05 January 2004
Foreign Terrorist List Vital in Global War on Terrorism
Current FTO list includes 36 terrorist groups
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- One of the key weapons in the U.S. arsenal's fight
against global terrorism is the designation of groups as "foreign
terrorist organizations," which authorizes actions such as
freezing their assets, blocking travel by members and supporters,
and criminalizing support for them.
The Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, created by Congress
in a 1996 amendment to federal law, is designed to cut off funding
to terrorist groups, block their immigration into the United States
and authorize deportation once members of the group are located
in the country. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,
the FTO list has taken on an even more critical role in the war
The secretary of state, by federal law, is authorized to designate
any group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization if it meets certain
very specific criteria. And while the Department of State is the
lead agency on counterterrorism, designating an FTO actually involves
the joint work of the State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury
departments. The designation is effective for two years and must
be renewed thereafter for the group to remain on the list. The
first FTO list was published October 8, 1997, and later included
in the 1997 Patterns of Global Terrorism report, which the State
Department prepares annually for Congress.
Any group can be removed from the list by the secretary of state,
an act of Congress or a federal court order.
"As we carry on the global campaign against terrorism, we
hope this list will help to isolate these terrorist organizations,
to choke off their sources of financial support, and to prevent
their members' movement across international borders," State
Department spokesman Ambassador Richard Boucher said recently.
Currently the list includes 36 Foreign Terrorist Organizations
designated by Secretary of State Colin Powell, says Ambassador
J. Cofer Black, the State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
"Both directly and through our embassies, we are working
with governments around the world to attack the mechanisms by which
terrorists raise, move, and use money. Each U.S. Embassy has appointed
a Terrorism Finance Coordination Officer to lead the effort --
in conjunction with the host government -- to detect, disrupt,
and deter terrorist financing," Black said during a recent
The list, however, serves another broad purpose as a key symbol
of U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Black has said that diplomacy in the war on terrorism "is
the instrument of power that builds political will and strengthens
international cooperation. Through diplomatic exchanges, we promote
counterterrorism cooperation with friendly nations that serve our
mutual interests. We enhance the capabilities of our allies. Diplomacy
helps us take the war to the terrorists and to cut off the resources
they depend upon to survive."
A group can be designated an FTO if it meets three requirements
-- it is foreign, it
engages in terrorist activity, and its activity threatens the security
of U.S. citizens or the national security of the United States.
At the heart of identifying a terrorist organization is the definition
of terrorism. The Department of State, in its Terrorism Report,
has developed several key definitions:
-- The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically
motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by
subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence
an audience. The term "terrorist group" means any group
practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international
-- And, the term "international terrorism" means terrorism
involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
There are three consequences for a group that is designated an
-- Any member who knowingly provides "material support or
resources," which includes financial assistance, lodging,
training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documents
or fake identification, communications equipment, weapons, or transportation,
can be prosecuted in U.S. courts.
-- Any representatives or members of a designated FTO can be denied
admission to the United States, or, if already in the country can
-- And, any financial institution that becomes aware of the fact
that it is holding funds from a designated FTO or its agents must
freeze the funds and report the action immediately to the U.S.
Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
However, the FTO list is not the only "terrorist list" published
by the U.S. government. and as terrorism became an increasing threat
to U.S. national security, so has the government's response.
A second well known list is the "state-sponsors of terrorism," which
is required by the Export Administration Act of 1979. The law requires
the secretary of state to provide Congress with a list of countries
that have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international
terrorism." Currently seven states are included in the list
-- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. While
Iraq is still technically on the list, President Bush has suspended
the applicable sanctions against Iraq, according to the Office
of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Iraq's name can be legally
removed from the list once it has a government in place that pledges
not to support acts of terrorism in the future.
The law imposes a list of export controls on any designated state
sponsor, and U.S. foreign aid is also prohibited.
Other terrorist lists employed by the United States include:
-- The Specially Designated Terrorists (SDT) list, required by
the 1995 International Emergency Economic Powers (IEEP) Act and
initiated under Presidential Executive Order 12947, is specifically
oriented toward any person -- individuals or groups -- who threaten
to disrupt the Middle East Peace Process. This list is maintained
by the U.S. Treasury Department.
-- The Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) list, implemented
under the IEEP Act, blocks "all property and interests in
property" of designated terrorists and individuals who materially
support terrorists. Like the previous SDT list, this list is also
maintained by the Treasury Department.
-- Finally, there is the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL), which
was created by the 2001 USA Patriot Act, that authorizes the secretary
of state in consultation with the U.S. Attorney General to designate
terrorist organizations strictly for immigration purposes. Any
person associated with groups on the TEL list are prevented from
entering the United States or may be deported if they are already
in the country.
The United Nations and the European Union also maintain international
lists aimed at combating global terrorism.