Foreign Terrorist Organizations are foreign organizations that are designated as terrorist by the United States Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. The United States government believes that FTO designations play a critical role in its fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.
The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department (S/CT) continually monitors the activities of potentially terrorist groups active around the world to identify potential targets for designation. When reviewing potential targets, S/CT looks not only at the actual terrorist attacks that a group has carried out, but also at whether the group has engaged in planning and preparations for possible future acts of terrorism or retains the capability and intent to carry out such acts.
Once a target is identified, S/CT prepares a detailed "administrative record," which is a compilation of information, typically including both classified and open sources information, demonstrating that the statutory criteria for designation have been satisfied. If the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, decides to make the designation, Congress is notified of the Secretary’s intent to designate the organization and given seven days to review the designation, as the INA requires. Upon the expiration of the seven-day waiting period, notice of the designation is published in the Federal Register, at which point the designation takes effect. An organization designated as an FTO may seek judicial review of the designation in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit not later than 30 days after the designation is published in the Federal Register.
FTO designations expire automatically after two years, but the Secretary of State may redesignate an organization for additional two-year period(s), upon a finding that the statutory criteria continue to be met. The procedural requirements for designating an organization as an FTO also apply to any redesignation of that organization. The Secretary of State may revoke a designation or redesignation at any time upon a finding that the circumstances that were the basis for the designation or redesignation have changed in such a manner as to warrant revocation, or that the national security of the United States warrants a revocation. The same procedural requirements apply to revocations made by the Secretary of State as apply to designations or redesignations. A designation may also be revoked by an Act of Congress, or set aside by a Court order.
Legal Criteria for Designation
(Reflecting Amendments to Section 219 of the INA in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001)
- It must be a foreign organization.
- The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)),* or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)),** or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
- The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
Legal Ramifications of Designation
- It is unlawful for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide "material support or resources" to a designated FTO. (The term "material support or resources" is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b) as "currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, transportation, and other physical assets, except medicine or religious materials.)
- Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to and, in certain circumstances, removable from the United States (see 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182 (a)(3)(B)(i)(IV)-(V), 1227 (a)(1)(A)).
- Any U.S. financial institution that becomes aware that it has possession of or control over funds in which a designated FTO or its agent has an interest must retain possession of or control over the funds and report the funds to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Other Effects of Designation
The United States Department of State lists the following items as additional beneficial effects of designation:
- "Supports our efforts to curb terrorism financing and to encourage other nations to do the same.
- "Stigmatizes and isolates designated terrorist organizations internationally.
- "Deters donations or contributions to and economic transactions with named organizations.
- "Heightens public awareness and knowledge of terrorist organizations.
- "Signals to other governments our concern about named organizations.
Current List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations
This list was current as of October 19, 2004.
- Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
- Abu Sayyaf Group
- Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
- Al-Manar (added on December 17, 2004  (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/12/20041217-3.html))
- Ansar al-Islam
- Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
- Asbat al-Ansar
- Aum Shinrikyo
- Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
- Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA)
- Continuity Irish Republican Army
- Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)
- HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
- Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
- Hezbollah (Party of God)
- Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
- Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) (Army of Mohammed)
- Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'al-Jihad
- Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI)
- al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad)
- Kahane Chai (Kach)
- Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a.k.a. Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK)
- Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT) (Army of the Righteous)
- Lashkar i Jhangvi
- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
- Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
- National Liberation Army (ELN)
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
- Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC)
- Real IRA
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
- Revolutionary Nuclei (formerly ELA)
- Revolutionary Organization 17 November
- Revolutionary People's Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C)
- Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
- Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
- United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)