Senator Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have introduced legislation (S 68 and HR 377) encouraging the Secretary of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Meanwhile, the most vicious Islamophobes in the Trump Administration are urging Executive action, which could mean FTO designation by State, or having Treasury declare the organization a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
The idea of using the fairly obscure and bureaucratic designation process isn’t new (similar bills have been introduced in Congress for years), and it is line with other Trump initiatives like the Muslim ban, the Muslim registry, the Countering Islamic Extremism program, and more surveillance of Mosques, aimed at Muslim and Arab Americans. None of these policies — not the ban, not the registry, and not the terror designation — have anything to do with national security. Like the crackdown on immigrants, protesters, and the media, these policies are really intended to weaken civil society and silence dissent.
The threat posed by the ban and registry is clear, but how could the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which doesn’t even have a presence in the U.S., affect charities, non-profits, religious organizations, and activists here?
It is complicated because the designation would interact with recklessly broad material support for terrorism laws, the mind-numbing International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and even the illegal release of a list of so-called “unindicted co-conspirators” during a 2004 trial of a small Muslim charity.
So, on Friday, 82 civil society organizations issued a statement explaining why we are so concerned about such a designation. The statement explains that for many years, anti-Muslim voices have tried to smear Muslim leaders, civil rights organizations, and charities by claiming they are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. These allegations may have hurt some reputations, but the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would open the door to legal action by the government, including freezing assets and shutting down charities.
For example, individuals could be criminally prosecuted for providing support, services, resources, expert advice or assistance to the Muslim Brotherhood without any intent to support terrorist activity. A designation could also result in unconstitutional asset seizures and effective shut-downs of civil society and rights groups. Despite court rulings requiring probable cause and due process when the Treasury Department seizes Americans’ assets, the Department has not changed its internal regulations. The Department takes the view that it can block or freeze the assets of any individual or organization that is providing ‘financial, material, or technological support for, or financial services to,’ or is broadly ‘otherwise associated’ with a designated terrorist organization. There is no requirement of actual intent or knowledge of wrongdoing. The Treasury Department’s decision can rely on classified information the targeted person or organization cannot see or meaningfully refute, and a blocking order can be issued pending investigation into whether the target is somehow associated with a designated group.
In a nutshell, based on secret evidence (which cannot be challenged) that purports to show a person or an organization is somehow associated with a designated group, assets can be frozen. This would be a tremendously dangerous power in the hands of a Trump Administration.
The threat is serious, if difficult to discern because of the intricacies of the law. The Trump Administration is considering whether to ask the State Department or Treasury Department to use their authorities to make the declaration. Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have introduced legislation to support designation.
Take Action. Tell your members of Congress to oppose the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization
All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy NYTimes
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood Would Make Americans Less Safe Center for American Progress
US: Don’t Target Muslim Brotherhood Human Rights Watch