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Homeland Security

05 January 2004

Foreign Terrorist List Vital in Global War on Terrorism

Current FTO list includes 36 terrorist groups

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.

Washington File Staff Writer

      Washington -- One of the key weapons in the U.S. arsenal's fight against 
      global terrorism is the designation of groups as "foreign terrorist 
      organizations," which authorizes actions such as freezing their assets, 
      blocking travel by members and supporters, and criminalizing support for 
      The Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, created by Congress in a 
      1996 amendment to federal law, is designed to cut off funding to terrorist 
      groups, block their immigration into the United States and authorize 
      deportation once members of the group are located in the country. Since 
      the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FTO list has taken on an 
      even more critical role in the war on terrorism.
      The secretary of state, by federal law, is authorized to designate any 
      group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization if it meets certain very 
      specific criteria. And while the Department of State is the lead agency on 
      counterterrorism, designating an FTO actually involves the joint work of 
      the State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury departments. The 
      designation is effective for two years and must be renewed thereafter for 
      the group to remain on the list. The first FTO list was published October 
      8, 1997, and later included in the 1997 Patterns of Global Terrorism 
      report, which the State Department prepares annually for Congress.
      Any group can be removed from the list by the secretary of state, an act 
      of Congress or a federal court order.
      "As we carry on the global campaign against terrorism, we hope this list 
      will help to isolate these terrorist organizations, to choke off their 
      sources of financial support, and to prevent their members' movement 
      across international borders," State Department spokesman Ambassador 
      Richard Boucher said recently.
      Currently the list includes 36 Foreign Terrorist Organizations designated 
      by Secretary of State Colin Powell, says Ambassador J. Cofer Black, the 
      State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
      "Both directly and through our embassies, we are working with governments 
      around the world to attack the mechanisms by which terrorists raise, move, 
      and use money. Each U.S. Embassy has appointed a Terrorism Finance 
      Coordination Officer to lead the effort -- in conjunction with the host 
      government -- to detect, disrupt, and deter terrorist financing," Black 
      said during a recent speech.
      The list, however, serves another broad purpose as a key symbol of U.S. 
      counterterrorism policy.
      Black has said that diplomacy in the war on terrorism "is the instrument 
      of power that builds political will and strengthens international 
      cooperation. Through diplomatic exchanges, we promote counterterrorism 
      cooperation with friendly nations that serve our mutual interests. We 
      enhance the capabilities of our allies. Diplomacy helps us take the war to 
      the terrorists and to cut off the resources they depend upon to survive."
      A group can be designated an FTO if it meets three requirements -- it is 
      foreign, it 
      engages in terrorist activity, and its activity threatens the security of 
      U.S. citizens or the national security of the United States.
      At the heart of identifying a terrorist organization is the definition of 
      terrorism. The Department of State, in its Terrorism Report, has developed 
      several key definitions:
      -- The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence 
      perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or 
      clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. The term 
      "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or that has significant 
      subgroups that practice, international terrorism.
      -- And, the term "international terrorism" means terrorism involving 
      citizens or the territory of more than one country. 
      There are three consequences for a group that is designated an FTO:
      -- Any member who knowingly provides "material support or resources," 
      which includes financial assistance, lodging, training, expert advice or 
      assistance, safehouses, false documents or fake identification, 
      communications equipment, weapons, or transportation, can be prosecuted in 
      U.S. courts.
      -- Any representatives or members of a designated FTO can be denied 
      admission to the United States, or, if already in the country can face 
      -- And, any financial institution that becomes aware of the fact that it 
      is holding funds from a designated FTO or its agents must freeze the funds 
      and report the action immediately to the U.S. Treasury Department's Office 
      of Foreign Assets Control.
      However, the FTO list is not the only "terrorist list" published by the 
      U.S. government. and as terrorism became an increasing threat to U.S. 
      national security, so has the government's response.
      A second well known list is the "state-sponsors of terrorism," which is 
      required by the Export Administration Act of 1979. The law requires the 
      secretary of state to provide Congress with a list of countries that have 
      "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." 
      Currently seven states are included in the list -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, 
      Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. While Iraq is still technically on 
      the list, President Bush has suspended the applicable sanctions against 
      Iraq, according to the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. 
      Iraq's name can be legally removed from the list once it has a government 
      in place that pledges not to support acts of terrorism in the future.
      The law imposes a list of export controls on any designated state sponsor, 
      and U.S. foreign aid is also prohibited.
      Other terrorist lists employed by the United States include:
      -- The Specially Designated Terrorists (SDT) list, required by the 1995 
      International Emergency Economic Powers (IEEP) Act and initiated under 
      Presidential Executive Order 12947, is specifically oriented toward any 
      person -- individuals or groups -- who threaten to disrupt the Middle East 
      Peace Process. This list is maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department.
      -- The Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) list, implemented 
      under the IEEP Act, blocks "all property and interests in property" of 
      designated terrorists and individuals who materially support terrorists. 
      Like the previous SDT list, this list is also maintained by the Treasury 
      -- Finally, there is the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL), which was created 
      by the 2001 USA Patriot Act, that authorizes the secretary of state in 
      consultation with the U.S. Attorney General to designate terrorist 
      organizations strictly for immigration purposes. Any person associated 
      with groups on the TEL list are prevented from entering the United States 
      or may be deported if they are already in the country.
      The United Nations and the European Union also maintain international 
      lists aimed at combating global terrorism.
      (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International 
      Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: 

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