WASHINGTON (Aug. 13)
U.S. law enforcement authorities will have to wait at least until September for new tools in their battle against terrorist groups.
The State Department has yet to draw up a list of overseas terrorist groups as required by last year’s anti-terrorism law. Law enforcement agencies would use this list to ban fund-raising by supporters of those organizations in the United States.
State Department officials responded this week to mounting criticism from Capitol Hill and Jewish activists that they have taken too long to publish the list.
“It’s not a question of if, but one of when,” said one official, who said the list should be ready in September.
He said the delay stems from the need for government lawyers to have all the documentation necessary should the groups exercise their right to appeal their appearance on the list.
Some of the files on the groups are hundreds of pages long, officials said.
The effort took on renewed importance after police arrested two men in Brooklyn, N.Y., accused of plotting to bomb New York subways last month. Both men expressed sympathy for Middle East terror groups, and investigators are trying to determine if they are affiliated with any such groups.
This week, the administration responded in writing to more than 40 members of Congress who had called on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to publish the list.
State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that Albright “places a very high priority on fighting terrorism, and she’s been very frustrated with the process that has forced the slow pace.”
“This isn’t about political correctness; it’s about legal correctness,” he said.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), sponsor of the congressional letter to Albright, said she is “very disappointed” in the State Department’s response.
“It’s been long enough,” Maloney said, calling on the administration to release the list as the designations are completed.
The State Department has refused such an approach, arguing in a letter to Maloney that they want to avoid a false perception that they are singling out certain groups.
The promises to publish the list did not stop others from criticizing the 18- month delay in implementing the law.
“This should have been done a year ago,” said Jess Hordes, Washington director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“The perception is that the administration is not adequately engaged.”