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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Act of Conscience to Spark an Act of Congress
“In our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.” - Mark Twain

“If intimidated, speak up louder than before.” - Howard Zinn

Matthew Kavanah • 4.12.03

As a citizen of the United States where elected officials frequently herald our democratic values, freedom and liberty, social tolerance, jurisprudence and the Bill of Rights, does it stand to reason that I should harbor a degree of trepidation as I write the following essay? Although I am aware that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled on the very issue that I will provide further explication for in this essay, am I justified in fearing potential governmental retribution solely because of my political viewpoint and sensibilities? As Howard Zinn wrote, “I suggest that free speech does not become a reality until people insist on it, struggle for it, practice it, because corporate wealth, governmental power, judicial decisions all limit that right.” At the outset of this piece, let me state with no equivocation, that what I pen here I write as an individual of conscience, neither in an overt nor a veiled attempt to solicit support for any organization and not to serve as an endorsement of any organization. My words are primarily directed to those who would deny the freedoms of association, press, speech, and due process and those who would deter the forward march of liberty, equality and fraternity.

In May 2001 the US Department of State, in conjunction and collaboration with the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of Justice [although Attorney General Ashcroft oftentimes seems more preoccupied with his sense of law as opposed to justice…hmm, a topic for a future article?] proscribed the Real IRA and included the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, 32 County Sovereignty Movement [hereafter referred to as 32 County] and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association [hereafter referred to as IRPWA] as aliases of the Real IRA. These organizations were thus designated as [FTO] foreign terrorist organizations. According to State Department guidelines, the legal criteria for designation is as follows:

(Reflecting Amendments to Section 219 of the INA in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001)

  1. It must be a foreign organization.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Furthermore, the legal ramifications of the designation on US citizens and other persons under US jurisdiction are as follows:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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)).
  3. 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.

The 32 County and IRPWA organizations as well as their US members and supporters secured the pro bono legal services of a Washington, DC based law firm and filed a petition for judicial review of the designation. The appeal was based on deprivation of constitutional rights such as the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law and the First Amendment right to free speech and association as well as US Code concerning statutory jurisdiction, authority and substantial support in the administrative record. The petitioners’ brief states that, “…petitioners do not engage in terrorist activity and are not an alias for, or also known as, the Real IRA…there is no record support that petitioners engage in terrorist activity…petitioners have no activities other than engaging in political speech about the peace process in Northern Ireland and fundraising for lawful political and humanitarian purposes, and the record does not establish that petitioners have furthered any illegal activities of the Real IRA.”

As a result of the designation, however, the US members and supporters were compelled, among other things, to close a post office box, close a bank account, discontinue maintenance of a website, and cease all lawful political advocacy. The State Department made the designation based principally on information supplied by the British and Irish governments as well as public domain information. According to the Summary of the Administrative Record,

“…In particular, we have placed a heavy emphasis on detailed information furnished directly to us by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The U.S. Government depends on those two governments for information concerning terrorist activities in Northern Ireland. The British and Irish security and intelligence devote considerable effort to collecting information on groups in Northern Ireland and we trust the experience of those two governments in analyzing this information and assessing its credibility.”

As opposed to the Real IRA, which is banned, 32 County and the IRPWA are perfectly legal in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. The British and Irish governments evidently “do not have credible evidence that petitioners engage in terrorist activities.” Moreover, the British Government has concluded that these organizations engage solely in lawful political speech and legitimate fundraising efforts. British Lord Williams of Mostyn has been quoted as saying,

“My Lords, a clear distinction needs to be made between the expression of political attitudes, opinions and beliefs and the actual commission or instigation of terrorist crime…on the basis of the evidence currently available, the Government assess(es) that the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is not concerned in terrorism, as defined in statute.”

Lord Williams also stated that, “It is not unlawful [in the United Kingdom] to raise funds for purposes which are not terroristic,” and when asked by Lord Swinfen if there was any indication that 32 County passed funds to the Real IRA replied, “My Lords, I know of no sufficiently admissible evidence which would sustain a criminal charge.” The position of the British Government is clearly that fundraising for political purposes is not illegal. It does not stand to reason then that these organizations should be outlawed in the United States. As the petitioners’ brief notes, “Although the United States government has claimed that it relied upon information provided by the British and Irish governments, those governments have refused to ban petitioners, and the British government has expressly recognized that petitioners are engaged in lawful political advocacy and fundraising.”

The integrity of American democracy is at issue here. As the petitioners’ brief elucidates, “Advocacy is a cornerstone of the First Amendment.” Political advocacy is greatly enhanced when people pool time, energy, talents and resources. As is cited in the brief, the US Supreme Court has noted that, “It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties – the freedom of association.” The Court of Appeals, in this instance, chose to frown upon political advocacy and expression, curtail the freedom of association and generally punish citizens for holding what some might interpret as an unpopular opinion. The petition for judicial review was tersely denied.

So, what is an American patriot to do? I propose to utilize all potential avenues of conventional constitutional politics in an attempt to overturn this designation. It is unlikely that Secretary of State Powell will revoke the proscription on 32 County and the IRPWA. The court system alternative for reversal has been exhausted. The remaining option is to lobby and petition for an Act of Congress. I have no idea how difficult this task may become and no crystal ball to inform me of what may lie down the road but I do know that the US Department of State is emphatically wrong in their designation of 32 County and the IRPWA and I do know that the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit unilaterally erred in its finding in this case. I know that my constitutional rights have been trampled upon by the Executive Branch acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Lastly, I know that I, as a citizen of conscience, will not go quietly, will not submit and will not acquiesce to this flagrant injustice. This political battle begins now and I encourage all people of good sense and good will to join in this effort. Resistance is not a dirty word.

I have established an email account for use in this endeavor so I may be contacted at





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 December 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Act of Conscience to Spark an Act of Congress
Matthew Kavanah


No Surprise, No Change

Eamon Sweeney


The Global Justice Movement's Take on Sustainable Development
Dr Peter Doran


Canvassing for the Socialists
Anthony McIntyre


Address to PUP Conference
Davy Carlin


The Current Situation
Gerry Ruddy


30 November 2003


Anthony McIntyre


Special Election Coverage:


Ignore the Headlines

Tom Luby


Doing Well for Themselves Alone
Mick Hall


Our Day Has Come. . .
Liam O'Comain


Paying the Price
Anthony McIntyre


Sinn Féin Advances Enhances Process
Fr. Sean Mc Manus, INC


'RSF satisfied with outcome - time to consider alternatives'

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Republican Sinn Féin


Poll Result Highlights Flawed Agreement
Andy Martin, 32 CSM


Election Comment




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