The Infamous 1997 ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’ List Revisited
18 December 2007
Ten years have passed since the LTTE was included as one of the foreign
terrorist organization (FTO) in the list pronounced by the State Department of
the USA. 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.
To the best of my knowledge, no in-depth study has been undertaken as to why
LTTE came to be included in this FTO list.
If the 1994 scandal of CIA’s Aldrich Ames caught as the mole for Soviet
Union/Russia was one of the unmentioned, hidden progenitor for the Antiterrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132- Apr.24, 1996)
passed by the Senate and House of Representatives of the USA, the 2001 scandal
of FBI’s Robert Hansen caught as the mole for 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
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
(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;
(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
(C) The terrorist activity of the organization threatens the security of
United States nationals or the national security of the United States.”
I consider that the above three conditions for designation of ‘an organization
as a foreign terrorist organization’ is nothing but a bureaucratic gobbledygook.
Logically interpreted, even a venerable American institution like the CIA has to
be designated as a FTO. First, though the headquarters of CIA is 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), but by the good Lord’s Ten Commandments. Thirdly, its activities
had 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 is a crass example of ethno-profiling exercise
indulged 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.
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 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 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 appropriation among the
iconic intelligence-gathering institutions such as FBI, CIA, the State
Department and the Justice Department, pertaining to that period of 1997-98.
First, let me provide the list of ‘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
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
Armed Islamic Group
Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front Dissidents
COLOMBIA: National Liberation Army, Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Revolutionary Organization 17 November, Revolutionary People’s Struggle.
Islamic Group, Mujahedeen Khalq (Holy Warriors of the World)
Kach (Thus), Kahane Lives
Japanese Red Army, Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth)
Harakat ul-Ansar (Supporters Movement)
Shining Path, Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
Abu Sayyaf Group
TURKEY: Kurdistan Workers Party, Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party
SPAIN: Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna (ETA: Basque Land and Liberty)
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.
First, as of 1997, or thereafter during the past 10 years, LTTE as a Tamil
militant organization, since its inception in 1976, had 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 and its 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 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 EPRLF or its clone 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).
How come the US State Department mandarins issued a travel visa to Devananda,
when he embedded himself with the caravan of the President Mahinda Rajapakse
sometime back to the UN Assembly sessions? 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 perfected since 1980s was abducting
commoners and exhorting ransom, as was demonstrated in his bungling plot of 1984
abduction of Allen couple.
Fourthly, the 1997 FTO list has become infamous, for its glaring omission of
Al-Qaeda and 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 US State Department and its sister organizations
were so incompetent or that political expediency in 1997 made the State
Department to consciously omit Al-Qaeda and Taliban from its listing.
Fifthly, the inclusion of Khmer Rouge in the list was nothing but a joke.
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 Khmer Rouge was perpetrating state-sponsored
terrorism in 1970s and later was indulging in terrorism against the
Vietnamese-backed regime of Cambodia in 1980s, China and USA recognized the
status of Khmer Rouge in the UN assembly. Thus, the inclusion of Khmer Rouge in
the 1997 FTO list is a supreme example of political hypocrisy.
Sixthly, the inclusion of LTTE in that 1997 FTO list was based on primarily for
the political purpose of puffing up the list with potential threats from foreign
militant organizations, thereby soliciting increased appropriation for
intelligence budget, from US Congress/Senate. That 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
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 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 trait 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:
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.
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.
Congressional Record, Federal Register, Encyclopedia of National
Associations, Uniform Tax Code
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Officially banned by the church, presumably because the Holy City contains
neither wise men nor virgins.
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.
In annual ceremony, the church leadership spends more money than is actually
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
Golden Rule (Modern): Cover your butt.
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
Sept.4 – Labor Day. Church Offices closed.
Dec.31 – Deadline for transferring accumulated vacation time to [the next
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.