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April 04, 2005

What's the Patriot Act Doing in Belfast?

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Apr 2005

What's the USA PATRIOT Act Doing in Belfast?

By Cindy Ellen Hill,

(Cindy Ellen Hill is a retired criminal defense attorney now
engaged in freelance writing full time.

She recently taught a political science course at Middlebury
College on Civil Liberties and the Patriot Act. Throughout the
class they examined examples of terrorism listings related to
Northern Ireland. They analyzed who was listed, why, and with what

This essay details the present state of Northern Ireland
paramilitary terrorism listings in the United States. The subject
matter is quite timely as the late-April 2005 State Department
terrorist black lists is due soon.)

"In late April 2005, the U.S. State Department will issue its
Patterns of Global Terrorism 2004 report, and the burning question
is, which list will the IRA find itself on?

Like Solon returning to Rome, the U.S. government has developed a
post - 9/11 penchant for making black lists. In American
bureaucratic fashion, instead of Solon's carved-in-stone list
posted in the city plaza, there are multiple lists with multiple
meanings. Juggling several lists, U. S. diplomats can claim on one
day that they've recognized a group as 'terrorists', while being
able to say with a straight face on another day that the same group
has not been officially terrorist-designated. Following a
centuries-old tradition of gamesmanship regarding the Irish cause,
the Bush administration is juggling the names of Northern Irish
paramilitary organizations between these lists, while professing
full support for both Irish American interests and the desires of
the British crown. The fate of the Northern Ireland peace process
may depend on which balls stay in the air, and which hit the

Under powers authorized by a series of economic statutes, President
Bush has issued an Executive Order creating a 'Terrorist Exclusion
List" of 'Specially Designated Global Terrorists" (TEL/SDGT).
Entities and individuals on the TEL are precluded from engaging in
economic transactions within the United States or through any
institution under its jurisdiction; any of their assets within U.S.
jurisdiction may be subject to Presidential seizure and forfeiture.

Bush placed the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) on the TEL as an
SDGT on October 31st, 2001, at the moment the USA PATRIOT Act was
winging through Congress and the ground war on Terrorism was being
launched in Afghanistan.

On December 31st, 2001 – as British intelligence was streaming in
supporting Bush's propaganda regarding weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq – Bush added the Continuity IRA, the Loyalist Volunteer
Force, the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders, and the
Ulster Defense Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters, to the TEL as
SDGT's. With the exception of the Nepalese Maoist Party and the
Basques/ETA, these Northern Ireland listings stand out from the TEL
like a spot of blood on a white dress: they are the only entities
not identified with clearly Islamic nomenclature.

In those early days of the War on Terrorism, Bush was grasping at
diplomatic straws for countries willing to justify calling his
actions an "alliance'. He didn't look far before tripping over Tony
Blair, a man anxious to cuddle up to American power while
simultaneous taking care of the little problem in his backyard. It
does not take a large leap of faith to believe that the U.S.
listing of Northern Ireland paramilitary groups was at least part
of the price for UK support of Bush's war.

Nor does it take much of another leap of faith to conclude that the
new UK/US extradition treaty negotiations that began at the same
time was the US concession in lieu of listing the IRA as a
Specially Designated Global Terrorist group. That extradition
treaty would ultimately severely undermine the good faith of the
U.S.-brokered Good Friday accord by allowing extradition back to
Britain of American residents who had been pardoned and released
from British custody under the Good Friday agreement's terms.

But the TEL is not the only official terrorist list kept by the
U.S. government. Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, as
amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, the U. S. State Department can also
list Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. This list and the
Presidents TEL list are not been coterminus.

Designated "FTO"s are a radical departure from American legal
tradition which Constitutionally protects freedom of association.
With exceptions under past Sedition Acts and the 1950's foray
against the Communist Party, the U.S. has feverishly supported the
proposition that we don't outlaw organizations, we only legally
address individual crimes done by individuals. Even our
racketeering statutes don't technically outlaw, say, the Gambino
Family and Friends; they criminalize an individual's participation
in actual criminal behavior.

Designated FTOs, however, are outlawed organizations. Membership
in such an organization, or the material support of such an
organization through money, supplies, or even public advocacy, can
result in an American citizen being charged with criminal terrorist

In 2000, the U.S. State Department listed 29 Designated Foreign
Terrorist Organizations that included no Irish organizations
whatsoever. But the State Department also launched a disconcerting
practice of creating an appendix to the official Designated FTO
list: yet another list, this one entitled "Other Terrorist Groups".
The State Department offers no explanation whatsoever as to what
this "Other Terrorist Groups" list means or what its legal
ramifications are.

The Center for Defense Information (CDI) states that "it is
inferred that these groups are of lesser consequence than
designated FTOs and thus considered ancillary. Such groups are also
potentially noteworthy as an upsurge in their activities could lead
to them being designated (and in some cases, re-designated) as
FTOs." ( In 2000, this list of "Other Terrorist
Organizations" included the Continuity IRA, Loyalist Volunteer
Force, the Orange Volunteers, RIRA, and the Red Hand Defenders –
and the IRA. A State Department memo at the time explains that the
IRA is known to raise funds and arms in the U.S., train in Libya,
and has suspected ties to the Basque group ETA.

In October 2001, the State Department shifted the Real IRA (RIRA)
from the "other' list to the official list of Designated Foreign
Terrorist Organizations. On July 13, 2004, the State Department
added the Continuity IRA to the list of designated FTOs, and in
their December 2004 report State lists the Red Hand Defenders and
Loyalist Volunteer Force as "other terrorist organizations."
'Orange Volunteers' was replaced by the Ulster Defense Association.
But at that time, there was no mention of the IRA on either the
Designated RTO list or the 'other' list.

By the April 24th, 2004 release of the Patterns of Global Terrorism
2003 State Department Report, the 37 listed FTO's included RIRA,
and the list of 40 "other terrorist groups" included the Irish
National Liberation Army, Red Hand Defenders, the Loyalist
Volunteer Force, the Ulster Defense Force (UVF), the Ulster Defense
Association and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (whom the U.S. State
Department advises is one and the same organization). The
Continuity IRA is also, inexplicably, shifted from the Designated
FTO list to the "other terrorist organizations" list.

Most notably, the IRA was back on the "other terrorist
organizations" list as well, after having been absent from 2001 to
2003. This list was released at the same moment that the US/UK
Extradition Treaty, ratified in England by an expedited non-
parliamentary process, was sent by President Bush to the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee for approval.

As we sit surveying the smoking wreckage of the Good Friday accord
it becomes increasingly obvious that the United States is putting
aside its charade of the appearance of playing guarantor for Irish
Republicans. In late April 2005, the U.S. State Department will
issue its Patterns of Global Terrorism 2004 report, and the burning
question is, Which list will the IRA find itself on?

In the late 1990's, the United States, fulfilling its role as
global watchdog of human rights while at the same time recognizing
the important position of Irish American citizens in the United
States culture, government, and electorate, brokered the Good
Friday agreement. Applying Middle East terminology, Good Friday is
the Blueprint for creation of a system of governance in Northern
Ireland that will secure civil rights, human rights, and democracy
to all Northern Ireland residents. It is ironic that the U.S.
refers to this as a formula for "lasting peace" when they have
never acknowledged that acts of violent protest over England's
continued occupation of Northern Ireland constitutes a war. In
other words, even at the pinnacle of America's good faith
positioning as a guarantor of progress in Northern Ireland, they
did not recognize the 'belligerent status' of Irish Republicans,
though they used terms that implied that they were sympathetic to
the cause.

Unfortunately, after exercising her muscle in the stance of peace-
broker in time for the 1998 Congressional elections and 2000
Presidential election, the U.S. folded her flag and went home. The
list of reasons to do otherwise has diminished greatly from the
antebellum days of Tammany Hall and Irish immigration. Today, the
U.S. public no longer despises Great Britain; in fact, most
Americans express surprise and disbelief at the idea that England
was not considered our friend until World War I. And most
importantly, Irish Americans are no longer a strongly identifiable,
or politically necessary, voting block in American elections.
While it is true that urban Irish Americans still tend to run in
Democratic Party packs, this characterization is no longer
universal, and outside of the big eastern cities, can't be assumed
at all.

When British troops and police raided Sinn Fein offices in 2002 and
made sweeping unspecific claims about a 'spying ring' vaguely
reminiscent of Watergate, the U.S. government did not sound a peep.
Nor did it lodge protest when England shut down the Stormont
parliament, a key institution under the Good Friday blueprint, and
returned governance of Northern Ireland to London. In fact, by
that point the U.S. was already well on its way towards officially
declaring a whole host of entities in Northern Ireland to be
terrorist organizations – although, continuing to exercise
gamesmanship, the U.S. still dangled the IRA and Sinn Fein around,
sparkling in the light of potential for terrorism designation and
dazzling the eye with sleight of hand as to just who is considered
a terrorist.

When Britain blamed the December 2004 Belfast Northern Bank robbery
not only on the IRA, but on Sinn Fein and more specifically Gerry
Adams, Bush didn't merely keep silent, he leapt to join in the
bashing. Ten years after the St. Patrick's day celebration at the
White House when Bill Clinton shook Gerry Adams hand and pledged to
bring peace to Northern Ireland, Bush disinvited Adams, shunned
Sinn Fein, and made it clear that no Belfast hoodlums –whether they
call themselves freedom fighters or not – should consider
themselves worthy of U.S. friendship. If you stand up for freedom,
Bush had said in his recent State of the Union, the U.S. stands
with you. He didn't clarify that he meant only if you were in,
say, Iraq, Iran, or Syria; in Tyrone, forget it. With each Bush
admonition against Sinn Fein and IRA 'criminality',

it becomes increasingly likely that the IRA will find itself added
to the TEL.

With the IRA presently on the 'other terrorist organizations' list
– or even if they are added to the TEL – Bush can tell Tony Blair
that the U.S. officially considers the IRA to be terrorists, while
at the same time telling Irish Americans that the U.S. is a friend
of the Irish Cause, because they are not on the State Department
list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. But given Bush's
electoral mandate in 2004 – a mandate that didn't require or even
acknowledge a role for an Irish American voting block – the need to
be extending the illusion of friendship to the Irish Cause is
nearly extinguished.

If the IRA is placed on President Bush's Terrorist Exclusion List,
charitable organizations whose activities include support of
families experiencing trauma or economic difficulty due to a family
member's involvement in IRA activity run the risk of being shut
down and having their

assets seized, much as has occurred with several large Islamic
charities. If the IRA is placed on the State Department list of
Designated Terrorist Organizations, any American who 'materially
supports' the IRA – again, including public advocacy, or
humanitarian aid to those who have been disadvantaged by the
troubles – will be prosecuted as a terrorist. The devil will then
meet the deep blue sea on the question of what position the U.S.
will take regarding Sinn Fein's relationship with the IRA.

The fate of Northern Ireland stands on the edge of a knife, and
Irish Americans have much on the line. The question remains
whether the Bush administration betrayal of the cause of peace in
Northern Ireland is enough to reawaken the Irish American community
as a political block to be reckoned with, and whether that Irish
American community can compel the U.S. Government to once again
stand as guarantors of the cause of Irish freedom.


Cindy Ellen Hill, Esq.
144 Mead Lane
Middlebury VT 05753

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Apr 2005
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