Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Infamous 1997 'Foreign Terrorist Organization' Listing Revisited

by Sachi Sri Kantha, December 17, 2007

Thirdly, if the 1997 FTO list was based on real facts of executed threats to American citizens, the omission of the EPRLF or its clone, the EPDP led by Douglas Devananda (who was directly involved in the 1984 kidnapping of Allens), from the list is unexcusable...

Sixthly, the inclusion of the LTTE in that 1997 FTO list was primarily for the political purpose of puffing up the list with potential threats from foreign militant organizations, thereby soliciting increased appropriations for the intelligence budget from the US Congress/Senate. That the LTTE is composed of non-white, predominantly non-Christian, Asian youths served well for the chauvinist-dogmatic white Christian male politicians who rule the roost in Washington DC. More than 90 percent of the organizations that constituted the 1997 FTO list consisted of non-white, predominantly non-Christian youths.

Ten years have passed since the LTTE was included as one of the foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) in the list produced by the US State Department. A well-entrenched popular, and erroneous, belief among the Sinhalese is that, to quote Malinda Seneviratne (an ardent Sinhala chauvinist), “The LTTE was named a terrorist organization in the USA primarily due to the work of Jayantha Dhanapala and Sri Lankan expatriates who briefed their Congressmen on the true picture here.” [The Island, Colombo, Oct.9, 2000]. This is akin to the view of the proverbial blind man who described the elephant he had touched.

Pat Oliphant Oct 19 2001

To the best of my knowledge, no in-depth study has been undertaken as to why the LTTE came to be included in this FTO list. If the 1994 scandal of the CIA’s Aldrich Ames, caught as the mole for Soviet Union/Russia, was one of the unmentioned, hidden progenitors for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132- Apr.24, 1996), passed by the US Senate and House of Representatives, the 2001 scandal of the FBI’s Robert Hansen, caught as the mole for the Soviet Union/Russia, accentuated the bi-annual ritual of listing the FTO organizations by the US State Department. A glance at the two cartoons of Pat Oliphant that appeared in 2001 and 2002 sums up vividly the real reasons why the Washington DC mandarins love to maintain the FTO list.

Now to the technical details. Here are the relevant passages relating to the ‘International Terrorism Prohibitions’, of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132- Apr.24, 1996).

“Sec.301. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

(a) FINDINGS – The Congress finds that,

(1) international terrorism is a serious and deadly problem that threatens the vital interests of the United States;

(2) the Constitution confers upon Congress the power to punish crimes against the law of nations and to carry out the treaty obligations of the United States, and therefore  Congress may by law impose penalties relating to the provision of material support to foreign organizations engaged in terrorist activity.

(3) the power of the United States over immigration and naturalization permits the exclusion from the United States of persons belonging to international terrorist organizations;

(4) international terrorism affects the interstate and foreign commerce of the United States by harming international trade and market stability, and limiting international travel by United States citizens as well as foreign visitors to the United States;

(5) international cooperation is required for an effective response to terrorism, as demonstrated by the numerous multilateral conventions in force providing universal prosecutive jurisdiction over persons involved in a variety of terrorist acts, including hostage taking, murder of an internationally protected person, and aircraft piracy and sabotage;

(6) some foreign terrorist organizations, acting through affiliated groups or individuals, raise significant funds within the United States, or use the United States as a conduit for the receipt of funds raised in other nations; and

(7) foreign organizations that engaged in terrorist activity are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contribution to such an organization facilitates that conduct.

(b) PURPOSE – The purpose of this subtitle is to provide the Federal Government the fullest possible basis, consistent with the Constitution, to prevent persons within the United States, or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, from providing material support or resources to foreign organizations that engage in terrorist activities.”

Then, Section 302 on the designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, provides the following details.

“Sec.302. DESIGNATION OF FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS

IN GENERAL – Chapter 2 of title II of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1181 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘SEC. 219. DESIGNATION OF FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS

“(a) DESIGNATION –

(1) IN GENERAL – The Secretary is authorized to designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organization in accordance with this subsection if the Secretary finds that –

(A) The organization is a foreign organization;

(B) The organization engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B); and

(C) The terrorist activity of the organization threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.”

Pat Oliphant Feb 27 2002

I consider that the above three conditions for designation of ‘an organization as a foreign terrorist organization’ are nothing but bureaucratic gobbledygook. Logically interpreted, even a venerable American institution like the CIA has to be designated as a FTO. First, though the headquarters of the CIA are in Langley, Virginia, its field of action is “foreign.” Secondly, by common sense, it engages in “terrorist activity,” if not by the definition in section 212(a)(3)(B), then by the good Lord’s Ten Commandments. Thirdly, its activities have threatened “the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States” for the past 60 years. 

I also consider the 1997 FTO list a crass example of the ethno-profiling exercise indulged in by the Washington, DC mandarins for political expediency. When the CIA and FBI officials faced intense scrutiny, they knew the necessity of padding up their ‘targets under the radar’ so as to evade a cut in their annual appropriations by the US Congress. The LTTE was a convenient scapegoat for inclusion in the FTO list, under the pretext of deterring the fund collection by a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’ The dubious FTO list had to be padded with names of militant organizations so as not to attract the attention and ire of Muslims that the Palestinian groups were being unduly targeted by the Americans. Among the 30 names listed, 8 groups were Palestine support groups. For the same reason, Chechnyan rebels (though being Muslims) were excluded from this 1997 FTO list, though like the LTTE, they also had gained a reputation for 'terrorism.'

I provide my tentative inferences, which are based on studying the background history of American domestic policy under President Bill Clinton, as well as the turf battles and tug of wars waged for pork barrel appropriations among the iconic intelligence-gathering institutions such as the FBI, CIA, the State Department and the Justice Department, pertaining to that period of 1997-98.

First, let me provide the list of the ‘Original 30’ militant/subversive groups that got branded with the FTO label by the US State Department. I reproduce the 752-word news report of Steven Erlanger verbatim that appeared in the New York Times.

US Labels 30 Groups as Terrorists; Omits IRA

[Steven Erlanger, New York Times, Oct.9, 1997, p.13]

Washington: Under a Congressional mandate, the State Department designated 30 groups as foreign terrorist organizations today, making it illegal to provide funds for them and denying their members visas. While a wide range of Middle Eastern and South American groups are on the list, it did not include the Irish Republican Army because the IRA announced an ‘unequivocal ceasefire’ 10 weeks ago and because its political wing, Sinn Fein, had begun peace talks on Northern Ireland, officials said. The IRA will remain ‘under active review’, said the State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin. ‘Any resumption of violence by the IRA is totally unacceptable to the United States and would have a direct impact on the ongoing review,’ he said.

American officials said the IRA had become an issue only in the last 10 days, when it was decided, after a vigorous debate pitting political considerations against intelligence concerns, not to include the group. A spokesman for the British Embassy, Anthony Cary, said London ‘understands the logic of the decision’ to leave off the IRA, despite its history of terrorism. He noted Mr. Rubin’s warning that a resumption of violence would cause an immediate review, and said this could add pressure on the IRA to maintain the ceasefire.

The law makes it a crime to provide funds or other material support to the groups named today, denies visas to ‘aliens abroad who are members or representatives’ of the groups and requires American financial institutions to block funds under their control that belong to the groups. But Mr. Rubin admitted that ‘the goal of this law was more deterrence than confiscation.’

While the publication of the list, as required under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, brought praise from many groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, there were questions raised about the constitutionality of punishing individuals for supporting the lawful activities of these groups. Support for terrorism is already illegal in the United States, and the Supreme Court has rejected efforts to punish individuals ‘for associating with or supporting a group unless it can be proved that the person specifically intended to further that group’s illegal activities,’ said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. He also cited a July 10 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court, in San Francisco, in a case in which he is defending immigrants who provided support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The court rejected a Government argument that there is no First Amendment rights to raise funds for a terrorist organization.

Houeida Saad, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also noted that laws exist to punish terrorism. ‘Criminalizing political activity is a dangerous infringement on the efforts of people throughout the world to improve their lives,’ he said. Many of the Middle Eastern groups have already been banned from fundraising in the United States and have had their assets here seized under an executive order signed by President Clinton in January 1995 and renewed since then.

The State Department List

ALGERIA: Armed Islamic Group

CAMBODIA: Khmer Rouge

CHILE: Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front Dissidents

COLOMBIA: National Liberation Army, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

EGYPT: Holy War

GREECE: Revolutionary Organization 17 November, Revolutionary People’s Struggle.

IRAN: Islamic Group, Mujahedeen Khalq (Holy Warriors of the World)

ISRAEL: Kach (Thus), Kahane Lives

JAPAN: Japanese Red Army, Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth)

PAKISTAN: Harakat ul-Ansar (Supporters Movement)

PERU: Shining Path, Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

PHILIPPINES: Abu Sayyaf Group

TURKEY: Kurdistan Workers Party, Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front

SPAIN: Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna (ETA: Basque Land and Liberty)

SRI LANKA: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The following groups operating in the Mideast support the Palestinians:

Abu Nidal Group

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – Hawatmeh Faction

Hamas (Islamic Resistant Movement)

Palestine Islamic Holy War – Shaqaqi Faction

Palestine Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction

Hezbollah (Party of God)

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.

My Essential Inferences

First, as of 1997, or thereafter during the past 10 years, the LTTE as a Tamil militant organization, since its inception in 1976, has never targeted or threatened American lives or American institutions.

Secondly, the only Tamil militant organization that kidnapped an American couple (Stanley and Mary Allen) in Jaffna in 1984 was the EPRLF. The EPRLF's then military commander who got nabbed for this dirty, sleazy act in Tamil Nadu was none other than Douglas Devananda, a current Cabinet Minister. This unfortunate kidnapping, which then caused a mild international stir involving the USA, India and Sri Lanka, is now conveniently hidden by the perpetrators. According to the Associated Press newsreport, datelined May 11, 1984:

“Eight armed insurgents kidnapped an American couple in northern Sri Lanka today and reportedly threatened to kill them unless the Government here paid a ransom of $2 million and freed 20 imprisoned rebels. ‘You have only 72 hours to comply with our demands,’ the kidnappers said in a ransom note…” [New York Times, May 12, 1984].

On the same day, the Chicago Tribune reported that “$2 million was demanded ‘in gold be delivered to an undisclosed location in Tamil Nadu.” Two days later, the Chicago Sun Times reported, “Captors renew death threat: The kidnappers accused the couple of spying for the CIA, saying: ‘Only after making sure that the American couple was engaged in intelligence gathering, a decision to kidnap them was taken.’ ”

Thirdly, if the 1997 FTO list was based on real facts of executed threats to American citizens, the omission of the EPRLF or its clone, the EPDP led by Douglas Devananda (who was directly involved in the 1984 kidnapping of Allens), from the list is unexcusable. See above, Section 301, item (5) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132- Apr.24, 1996). Why did the US State Department mandarins issue a travel visa to Devananda when he embedded himself with the caravan of President Mahinda Rajapakse sometime back to the UN Assembly sessions in New York? Lately, the resume of Devananda is being polished by himself and his Sinhalese handlers to project him spuriously as a Tamil militant turned democratic politician. But the public record shows that the only skill Devananda and his gang have perfected since the 1980s has been abducting commoners and exhorting ransom, as was demonstrated in his bungling 1984 abduction of the Allen couple.

Fourthly, the 1997 FTO list has become infamous, for its glaring omission of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan. These are the two militant groups on which USA waged war later in Afghanistan and Iraq! This omission demonstrates that either the intelligence of the US State Department and its sister organizations was completely incompetent or that political expediency in 1997 made the State Department consciously omit Al-Qaeda and the Taliban from its listing.

Fifthly, the inclusion of the Khmer Rouge in the list was nothing but a joke. The Khmer Rouge (the ultra-Buddhist anarchists who espoused half-baked communism, or the Pol Potists, in the vocabulary of intelligence-challenged analysts like Narasimhan Ram and Dayan Jayatilleka) was the only organization which enjoyed overt and covert support for their activities for more than a decade from two superpowers China and USA. When the Khmer Rouge was perpetrating state-sponsored terrorism in the 1970s and later was indulging in terrorism against the Vietnamese-backed regime of Cambodia in the 1980s, China and the USA recognized the status of the Khmer Rouge in the UN Assembly. Thus, the inclusion of the Khmer Rouge in the 1997 FTO list is a supreme example of political hypocrisy.

Sixthly, the inclusion of the LTTE in that 1997 FTO list was primarily for the political purpose of puffing up the list with potential threats from foreign militant organizations, thereby soliciting increased appropriations for the intelligence budget from the US Congress/Senate. That the LTTE is composed of non-white, predominantly non-Christian, Asian youths served well for the chauvinist-dogmatic white Christian male politicians who rule the roost in Washington DC. More than 90 percent of the organizations that constituted the 1997 FTO list consisted of non-white, predominantly non-Christian youths. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) of Ireland was another notable omission in that 1997 FTO list. That IRA consisted of white, Christian youths is a clear marker for its omission.

Seventhly, though Lakshman Kadirgamar (the then Foreign Minister in President Chandrika Kumaratunga cabinet) as well as a couple of Sinhalese mandarins including Jayantha Dhanapala, valiantly hogged the limelight for their roles in trapping the LTTE in America’s FTO list for local consumption, their contributions were miniscule and irrelevant. The Colombo journalists whose knowledge on Washington DC politics is abysmal, just lapped up the blarney served by the Kadirgamar and Dhanapala combine.

The politics of Washington DC

In reality, the politics of Washington DC belongs to an unusual cross of old-fashioned morality play and vaudeville acts. To comprehend this angle of Washington DC politics, I provide one period piece that appeared during 1995. The author Tom McNichol (a San Francisco-based commentator and humorist) made an excellent attempt to describe the character traits and practices of an “often secretive cult with headquarters in Washington DC” to those uneducated non-American journalists. His humor-dripping satire on the major performers of American policy is a good read to learn about the real (and not apparent!) tenets of what pass as the ‘American democracy’.

Please note that the words and phrases in italics and those noted in bold fonts, are as in the originals.

The Beltway Sacraments

by Tom McNichol,

[Washington Post, reprinted in the Daily Yomiuri, Tokyo, Jan.27, 1995]

The First Amendment’s establishment clause [notes]: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.’ But it may come as a surprise to many people that the US government has already established an official religion, a large and often secretive cult with headquarters in Washington DC. Let’s take a closer look at this peculiar and potentially dangerous belief system:

Name: Church of Orthodox Federalism (Unreformed)

Object of Worship: The Almighty Dollar. Believed to be the Prime Mover and origin of all that is good and fully funded.

Church Hierarchy: Figurehead leadership provided by a ruling Holy Trinity: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. All claim the power of infallibility. Executive was once considered to be the most exalted, but the position has fallen from grace in recent years. Members of the Legislative branch consider themselves to be part of the ‘elected’ few and follow strict dietary guidelines that often require them to eat only pork. Judicial members wear black ceremonial robes and are charged with settling disputes, but their rulings often create more disagreements. Most deals made among leaders are done in secret, but showy public pageants are staged regularly to keep the congregation from feeling left out. Real church power, however, is vested in the College of Bureaucrats, a large and very deliberative body that decides whether or not to implement policies handed from on high. Usually not.

Sacred Texts: Congressional Record, Federal Register, Encyclopedia of National Associations, Uniform Tax Code

Holy City: Washington DC. This pious enclave houses the church’s sprawling central administration and the vast infrastructure that serves it, most of which is situated inside a Sacred Ring or ‘Beltway’. The church teaches that devotees need not be physically inside the Sacred Ring to attain salvation – one needs only to achieve a mentality consistent with being inside the Sacred Ring. The center of the Holy City is filled with shrines and temples in which the sacred Funding Force is believed to dwell. The city is the destination of millions of pilgrims annually, many of whom wind up at the holiest of holy sites, the Air and Space Museum.

Sects: A series of schisms in the 18th and 19th centuries divided church leaders into rival sects or ‘parties’. However, the differences between the two main factions have grown so small that they are virtually indistinguishable. Real divisions among the hierarchy exist, however, between an upper caste, known as ‘incumbents’, a lower caste of ‘challengers’ and an untouchable caste of ‘reformers’. While it is technically possible to move from a lower caste to a higher one, most consider it too hard to try.

Church Size: Immense, and its true size can only be guessed. The church continues to grow even though leaders regularly profess that they want to shrink it.

Language: All canon law is written in official church language, Governmentese. Few understand this difficult tongue, but the church hierarchy has resisted calls to communicate in the vernacular.

High Priests: A powerful and shadowy cabal who have convinced the leadership and congregation that they alone are qualified to interpret complicated passages in the sacred scrolls. High priests are invested in a secret ceremony after passing the bar and serving as a junior partner. In public ceremonies, this priesthood is represented by officially sanctioned interpreters of church theology commonly known as ‘pundits’. On Sunday, the church Sabbath, these pundits make official pronouncements and sometimes prophesize the future, though rarely with any accuracy.

Church Builders: A large network of benevolent and fraternal organizations make charitable contributions to church leaders to help defray the costs of their ecclesiastical duties. These contributions are sometimes broken down into amounts of less than $1,000 for ease of handling. Upon receipt, the donor’s name is written into a Book of Remembrance, reflecting the sacred covenant with the church leader.

Nativity Scenes: Officially banned by the church, presumably because the Holy City contains neither wise men nor virgins.

Sin: Church leaders believe that the wages of sin is wages.

On the Dignity of Human Work: The church holds that while all human endeavor is imperfect, it’s usually good enough for government work.

Miracles: In annual ceremony, the church leadership spends more money than is actually in budget.

On Death: The church believes that immediately after a person dies, his eternal soul or ‘estate’ rises up and is subject to substantial tithings to the church. Until these tithings are paid in full, the church teaches that no soul can rest in peace.

Beliefs about The Resurrection: Church leaders fervently believe in their own political resurrection. Some leaders go to great lengths to demonstrate it, locking themselves into a lifetime cycle of birth, death, parole and rebirth.

Conception of Heaven: A guranteed job with cost of living adjustments for eternity.

Conception of Hell: Looking for real work.

Golden Rule (Traditional): Therefore, be it resolved that any action taken with respect to another person shall be implemented as though the action was subject to immediate reciprocation (Congressional Record 31:10).

Golden Rule (Modern): Cover your butt.

Feast Days:

Feb.20 – President’s Day. Church offices closed.

April 15 – Day of Atonement and deadline for annual tithing to the church. Increasingly, the church has taught that those who have been given more are expected to contribute a smaller percentage of their earnings.

May 29 – Memorial Day. Church offices closed.

June 30 – Last day for church employees to take accumulated vacation time in fiscal year.

Sept.4 – Labor Day. Church Offices closed.

Dec.31 – Deadline for transferring accumulated vacation time to [the next year].

Official State-Sanctioned Prayer:

Our funding, which art in Appropriations,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy spending come, thy pork be done,
Outside the Beltway as it is Inside.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And indemnify us against trespasses,
As we demand an immediate inquiry into
Those who have trespassed against us,
And lead us not into scandal,
But deliver us from term limits.
Amen.

*****