Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designated 30 foreign organizations as terrorist groups Wednesday, triggering a law that freezes their financial assets in the United States, denies U.S. visas to their members and subjects Americans who give them money or weapons to 10 years in prison.
The list includes groups operating in the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and South America, adding 18 names to a 1995 directory aimed exclusively at organizations accused of trying to thwart the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Newly listed organizations include the People’s Moujahedeen, an anti-Iranian guerrilla group based in Iraq that maintains an office in Washington and has parlayed its anti-Tehran activities into substantial support on Capitol Hill.
One senior Clinton administration official said inclusion of the People’s Moujahedeen was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected moderate president, Mohammad Khatami. The People’s Moujahedeen was once accused of anti-American terrorism but in recent years has concentrated on paramilitary attacks on Iranian targets. Iranian warplanes invaded Iraqi airspace last month to bomb the group’s bases.
Albright said the primary purpose of the action is to “put a stop to fund-raising in the United States by and on behalf of organizations that engage in or sponsor terrorist acts. . . . Terrorism is not a self-sustaining enterprise. It needs money and supplies to succeed.”
She urged other countries to take similar action, asserting that “by steadily reducing the habitat in which terrorism thrives, we can hope to make terrorists first an endangered species and ultimately an extinct one.”
All 12 organizations designated in 1995 were included in the new list. The militant Islamic movement Hamas, blamed for recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem, and Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group blamed for terrorist attacks on American and Israeli targets, are the best known of the original grouping. Also on the earlier register were eight other Palestinian organizations and two militant Jewish groups established by American-born rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990.
Organizations listed for the first time include the Basque Homeland and Freedom, or ETA, in Spain; Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge; Peru’s Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement; Japan’s Aum Supreme Truth and Red Army Faction; the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces; the anti-Turk Kurdistan Workers Party; Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; and Egypt’s Gamaa al Islamiya.
Albright said she anticipates that targeted organizations will test the law in court but said the administration is ready to defend its action. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently blocked the deportation of Palestinians accused of raising money for terrorist organizations, ruling that such activities are protected by 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech. The administration has appealed that decision. But an official said that, even if the decision stands, it applies only to immigration law and cannot automatically be extended to action taken under the anti-terrorism act.
Left off the list was the Irish Republican Army. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the IRA has a well-documented record of terrorism but was passed over because it declared a cease-fire July 19. He said the group could be added if it breaks the truce.
As for the effectiveness of the 1995 action, one official said the administration has blocked between $600,000 and $800,000 in U.S.-held assets belonging to organizations on the original list of 12.
Times staff writer Robin Wright contributed to this report.