Late last month, officials of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were carried out of a Dallas courthouse on the shoulders of jubilant friends and relatives after a federal jury largely vindicated them of charges of providing material support to the terrorist group Hamas.
The victory is in many ways a hollow one. Since December 2001, when the Holy Land Foundation was deemed a specially designated global terrorist by the Bush administration, the foundations assets have been frozen by the Treasury Departments Office of Foreign Asset Control. The criminal case has no impact on the freeze. The legal and moral incongruity of the organizations situation highlights the problems inherent in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act - a statute that was once used exclusively to penalize hostile foreign countries but that was expanded during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to target groups and individuals believed to be supporters of terrorist groups.
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the process is turned on its head. The government may designate an organization an aider and abettor of terrorism and freeze the designees assets. The target is given the chance to challenge the designation before a federal judge, but the process is so heavily weighted toward the government that it is almost meaningless. The government must prove only that its actions were not arbitrary and capricious.
The government should be given latitude to thwart funding of terrorist activity. But the extraordinary flexibility afforded the government must be offset by a process that gives groups labeled specially designated global terrorists a fair and meaningful chance to rebut the allegations.
- Washington Post
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