Justice Department Expected to Appeal PLO Decision

The Justice Department is likely to appeal last week’s U.S. District Court decision preventing it from shutting down the Palestine Liberation Organization’s observer mission at the United Nations, Capitol Hill sources said Friday.

One congressional source said she was “reasonably satisfied” that the Justice Department would be following a line of appeal, after speaking with John Bolton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and members of his staff.

Bolton met Thursday with William Bradford Reynolds, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and counselor to Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Charles Fried, the U.S. solicitor general.

Sources said the officials displayed a “general willingness” to file an appeal, although they made no final decision. Fried was asked whether he objected to an appeal, and he indicated he did not.

The department now has until late August to file an appeal.

Amy Brown, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the status of any decision, except to say that it is not unusual for those officials to meet to discuss the issue.

Sources said that the State Department, which has maintained that the PLO mission falls under U.S. treaty obligations, opposes an appeal.

As was the case earlier this year when the administration had to decide whether to enforce closing the office by the March 21 deadline, the White House is caught in the middle.

In his decision, District Court Judge Edmund Palmieri said that no member of Congress, in approving a 1987 bill mandating that all PLO offices in the United States be closed, “explicitly stated that the Anti-Terrorism Act was intended to override any international obligation of the United States.”

Palmieri argued, however, that when Congress approved the legislation, there was no indication it meant to violate the 1947 U.N. Headquarters Agreement, which obligates the United States “to refrain from impairing the function” of the PLO mission.

One source complained that Palmieri did not discuss the treaty’s reservations clause, which allows the United States to control the flow of “aliens” into this country, which was invoked in the mid-1980s to expel about 100 officials from the Soviet mission at the United Nations.

A second congressional source said it was “incredible” for Palmieri to say that the intent of Congress was unclear. He added that it would be easier to appeal the decision than to pass a new bill specifically citing the treaty, adding that lawmakers considered that option “insulting.”

At the Justice Department’s March 11 news conference, Charles Cooper, assistant attorney general in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said that “Congress clearly and unambiguously stated its intent” in the legislation to close all PLO offices in the country.

State Department legal adviser Abraham Sofaer made the claim– accepted by Palmieri Wednesday–that Congress did not willfully intend to disregard international obligations when it approved the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The Washington Times reported Thursday that Sofaer met Wednesday with National Security Adviser Colin Powell, to persuade the White House not to seek an appeal.

Powell had chaired a White House meeting Feb. 26 at which the administration decided to enforce the closing, with Justice Department arguing for doing so and the State Department opposing such an action.

One source said that Palmieri’s ruling prohibiting U.S. citizens from acting in an “official capacity” for the PLO, by receiving or spending PLO funds, may provide a basis for challenging PLO assets in the United States through a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry.

The source said the PLO is said to “invest heavily in hotels and restaurants” in the United States.

NEXT STORY