1995 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security



           National Association of Arab Americans



              STATEMENT OF EHALIL E. JAHSHAN, 

                    EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF

     THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ARAB AMERICANS (NAAA),

            BEFORE THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE



                        June 13, 1995



     The National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) is

pleased to present testimony before this distinguished panel

on the subject of counterterrorism legislation. As the

principal lobbying organization of the Arab American

community, we welcome efforts in Congress to strengthen the

counter terrorism capabilities of law enforcement agencies

in the United States. Like all Americans, we want to ensure

that acts of terrorism can be prevented and, when such acts

do occur, that the perpetrators -- regardless of their

identity--can be apprehended and severely punished. Strong

and effective legislation, however, must ensure an equitable

balance between the nation's legitimate and very pressing

security needs and the constitutionally protected freedoms

on which our democracy is based.



     NAAA and its members throughout the United States join

the rest of the nation in mourning the dead and consoling

the survivors of the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City on

April 19, 1995. NAAA was among the first Arab-American

organizations to condemn that barbarous act and express

horror and disgust at the wanton destruction of innocent

human life that resulted. We are confident that the

perpetrators and masterminds of the attack in Oklahoma will

be brought to justice.



     At the same time, Mr. Chairman, Arab Americans were

extremely concerned at the tendency of the media and many

so-called experts on terrorism to speculate prematurely at

the identity of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City

bombing. Early reports that the attack might have been

linked to the incident in Waco, Texas, two years before gave

way to endless speculation that the perpetrators were

"Middle Eastern" in origin. No apologies were proffered when

the speculation proved erroneous.



     The public was not served by these

race-and-religion-based innuendoes. By reinforcing

stereotypes and implying collective guilt, the rumors

induced a backlash against the Arab and Muslim communities

and caused considerable anguish and pain for many Americans 

of Arab descent.



     It is precisely this tendency to blame ethnic groups

rather than individuals for acts of terrorism that causes

our community to oppose certain 





Statement of Khalil Jahshan 

June 13, 1995 

Page 2



provisions regarding fund raising and deportation of aliens

that are found in the Comprehensive Anti terrorism Act of

1995 (H.R. 1710), introduced by the distinguished chairman

of this Committee, the Comprehensive Terrorism Prevention

Act of 1995 (S. 735), introduced by the Senate Majority

Leader, and the Administration-backed Omnibus Counter

terrorism Act of 1995 (S. 761). We believe that certain

provisions in each of these bills would tip the balance in

such a way as to invite abuse.



     Let me make one thing perfectly clear. We hold the

current director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and

the Attorney General in the highest esteem. We were

heartened that, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City

bombing, Administration and law enforcement officials,

including President Clinton, declined to encourage media

speculation as to the identity of the perpetrators.



     Nevertheless, the legislation that Congress is

considering should be designed to be in force and effective

long after the current officials are replaced. As has been

seen in the past, the nation's top law enforcement officers

have on occasion violated civil liberties and severe

restrictions of their powers were imposed upon them as a

result. We therefore urge this Committee to resist the

temptation to rush to enact counter terrorism legislation

without serious and thoughtful deliberation to avoid

swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.



     Mr. Chairman, we believe that American citizens or

resident aliens in the United States who engage in or

conspire to commit terrorist activities should be punished

to the fullest extent of the law. We are concerned, however,

that the legislation being considered in this Congress

contains provisions which are designed not to prevent or

punish terrorism but to criminalize activities which are not

only protected but guaranteed by the Constitution. We

believe that certain provisions in H.R. 1710, S. 735 and/or

S. 761 should be opposed in their current form. Among these

are provisions that would:



. broaden the definition of terrorism to include

constitutionally protected activities, including the right

of association, which would otherwise be legal.



 violate the Constitution by permitting the U.S. government

to deport aliens without due process, based on secret

evidence that is not disclosed to the defendant.



 invite selective enforcement based on political

considerations, such as opposition to the Middle East peace

process, that targets certain ethnic or religious groups,

including Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and Arab and

Muslim immigrants.



Statement of Khalil Jahshan

June 13, 1995 

Page 3



 permit the President to designate organizations as

terrorist without review by the courts.

 

. enable the President to bar fund raising for humanitarian

and other lawful activities of organizations that may be

politically affiliated with the organizations designated as

terrorist.



. allow foreign governments to carry out surveillance in the

United States on U.S. citizens in some circumstances.



Fundraising



     We believe that the fund raising provisions of much of

the counter terrorism legislation under consideration by

Congress, including H.R. 1710, are overly broad and violate

the Constitution by prohibiting fund raising for lawful

humanitarian and philanthropic activities. Current law

already prohibits the providing of funds for terrorist

activity and should be vigorously enforced. The broad

prohibition under the pending legislation, however,

penalizes individuals for providing funds, even unknowingly,

to groups that the President deems to be terrorist. Although

there are certain exemptions that may be granted, the

requirements to obtain these exemptions are almost

impossible to fulfill and are therefore illusory.



     Arab Americans, like members of all ethnic communities

in the United States, send funds to their countries of

origin. Many Arab Americans contribute to humanitarian and

philanthropic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the

West Bank and Gaza and in Lebanon. Most, if not all, of

these NGOs are politically affiliated and are a function of

political factions. Thus, groups like Fatah, Hamas, DFLP,

and PFLP, some of which are designated as terrorist

organizations in the President's executive order of January

24, 1995, engage in a host of educational, health, social

and other humanitarian activities that are desperately

needed in Palestinian society.



     Cutting off fund raising to the legitimate

non-terrorist and non-violent activities of such groups will

deprive Palestinian society of vital services that cannot

easily be provided by the Palestine National Authority or

any outside source at this time. Such an economic disruption

will destabilize the region, undermine the already

precarious peace process, and threaten the democratic

institutions that are currently emerging in the West Bank

and Gaza.



     We are also concerned that the broad prohibitions of

the fund raising provisions will have a further chilling

effect on humanitarian and philanthropic fund raising in the

United States because of their vagueness. Individuals will

be reluctant to contribute to any organization dealing with



Statement of Khalil Jahshan

June 13, 1995

Page 4



the Middle East because they cannot be sure that at some

time they may face prosecution. Ironically, resident aliens

could face prosecution for contributing to the Palestine

Liberation Organization in support of the peace process,

even though the U.S. government, including the President

himself, has urged Arab Americans to support the Palestine

National Authority in the reconstruction of Palestinian

society.



     Because fund raising for terrorist activities is

already proscribed under current law, we urge that the

provisions that would ban fund raising for legitimate

humanitarian and philanthropic activities be dropped from

the legislation under consideration.



Deportation of Aliens



     Certain provisions of the counter terrorism legislation

seek to facilitate the deportation of aliens charged with

terrorism activity. We are puzzled as to why the U.S.

government would seek to deport, rather than to prosecute,

any individual suspected of committing or conspiring to

commit terrorism in the United States. Deportation of such

individuals would merely allow them to conduct their

activities elsewhere and could impede efforts to prevent or

to punish terrorism.



     We believe that all individuals engaged in terrorism

activity should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the

law. But, to ensure that innocent individuals are not

wrongly prosecuted and convicted, the term "engage in

terrorism activity" must be defined as referring only to

those who specifically intend to support an individual,

organization, or government in conducting terrorism

activity. As we have noted, individuals who wish to support

humanitarian or philanthropic activities should not be

considered to be engaging in terrorism activities.



     The Arab-American community is particularly troubled by

provisions which allow the government to deport aliens

without due process, based on secret evidence that is not

disclosed to the defendant or his or her attorney. While we

understand that there are times when the U.S. government

must decline to make public certain classified information

in order to protect the source of that information, we

believe that the government should and must be required to

produce, as it is under the Classified Information

Procedures Act, summaries that will allow the defendant the

opportunity to defend him or herself.



     17H.R. 1710 would establish a "special removal court"

to preside over hearings to deport terrorist aliens from the

United States and would create a panel of attorneys with

security clearances who could review classified information

relating to removal cases. A member of such a panel could

represent the accused alien and challenge the veracity of

the classified



Statement of Khalil Jahshan

June 13, 1995

Page 5



evidence in an in camera proceeding, but could not disclose

the classified information either to the accused or to his

or her attorney. Since summaries of classified evidence

against the accused are not required to be made available to

the alien, he or she can be effectively denied the ability

to conduct an adequate and effective defense.



     We believe that current law already permits the

Immigration and Naturalization Service to detain aliens

charged as deport able. Provisions that would expedite

immigration cases concerning terrorism activity would allow

such cases to be disposed of in a timely fashion, even if

there is a backlog in normal cases. But the U.S. government

should not be relieved of its burden of providing due

process to defendants simply because they are aliens.



     H.R. 1710 would also unduly broaden grounds for

exclusion of aliens from the United States. Aliens are

currently excludable if they have engaged in terrorism

activity or if the Attorney General has reasonable grounds

to believe that they are likely to engage in such activity

in the United States should they gain entry. Under H.R.

1710, exclusion would be permitted if the alien is a

representative or merely a member of an organization

designated by the President to be terrorist, even if the

alien had never engaged in or supported terrorism activity.

Such broad exclusionary powers will serve to bar innocent

aliens with legitimate reasons for entering the country. It

will also tend to limit debate in the United States on

controversial issues.



Surveillance by Foreign Governments



     We were astonished to find provisions in S. 735 which

would give personnel of a foreign government the right to

participate in interceptions of communications in the United

States. The Arab-American community is utterly and

unalterably opposed to any foreign government being legally

entitled to intercept communications of American citizens in

the United States under any circumstances. It is a

fundamental violation of the constitutional rights of every

American to permit a foreign government, which is not bound

by the requirements of the Bill of Rights of our

Constitution, to conduct surveillance lawfully and legally

in the United States against ethnic communities or

individuals it despises.



     Mr. Chairman, we urge this Committee and the members of

any conference committee that may be formed to consider

counterterrorism legislation to reject provisions that would

permit foreign governments to conduct surveillance in the

United States. Lawful surveillance activities should

conducted by the U.S. government and not by foreign

governments.



Statement of Khalil Jahshan

June 13, 1995

Page 6



Conclusion



     Arab Americans join all Americans who want to ensure

that acts of terrorism can be prevented and, when such acts

do occur, that the perpetrators are punished. Because the

Arab-American community is often targeted or "scapegoat Ed"

at times of international crisis or terrorist incidents,

however, Arab Americans have a special interest in ensuring

that counterterrorism legislation provides an equitable

balance between the nation's legitimate security needs and

constitutionally protected freedoms.



     As a community with a large proportion of immigrants,

we are concerned about the artificial distinctions that are

being drawn between domestic and international terrorism. We

note in particular that many of the provisions of proposed

counterterrorism legislation seem designed to restrict or

deny due process to aliens, to facilitate deportation, and

to broaden the definition of terrorism activity to such a

point that it infringes upon constitutionally protected

rights of association, particularly for foreigners.



     It is essential that, in our eagerness to ensure that

terrorism can be prevented or punished, we preserve the

fights not only of U.S. citizens, but also of resident

aliens who contribute much to this society and obey its

laws. We have the responsibility to ensure not only that the

guilty are prosecuted and punished but that the innocent are

protected, whether they be citizens or aliens.