Did Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, John Bolton, and a bunch of other neocons really attend a rally in support of a communist Saddam Hussein-loving terrorist organization last month? Yes! Is that really a crime? Yes!
In today's New York Times, attorney David Cole points out that the Patriot Act makes it a (thought) crime to help, want to help, or in any way nod approvingly toward a group that has been designated a terrorist entity by the State Department. For instance: The U.S. has decided that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which conducts attacks against our NATO ally Turkey, is a terrorist group. So anyone who, say, wants to train PKK members on how to petition the U.N. for redress of grievances against Turkey, is guilty of the crime of providing material support to a terrorist organization. Cole represented a group called the Humanitarian Law Project in a case before the Supreme Court last year arguing that the material support law is unconstitutional, and he lost. So it's settled.
Which makes it very odd that Giuliani, Bolton, Ridge, Bush-era Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and Bush Homland Security adviser Frances Frago Townsend attended a rally last month in Paris to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a terror group dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian regime. It's odd because 1) The MEK are communists (that's an MEK terrorist pictured along with the group's logo, which features a sickle), 2) they helped Saddam Hussein carry out atrocities against Iraq's Shiite population in the 1990s, and 3) they killed Americans in the 1980s and helped carry out the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. But it's also odd because the MEK is currently on that State Department list of terror groups, so happy thoughts about them are illegal.
The former Bush officials presumably like the MEK because the MEK wants to kill Iranians, which is a good thing right now even though Saddam Hussein probably killed more Iranians than anyone who ever lived and that didn't seem to get him much sympathy from John Bolton. The Middle East is confusing! "The United States should not just be on your side," Giuliani told the MEK crowd at the rally. "It should be enthusiastically on your side. You want the same things we want." The event was sponsored by something called the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, which the Washington Post describes as "a pressure group formed to support MEK."
Giuliani's use of the second-person there—the U.S. should be on "your side"—is kind of important, because under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the material support statute, any public "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization" is a crime. Giuliani could say "I love the MEK" on Fox News, and that wouldn't be a crime. But if he says it in a way that is coordinated with the MEK, then it becomes a crime. And when you say it actually, directly to the MEK at a rally for a pressure group formed to support the MEK, that sounds a lot like coordination.
Of course, Giuliani et. al. don't really want MEK to go around killing people. They probably just want to bring the group out into the open and help it pursue the end to Iranian tyranny through peaceable, lawful conduct. And any law that criminalizes that sort of support is a stupid and bad law. Right, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who had the enthusiastic support of Giuliani during your nomination process?
Material support meant to "promot[e] peaceable, lawful conduct,"...can further terrorism by foreign groups in multiple ways. "Material support" is a valuable resource by definition. Such support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends. It also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups-legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds-all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.
We put in calls to Giuliani, Bolton, Mukasey, and Ridge to ask how they differentiate their attendance at a rally of MEK members from supporting a terrorist group, but haven't heard back.