- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

There is not now, nor should there ever be, a right to give money or aid of any kind to terrorist groups, even if the stated intent — feeding starving people in terrorist-held places, for instance — is humanitarian. The Democratic congressional leadership will need to act in January to quash a movement in precisely that direction. This will be a critical test of their antiterrorism mettle.

Three weeks ago, a California district court judge gutted a large part of President Bush’s ability to criminalize financial assistance to terrorist groups, declaring a 2001 executive order allowing the president to designate “specially designated global terrorists” to be “unconstitutionally vague” and overreaching. U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins, a Clinton appointee, found that plaintiffs seeking to finance “lawful, nonviolent activities” by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, two notorious terrorist groups, were subject to unconstitutional restrictions when President Bush, under Executive Order 13224, criminalized financial transfers to those groups.

Legislation is crucial because plenty of time could pass before the issue is resolved; the case could bounce around the courts for years. In the meantime, the worry is that groups suspected of helping radical Islamic terrorists will try to get the same treatment. This week, the Holy Land Foundation, accused of links to the terror group Hamas, asked a federal judge in Texas to throw out the charges against it in clear hopes that the tides are turning.

It would be terribly wrong-headed to let people think that charity for terrorists is permissible if the stated intention is humanitarian. Money is money and can be used for any purpose which a murky and non-transparent terrorist group decides. There can be no U.S.-sponsored Red Cross or Red Crescent-equivalent working under terrorist auspices. Even presuming Kurdish terrorists use every last penny to feed starving children as promised, this has the perverse effect of freeing a terrorist group to spend other funds on nefarious purposes. The United States cannot allow any charity or individual donor, however well-intentioned, to help them.

The methods by which the United States stops terror-funding can and should be debated — which we hope will arise from Judge Collins’ decision. But the the need to stop terror financiers is beyond dispute. Congress must dispel confusion on the subject by authorizing the president’s powers in this regard explicitly. Of course, whether a Democrat-controlled Congress is tough enough to do so is another matter.

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