Court Approves Use of Secrets in Terror Designation

In the long-running constitutional conflict over the government’s right to use secret information to target an Islamic group in Oregon, an appeals

9th Circuit arguments
9th Circuit argument in Al Haramain

the US Treasury Dept. can use classified information to designate the group a terrorist organization.  But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did reject the government’s warrantless seizure of assets from the now-defunct Al Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc.

The court sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Garr M. King in Portland to determine what the remedy, if any, there should be for such a violation.

The court also held that the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) violated the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon’s constitutional Free Speech rights because the group was deprived of the right to speak out in support of groups like Al Haramain, or promote its objectives of understanding between cultures and reduction of  racism.

 “We hold that OFAC’s content-based prohibitions on speech violate the First Amendment and reinstated the group’s First Amendment claims,” wrote Judge Susan Graber.

Graber also found OFAC violated Al Haramain’s due process rights when it  failed to provide an explanation of why it blocked all use of the group’s funds when there was no demonstrated national security risk to providing that explanation.  She was joined by Judges Dorothy Nelson and Sidney Thomas.

But the due process violation was harmless and the 9th Circuit upheld dismissal of damages for that claim.

 Al Haramain organized in 1999 in Ashland, Oregon to create greater understanding of the Islamic religion, according to the opinion.  It shared some leaders in common with a larger Al Haramain group in Saudi Arabia, had between $30 million and $80 million in assets but it dissolved in 2004.

President George Bush issued an executive order in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, allowing seizure of assets for groups designated as terrorist.  Al Haramain was not included but in 2004 the group’s organizations in six countries were placed on the terror list, Somalia, Bosnia, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania and Pakistan.

The government executed a search warrant on the Ashland office in 2004 over an investigation of alleged tax, banking and money-laundering law violations. The government blocked the Oregon group’s assets pending an investigation, after it found photos and documents related to violence in Chechnya.

Al Haramain told authorities it donated $150,000 in 2000 to the Saudi Arabian arm and “strenuously argues” that was intended for, and was used, for humanitarian relief in Chechnya.

The group asserted it had no connection to terrorism and sought reconsideration of it s designation.  When it received no response from the government it sued in 2007, according to the court.

 Case:  Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, No. 10-35032

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