Rudy Giuliani and several former Bush Administration officials who were criticized last week for attending a rally for what the State Department says is a terrorist organization—which was probably illegal—have responded. They say their terror group doesn’t count.
Late last year, Giuliani, former attorney general Michael Mukasey, former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, former Bush adviser Frances Frago Townsend, and angry walrus John Bolton all attended a rally in France for Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a terrorist group waging guerrilla war against Iran. The MEK is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations for, among other things, killing American soldiers and civilians in the 1970s, participating in the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and helping Saddam Hussein commit atrocities against Iraq’s Shiite population. They are also Marxists. So it’s odd that a bunch of Bushie neocons would support them, no? On the other hand, they want to kill Iranian people, which Bush-era neocons also want to do, so there you have it.
But there was a snag: It’s a crime to materially support terrorist organizations, as attorney David Cole noted in a New York Times op-ed. And the Supreme Court—specifically, Chief Justice John Roberts—has adopted a rather expansive interpretation of what that means, including in some circumstances simple "advocacy" on behalf of a designated terror group. Which means Rudy Giuliani is a terrorist, QED.
But Giuliani and his terror buddies have finally spoken out to explain their actions in a co-written National Review Online piece, and it comes down to: a) We didn’t break the law, and b) the State Department is totally wrong and no fair!
Firstly, they claim that the laws against material support for terror groups—which they applaud—don’t make it a crime to just speak out in favor of one:
The statute barring material assistance to organizations on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations ("FTO") says that…the four of us…have to be working "under that [FTO’s] direction or control." And then, just to make explicit what is already obvious, the law continues: "Individuals who act entirely independently of the [FTO] to advance its goals or objectives shall not be considered to be working under the [FTO]’s direction and control."
That’s kind of a lie. Because the Supreme Court—again, to be specific, Chief Justice Roberts—has ruled that the law criminalizes "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization." And while Giuliani et. al. may convincingly argue that they did nothing at the direction of MEK, it’s hard to argue that his advocacy wasn’t coordinated with the group, seeing as how he was quoted as saying this at the rally: "For your organization to be described as a terrorist organization is just really a disgrace." The rally was organized by the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, which the Washington Post describes as a "pressure group formed to support MEK." But Giuliani himself doesn’t seem to have made much of a distinction between the MEK and the the committee—he believed himself to be speaking directly to the MEK itself. He also said "The United States should not just be on your side. It should be enthusiastically on your side. You want the same things we want." Can you address a terrorist group and its members at a rally in support of that terrorist group attended by its members without coordinating with that terrorist group? No, you cannot.
The material-support statute doesn’t need revision to accommodate non-existent defects. What it does need – and does not often enough get for fear of offending some Muslim organizations – is rigorous enforcement against accurately designated organizations, of which MEK is not one.
Oh! OK, it was all a mix-up folks. The State Department’s 14-year-old designation of the MEK as a terror group, which has survived numerous appeals under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, was simply "inaccurate," on account of Rudy Giuliani disagreeing with it. So supporting MEK is totally legal, because you’re allowed to support terrorist groups as long as you don’t believe they’re actually terrorist groups. Move along now.
P.S. It’s worth noting that there is some controversy over whether the MEK’s designation was fair. That doesn’t mean you get to unilaterally second-guess the State Department’s decisions, especially when your entire political career is dedicated to the idea that deviating a scintilla from the federal government’s directives viz. terrorism constitutes treason.