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ISRAELI TERRORIST GROUPS -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - July 21, 1994)
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HON. LEE H. HAMILTON
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, JULY 21, 1994
  • Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw to the attention of my colleagues my recent correspondence with the Department of State on the subject of Israeli terrorist groups operating within the United States. Earlier this year, I wrote the Department to inquire about United States policy towards two Jewish settler organizations, Kach and Kahane Chai, which have been outlawed by the Israeli Government. Despite their outlaw status in Israel, these groups continue to operate and raise funds freely in the United States. I am including the State Department's preliminary response as well as its final response. I hope my colleagues find this correspondence of interest.

Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Washington, DC, March 18, 1994.

Hon. Warren M. Christopher,
Secretary, Department of State,
Washington, DC.

Dear Secretary Christopher: I write to inquire about U.S. policy toward the activities, including fundraising, in the United States of Israeli groups identified by the Government of Israel as terrorist organizations.

As you know, on March 13, Israel outlawed two Jewish settler organizations, Kach and Kahane Chai, which have been responsible for a number of violent incidents in the West Bank. Many members of these organizations are U.S. immigrants to Israel, and I understand these groups maintain offices and significant fundraising operations in this country. We may now find ourselves in a situation in which groups defined by the Israeli Government as terrorist organizations and prohibited from operating in Israel, have safe haven and can organize and fundraise here in the United States.

I would like to know your views on this issue, the status of interagency discussions on this matter, and where you see United States policy heading. In addition, I would appreciate your responses to the following questions:

1. What is U.S. policy on activities in the United States of groups who advocate violence overseas?

What are the implications for U.S. policy to have certain groups which operate in the United States designated as terrorist organizations by Israel?

2. Which agencies are involved in the interagency working group that is looking at this issue?

How are these various agencies coordinating their efforts?

Which agency has primary jurisdiction over this matter?

3. What are the preliminary findings of the interagency working group?

What current laws can be applied against these groups to curtail any activities inconsistent with U.S. policy?

What legislation, if any, is needed?

Is there any precedent for action in the United States against groups which espouse terrorism overseas?

What effect would the proposed ban on providing material support to terrorists, currently pending in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2333, the State Department Authorization bill, have on efforts to curtail these groups' fundraising activities?

What other groups might be affected by the adoption of this legislation?

Are there potential First Amendment problems with restricting the fundraising activities of these groups?

To what extent would such restrictions involve curtailing the ability of members of these organizations to enter the United States?

4. What consideration has been given to curtailing or targeting: violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act; violations of certain organizations' tax-exempt status; illegal transfers of funds overseas; or immigration infractions.

I appreciate your consideration of this matter and your response to these questions. I look forward to your early reply.

With best regards,

Sincerely,

Lee H. Hamilton,
Chairman.

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U.S. Department of State,
Washington, DC, March 31, 1994.

Hon. Lee H. Hamilton,
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs,
House of Representatives.

Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter of March 18, regarding U.S. policy toward activities in the United States by Israeli groups identified by the Government of Israel as terrorist organizations.

We are working to provide a full response to the many issues and questions you raised, some of which are still under study and require coordination with the Justice Department and other agencies. We will get back to you quickly with as comprehensive a response as possible. If in the meantime we can be of further assistance on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
WENDY R. SHERMAN,

Assistant Secretary,
Legislative Affairs.

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  • U.S. Department of State,

Washington, DC, May 16, 1994.
  • Hon. Lee H. Hamilton,

Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives.
  • Dear Mr. Chairman: This is in further response to our March 31 letter regarding your questions of March 18 about the implications for U.S. policy and laws of Israel's designation of Kach and Kahane Chai as terrorist organizations. I am responding on behalf of the Secretary and we also have discussed this response with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.
  • In your letter you accurately observed that many members of these organizations are U.S. immigrants to Israel. We would also note that many maintain American citizenship, and this does have a bearing on some of the issues you raised.
  • We would like to make clear that the U.S. Government strongly opposes not only terrorism, but activities in support of terrorist groups, regardless of the professed cause or the nationality or ethnic background of the groups and their supporters. The extent to which the U.S. Government can deal with some of these activities, however, is limited under existing law.
  • In response to your specific questions:
  • 1. We oppose activities in the United States in support of terrorist violence overseas. Attacks by terrorists are crimes regardless of the motivations of the terrorists.
  • We take seriously the Israeli government's designation of these groups and others as terrorist organizations, just as we do when other governments reach similar conclusions about groups operating in their countries. Of course we make our own assessments and we are currently reviewing the matter with other agencies to determine what steps can be taken under U.S. law.
  • 2. The federal agencies involved in these matters include the Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service. Although there is no working group per se, all appropriate elements of the Executive Branch are in

close cooperation on this matter. The State Department, which is the lead agency in international terrorism matters, has taken the initiative in starting these particular interagency consultations. Insofar as the enforcement of U.S. domestic laws is concerned, the Justice Department has the lead. Other federal agencies with an interest are the Treasury Department, in connection with overseas and domestic financial transactions, and the Internal Revenue Service, in connection with the enforcement of U.S. tax laws.

3. Federal agencies are considering all available laws, including those relating to the activities mentioned in your fourth question. The Foreign Agents Registration Act may be of limited utility in combating terrorism because of its various limitations and also because it can be complied with through the simple acts of registration and reporting. Other laws, such as those involving the illegal transfers of funds or immigration infractions, are potentially more useful law enforcement tools in this context, but depend on law enforcement officials being able to detect violations and develop evidence sufficient to support prosecutions.

The Administration has not yet determined what, if any, new legislation would be useful, and is therefore not proposing any new initiatives at this time. In this regard, as reflected in one of your sub-questions under Question #3 which asked about potential First Amendment problems with legislation restricting the fund raising activities of these groups, we are conscious that any legislation in this area must take into account relevant First Amendment considerations.

The Senate amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill, mentioned in your question, would make it a federal offense to provide, within the United States, funds, financial services, weapons, documents, or the other forms of material support for specific acts of terrorism which violate U.S. law. It was carefully drafted in that manner to minimize disputes over potential First Amendment problems that could arise from broader efforts to ban fund-raising on behalf of particular organizations or types of organizations. Working with congressional staff, State Department representatives discussed and helped refine the scope of this amendment with House staff members before it was first passed by the House in 1991. We believe the amendment would be a very useful step in our efforts to counter support for terrorist activities and strongly urge it early adoption. The amendment is also contained in the Senate version of the 1994 crime bill and we appreciate any support for its adoption in the conference on that legislation.

Regarding the effectiveness of existing legal restrictions in preventing entry into the United States by members of terrorist organizations, Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act renders excludible from the United States aliens when there is reason to believe they have engaged in terrorist activity, or are likely to engage in terrorist activity in the United States. `Terrorist activities' and `engage in terrorist activity' as defined for the purposes of this provision, include fund-raising, training, and providing financial services and weapons. These immigration restrictions would not apply to persons who have American citizenship, as do a good number of Kach and Kahane Chai members.

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4. The options mentioned in your fourth question, such as dealing with possible violations of tax-exempt status, are all potential tools to combat terrorism. Their effectiveness in particular cases may be limited, in part because these laws were not primarily intended or designed to inhibit the activities of terrorist organizations. Nonetheless, in cases where U.S. law enforcement authorities can develop evidence sufficient to bring civil or criminal actions under these laws, the Department of Justice has assured us it will not hesitate to bring such prosecutions where warranted.

As the questions you raise illustrate, this is a complex issue, especially when American citizens are involved. We will continue to explore ways of utilizing existing legal measures and developing new ones if possible. We appreciate your interest and if you have further questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
WENDY R. SHERMAN,

Assistant Secretary,
Legislative Affairs.

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