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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2904

LTTE heavily lobbied U.S. Judiciary and Congress To annul anti-terrorism law, ‘Material Support’

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 25 August ( The law under which the United States authorities charged thirteen ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils residing in U.S. and Canada allegedly conspiring to procure heavy military and communication equipments for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in New York on August 21 was the prohibition of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as Tamil Tigers, was designated by Executive Order and under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1997 by the U.S. Secretary of State as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’ (FTO), and providing material support and resources is considered a criminal act also under the 2001 USA Patriot Act.

And, this is the law that agents of the Liberation Tigers in the United States wanted out of the statute books since the outfit was designated a FTO in 1997 heavily lobbying the United States Congressional committees and Members of both the Senate and the House. The representatives of the Tiger outfit used the American judicial system several times to get court orders to annul the ‘material support’ clause from all anti-terrorism laws enacted by the congress and now in fully operational in an effort to facilitate the United States to combat ‘Global Terrorism’ that directly affect the nation, and to defeat FTOs which, in the opinion of the United States, may complicate the overseas security situation detrimental to American interests.

It is only the agents of the U.S. proscribed LTTE, and no other proscribed FTOs which are more than 40, has made this serious attempt using the judiciary and the legislature to annul the "material support" clause.

Tiger Proxy Organizations in U.S.

Organizations that are cited by the U.S. authorities in their criminal complaint in the District Court in Brooklyn in the State of New York against the defendants who have allegedly used as forums to raise funds to facilitate the LTTE operation in Sri Lanka are the same organizations that have been heavily active in lobbying the judiciary and the U.S. Congress to strike off the ‘material support’ law.

Strangely, all these Sri Lankan Tamil expatriate organizations are exclusively based in two areas of very close proximity to each other: the New York and New Jersey areas where the arrests were made on August 21 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ilankai Thamil Sangam is said to be infested with Tamil Tiger operatives, a New Jersey not-for-profit corporation founded in 1977.

The World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), an organization based in Jamaica, New York has expertise in the field of politics, law and economic development, according to a document filed in December 2003 in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. It is a well known fact that WTCC is heavily involved in fund raisers for the Liberation Tigers. The FBI said in documents filed in court after uncovering the alleged terror ring that this charity group and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) "give their fundraising activities the appearance of legitimacy." The FBI alleges the WTCC "openly sells Tiger propaganda and literature on their websites."

According to the court documents, Vijayashanthar “Chandru” Patpanathan, an alleged top Tigers’ fundraiser who was arrested, said millions were raised in Canada and sent to Sri Lanka through the TRO.

The Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America was founded in 1986, and its membership includes 30 Sangams (Associations) in the United States, including Ilankai Thamil Sangam.

Tamil Welfare and Human Rights Committee (TWHRC) is based in Maryland. In a document which was before the District Court in California in late 2003 the TWHRC "has expertise in the field of economic development and information technology and wish to provide the LTTE with expert advice and assistance in these fields toward the goal of promoting civil peace stability in the lives of Tamils of Tamil Eelam."

U.S. Forums the Tigers Use

These organizations, on behalf of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, have successfully infiltrated many well known national human rights movements to eliminating the most serious legal impediment to help Tigers achieve its overseas agenda "getting material support and resources to win an independent ethnic Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the nationally recognized and well known human rights movement, has many a time gone before the American judiciary and the U.S. Congress in support of these Tamil organizations who are explicitly and implicitly work their way through to help the Liberation Tigers fulfill their agenda.

The California based Humanitarian Law Project has gone several times before the U.S. courts to convince the judiciary of the importance of nullifying the material support law on ‘humanitarian grounds.’

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), another rights organization whose activists are most of the time inside courts arguing infringement of human and constitutional rights, has been retained by these U.S.-based Tiger proxies. Nancy Chang, Senior attorney at the CCR has been an outspoken Tamil Tiger supporter.

So is Professor David Cole of the Georgetown University Law School, who is said to be occasionally consulted by senior State Department officials as they are prohibited by terrorism laws to maintain a dialogue with the proscribed LTTE, is the most notable Tamil Tiger spokesman on the American soil. It is a known fact that the senior officials of the State Department value this contact to obtain fairly first hand information of Tiger operations overseas.

Washington Legal Foundation, a prominent advocate for freedom and justice which has previously contested the ACLU and CCR pro-Tiger submissions in U.S. courts, gave the following definition recently as April 2006 before the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco on the importance of keeping the material support law:

"The material support provided to a terrorist organization – even material support intended to further the organization’s humanitarian activities – can be prohibited because material support used to provide humanitarian activities frees up other resources and thereby permits the organization to divert those other resources to terrorism. It makes no difference whether the ‘material support’ takes the form of money or takes the form of spoken and written words. In both cases the donor has provided an additional resource to the organization that facilitates its core institutional mission: to conduct terrorism. (US) Congress quite rationally determined that American national security interests would be served by cutting off all such material support."

The U.S. Law on Material Support to Terrorists

Why is this ‘material support’ law so important to American national security interests and why is this law so detrimental to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger operation overseas for its proxies in the United States to heavily lobby in American courts and the United States Congress? The New York arrests of Sri Lanka ethnic Tamil operatives of the LTTE wouldn’t have taken place if this law was not in the U.S. anti-terrorism statute books. And, it was under this law that the U.S. authorities charged the thirteen Tamil Tiger operatives.

Here is the interpretation of the law:

Certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act create crimes that will enable law enforcement to prosecute acts that might lend support to terrorists, as opposed to terrorist acts themselves. Such changes seem designed to give government the ability to intercept and obstruct an expanding list of activities that might lend support to future terrorist efforts.

Section 805 of the Act reflects the shift toward criminalizing behavior at an earlier point on the timeline of a potential terrorist act. The section expands the definition of the crime of giving material support, and by defining that act in such a way as to sweep in a wide array of behavior.

Under federal law, it is illegal to provide material support to those engaged in terrorist activity (or who have previously committed such an activity), 18 U.S.C (United States Code) section 2339A (2005), or to groups designated as foreign terrorist organization (FTO) pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (18 U.S.C. section 1189), 18 U.S.C. section 2339B(2005). Section 805 of the PATRIOT Act broadens the crime of providing material support or resources to a terrorist or terrorist organization to include provision of "monetary instruments" in addition to financial securities and "expert advice or assistance" in addition to previous definition under 18 U.S.C. section 2339A and 18 U.S.C. section 2339B.

The legislation expands the definition of terrorist financing and broadens the language in current law barring people from providing material support or resources for carrying out terrorist acts. It also expands the material support crimes to include aiding the concealment of or escape from an act of terrorism. The U.S. Department of Justice has heavily relied on the material support ban to go after suspected terrorist as they did on August 21 arresting Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger operatives in New York after a long investigation.

Among the accusations in the FBI document filed in the District Court at Brooklyn in the State of New are:

• One of the weapons buyers trying to get arms met Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and was in direct contact with his second-in-command, Pottu Amman.

• The alleged "Big Guy" who would fund the purchase of 100 missiles and the AK-47 rifles was living in Canada. The FBI did not reveal the identity of “Big Guy” in the court documents.

• FBI wiretaps captured an American Tiger operative saying that Canadian-based fundraising accounts for the lion’s share of cash which funds the Tigers’ bloody revolt.

• One American-based Tamil bragged that "millions" have been sent to the Tamil Tigers through the American-based charity Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), an agency which claims to fund shelter, schools and food for millions of Tamils affected by civil war and the devastating 2004 tsunami.

The three men who the FBI alleges tried to buy the missiles are named as Sathajhan "Satha" Sarachandran, 27, Sahilal "Sahil" Sabaratnam, 28, andThiruthanikan "Thani" Thanigasalam, 38.

Section 2339A says: Whoever provides material support or resources or conceal or disguises the nature, location, source, or ownership of material support or resources, knowingly or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or carrying out (a terrorist act) shall be imprisoned not more than 15 years, and if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

The section gives the definition of the term "material support or resources" as follows:

(1) the term "material support or resources" means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substance, explosives, personal. And transportation, except medicine or religious materials;

(2) the term "training" means instruction or teaching designed to impact a specific skill, as opposed to general knowledge; and

(3) the term "expert advice or assistance" means advice or assistance derived from scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge.

Section 2331 of the United States Code defines what international terrorism is:

(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any state;

(B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to effect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping;

Section 2339B says "whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempt to conspire to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life."

LTTE Proxies lobby Courts and Congress

As far back as March 2000, the Tamil Tiger proxy organizations, Ilankai Thamil Sangam, Tamils of North California, Tamil Welfare and Human Rights Committee, Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America and World Tamil Coordinating Committee jointly used the California-based Humanitarian Law Project to file a petition before the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco to claim that their support (to LTTE) would be directed to aid only nonviolent humanitarian and political activities of the organizations. Being prohibited from this support, they argued infringes their associations’ rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

This was an appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California in February 1999 brought by the same organizations.

In a previous suit brought in March 1998 by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the same Tamil organizations asked the court to declare that the material support statute, 18 U.S.C. section 2339B, violates the First Amendment insofar as it criminalizes the provision of such (humanitarian) support.

In October 2003, Professor David Cole of the Georgetown University Law School and Nancy Chang, Senior attorney at Center for Constitutional Rights led the legal challenge against the provision of the USA Patriot Act that criminalized the provision of "xpert advice and assistance" on be half of the Tamil organizations before the Court of Appeal in the State of California.

Few months later, on May 5, 2004, Prof. Cole testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary to persuade the Senators to drop the "material support" clause from the statute books.

The Tamil organizations in the United States again went before the U.S. District Court in California in December 2003 using the Humanitarian Law Project organization as their forum to make another attempt to nullify the "material support" law.

The district court struck down portions of the law as impermissibly vague, finding that some of the terms used to describe what constitutes "material support or resources" do not provide individuals with clear guidance regarding the scope of the law. But the court rejected the plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenge, finding that the law did not interfere with the plaintiffs’ right to express their support for activities not involving terrorism. Both the plaintiffs’ and the Administration appealed from that decision.

Not stopping at that, the Tamil Tiger proxy organizations went before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on May 10, 2005 this time sending an American of Sri Lankan Tamil origin Ahilan T. Arulanantham who works as a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

This was not the only occasion the Tamil Tiger operatives in the United States endeavored to lobby U.S. Congressmen.

The revelation that Illinois Democratic Congressman Danny Davis’ trip to LTTE-controlled areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka last year was in fact funded by the Tiger outfit is another maneuver to influence lawmakers in the United States.

Almost one year ago, Asian Tribune carried a story captioned "Who Monitors Tamil Tiger Activities in U.S.? Asian Tribune or Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry? on 28 August (2005) which highlighted the LTTE ‘professional’ strategy to lobby congressmen of both the Senate and the House and the use of ACLU as a podium to make submissions to U.S. federal courts that certain sections of America’s anti-terrorism law, Patriot Act, have hindered the dispatch of humanitarian assistance to tsunami devastated Tamil majority north and east of Sri Lanka. The New York arrests this week shows how active the Tamil Tigers are in the United States and how inactive Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, along with its overseas diplomatic posts, is in this country.

- Asian Tribune -

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