 - Jihad, Islamism, and the Challenge of Anti-Freedom Ideologies - The Counterterrorism Blog - by Jeffrey Imm