A group of prominent Republicans may have actually committed a crime last month when they traveled to Paris to speak to an Iranian opposition group that the US has deemed to be terrorists.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former national security adviser Fran Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey all attended a forum organized by supporters of Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK).
The MEK is a communist group that helped Saddam Hussein carry out attacks against Iraq’s Shiite population in the 1990s. The group attacked Americans in Iran in the 1980s and helped with the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.
The US designated the MEK a foreign terrorist organization in January 2009.
Giuliani and the former Bush officials, however, sided with the group due to their opposition to the current Iranian regime.
“Appeasement of dictators leads to war, destruction and the loss of human lives,” Giuliani told the forum. “For your organization to be described as a terrorist organization is just really a disgrace.”
“The United States should not just be on your side,” he said. “It should be enthusiastically on your side. You want the same things we want.”
“If the United States truly wants to put pressure on the Iranian regime, it takes more than talk and it takes more than sanctions,” Townsend declared.
Georgetown University law professor and attorney David Cole believes that under US law, the group of conservatives may have gone too far.
“The problem is that the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a ‘foreign terrorist organization,’ making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support,” he wrote in Monday’s edition of the New York Times. “It is therefore a felony, the government has argued, to file an amicus brief on behalf of a ‘terrorist’ group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s ‘terrorist’ designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.”
The Supreme Court has ruled that any “advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization” is a crime.
While the Supreme Court has already decided the issue, Cole argued that what the group of US conservatives have done should be protected as free speech.
“Congress should reform the laws governing material support of terrorism. It should make clear that speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activities — as Michael Mukasey and Rudolph Giuliani did in Paris — is not a crime,” he wrote.
Giuliani, Townsend and company “probably just want to bring the group out into the open and help it pursue the end to Iranian tyranny through peaceable, lawful conduct,” noted Gawker. “And any law that criminalizes that sort of support is a stupid and bad law.”
But that’s not how the Supreme Court sees it.
“Material support meant to ‘promot[e] peaceable, lawful conduct’ can further terrorism by foreign groups in multiple ways,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. “Such support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends. It also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups-legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds-all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.”
Only weeks after Mukasey was sworn in as President George W. Bush’s attorney general, leaders of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States were found guilty on a similar principle: they were providing material support for Hamas.
“Prosecutors did not accuse the [Holy Land Foundation] of directly financing or being involved in terrorist activity,” Raw Story noted. “Instead, they said humanitarian aid was used to promote Hamas and allow it to divert existing funds to militant activities.”