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CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS (CCR) Printer Friendly Page

The Terrorists' Legal Team
By Matthew Vadum
September 2006

The Fifth Column’s Legal Team
By Henry Mark Holzer
June 18, 2002

CCR: Fifth Column Law Factory
By John Perazzo
July 31, 2002

 


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  • Founded by pro-Castro radicals
  • Opposes post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws



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Originally named the Law Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was co-founded in November 1966 by attorneys Morton Stavis, Ben Smith, William Kunstler, and Arthur Kinoy (who in the 1950s represented the executed Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), for the purpose of advancing the cause of civil rights in Mississippi. All four founders were longtime supporters of communist causes, were well known for their pro-Castro politics, and, as David Horowitz and Peter Collier write in their 1989 book Destructive Generation, state that the CCR founders “had long histories of public support for communist causes,” and that by “representing such paramilitary groups as the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Black Liberation Army,” they “had attempted to justify terrorist acts and criminal violence by indicting America and its democratic allies as partners in a system of economic oppression and social injustice.”[1] Other noteworthy attorneys affiliated with CCR in its early years were Victor Rabinowitz, Leonard Boudin (father of Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin), and Leonard Weinglass.

CCR today characterizes itself as an organization that “uses litigation
proactively to advance the law in a positive direction, to empower poor communities and communities of color, to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights.” The Center's major issues of concern, and its position on each, include the following:

 

* Illegal Detention and Guantanamo: “Since 2001, the government has illegally detained thousands of people, the most recognized example being the men at Guantánamo. CCR has fought for the right to due process, filing countless cases on behalf of detainees and others swept up in the so-called War on Terror.”
*
Surveillance and Attacks on Dissent: “For decades, the U.S. government has engaged in unlawful surveillance and attempted to expand Executive powers to monitor and intimidate activists, from the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 70s to the Central America Solidarity Movement in the 80s to administration critics today.”
*
Criminal Justice and Mass Incarceration: “In a country that puts more people in jail than any other country in the world, we [CCR] will continue to fight the mass incarceration of millions in our nation’s prison system, as well as challenge practices such as racial profiling, immigrant detention, and discriminatory laws that lead to a disproportionate number of people of color behind bars.”
*
Corporate Human Rights Abuse: “CCR pioneered the prosecution in U.S. courts of human rights abuses committed abroad—and some of the worst perpetrators have been corporations. From the murder of activists, to the degradation of the environment in countries ranging from Nigeria and Vietnam to the Occupied Territories in Palestine and South Africa, corporations must be held accountable when torture and killings are committed to further profits. CCR also fights to hold domestic companies accountable for injustices committed against those who can least afford them, from the families of prison inmates to sub-minimum wage workers.”
*
Government Abuse of Power: “CCR was the first organization to challenge the Bush administration’s policy of 'extraordinary rendition,' where suspects are secretly transferred from U.S. custody to foreign governments that are notorious for poor human rights records. Since our founding, we have fought against similar government abuses of power—restrictions on travel to Cuba, illegal surveillance and wiretapping, and U.S. military aggression in Central American and Iraq.”
*
Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice: “From pioneering pro-choice and anti-domestic violence cases, to fighting employment discrimination and racial profiling, CCR finds innovative ways to challenge the status quo and support activists and movements engaged around these central questions of injustice.”
*
International Law and Accountability: “As citizens of an increasingly interconnected world, it is critical that all nations, the United States especially, recognize and incorporate the norms of international law into their systems of justice.... We have also brought cases against U.S. officials in foreign courts under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, which is based in the belief that some crimes are so heinous that they defy national boundaries.”

CCR also states that it is “
dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Journalist Matthew Vadum points out the contradiction inherent in that principle:

“[I]t is far from clear how a group can advance and protect both the U.S. Constitution and the purported rights contained in the Declaration. The Constitution, fundamental law of the U.S., protects the rights of individuals, but the Declaration, which is not part of U.S. or international law, is a utopian socialist goodie bag that ... claims to guarantee some rights mentioned in the Constitution, but also purports to protect other so-called rights, including the individual’s right to 'social security,' 'periodic holidays with pay,' 'rest and leisure,' 'a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,' and 'just and favorable conditions of work and protection against unemployment.' U.N. enthusiasts claim the Declaration is a powerful tool for strategically shaming governments that violate its provisions, but CCR views the document as a means of transforming America into a very different country.”

Further, Vadum explains CCR's passionate anti-Americanism: “CCR lawyers ... ritualistically denounce the U.S. for its supposed hegemony and imperialism, denying that America has a right to defend itself and regulate its borders. … [To them,] America is a land of breadlines, racism, and totalitarian tyranny.” As a result of this worldview,
CCR historically has geared its efforts toward opposing and undermining American interests wherever possible. The Capital Research Center has chronicled a number of the more significant anti-American crusades that CCR has waged over the years. For example:

* “When the Soviet Union was pointing nuclear missiles at U.S. cities during the Cold War, CCR was trying to sabotage U.S. foreign policy.”
* “During the Vietnam War, the Center repeatedly challenged military draft policies in court.”
* “CCR claims to have inspired legal activists when it applied for an injunction against President Richard Nixon in 1972 to block the U.S. bombing of enemy targets.”
* “The Center opposed Operation Babylift in 1975 in which the U.S. rescued more than 2,000 children from South Vietnam before North Vietnamese Communist forces swamped that country”
a result that CCR has characterized as a “victory of the Vietnamese people,” even though it led directly to the slaughter of more than 2 million Indochinese peasants at the hands of the Communists.
* “In
Crockett v. Reagan (1981) CCR sued to prevent the deployment of U.S. military advisers to El Salvador to help train soldiers to fight against the local Communist insurgency.”
* “CCR’s 1983 lawsuit,
Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles v. Reagan, attempted to block U.S. nuclear weapons from a site in the United Kingdom. The suit failed but it generated publicity for the unilateral disarmament movement ...”
* “In the 1987 case
Linder v. Calero, the Center sued the Nicaraguan anti-Communist force known as the contras.”
* “In 1991 the Center filed suit in
Dellums v. Bush to halt the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf that drove Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait.”
* “I[n] 1999, the Center filed a petition with the toothless human rights arm of the Organization of American States 'charging the United States with violating the economic and social rights of a large sector of the American public' by enacting the federal welfare reform law of 1996.”
* In 2002, CCR filed a
lawsuit “challenging President George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.”
* In 2005, CCR sued the Illinois-based heavy-machinery manufacturer Caterpillar, Inc., after Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old International Solidarity Movement volunteer trying to disrupt the actions of an Israeli anti-terrorism mission in Gaza, was accidentally crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer belonging to the Israeli military. According to CCR, Caterpillar had
violated international, federal, and state law by selling such machines to the Israeli military, knowing they would be used to demolish (terrorists') homes and endanger civilians in Palestinian villages. After a federal judge dismissed the suit in 2005, CCR filed an appeal. Similarly, the Center also sued private contractors CACI International (Virginia) and Titan International (California) for their alleged connection to the 2004 prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib.

In an effort to undermine the American war effort in Iraq, and to embarrass the United States in the eyes of the world, CCR in December 2004 filed a criminal complaint in a German court to have ten high-ranking American military and political leaders put on trial in Germany for crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. The Center filed the 170-page comprehensive complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe. Included as defendants in the complaint were Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Lt. General Ricardo S. Sanchez, and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. The plaintiffs were four Iraqis who allegedly had been subjected to torture and maltreatment at the hands of American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. When CCR announced its criminal complaint, the Center's president, Michael Ratner, said at a news conference in Berlin that American military and political leaders from Donald Rumsfeld on down had be investigated and held accountable.

CCR chose Germany as the venue for its complaint, because that country's law code contains a statute regarding crimes against humanity and human rights violations that allows German courts to try the perpetrators no matter where the alleged misdeeds were committed in the world.

A second reason why CCR elected to file its complaint in Germany, was because three of the American military personnel named as defendants
Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, Major General Walter Wodjakoski, and Colonel Thomas Pappas—were stationed in Germany at that time. Sanchez was the commander of U.S. Army Corps V, while Wodjakoski was the Deputy Commander of both the V Corp and of Combined Task Force Seven, whose troops included those in Iraq. CCR understood that any investigation of the U.S. Army in Germany would hurt the military’s position there, as those officers would probably be sent home before they would ever be allowed to appear before a German court. In short, the goal was to strengthen the already-rampant anti-Americanism in Western Europe and keep alive the Left’s portrayal of the Abu Ghraib scandal as a modern My Lai.

To advance its organizational objectives as a whole, CCR uses what it calls “innovative impact litigation” not only to degrade America's cultural and political traditions, but also to undermine the nation's very legitimacy in the eyes of the world. In pursuit of these ends, the Center defends only clients whose political and ideological views it supports. Indeed, CCR makes clear that it
accepts cases and projects based on principle and the value of the struggle itself, not solely by using a calculus of victory.” Among the organization's more prominent clients have been Tom HaydenLeonard Peltier, the Black Liberation Movement, the Black Panther Party, the Catonsville Nine, the Chicago Seven, the Communist Party USA, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, and Women’s Strike for Peace.

CCR After 9/11

In the
weeks and months immediately folowing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, CCR focused heavily on the following major concerns:

Detention of Aliens: The Center filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of alien detainees who had no legal right to be in the United States. The suit called for punitive damages and a declaratory judgment that the detentions were unconstitutional and violated customary international law. A CCR senior litigation attorney stated that the policy of detaining suspected terrorists for longer time periods than ordinary criminals “sacrific[es] our political freedoms in the name of national security.”

Opponents of CCR's position, by contrast, claimed that terrorist fighters who wore no uniform or identifying insignia made it impossible to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, thereby gravely endangering civilian populations and forfeiting any right to protection under the laws of war. As the Capital Research Center noted in 2006: “CCR has argued repeatedly against the U.S. government’s practice of detaining terrorists without affording them the normal rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention of 1949.”

In April 2002, CCR filed a class action suit in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, seeking damages on behalf of illegal aliens and non-citizens who had been picked up for questioning by U.S. authorities in the immediate post-9/11 period. The suit alleged “that the INS arrested this group on the pretext of minor immigration violations and secretly detained them for the weeks and months the FBI took to clear them of terrorism, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law.” The Turkmen case won CCR much publicity and, consequently, assistance from other law firms that had previously been fearful of taking cases involving 9/11 suspects.


Military Tribunals: As to President Bush’s executive order establishing military tribunals as venues for the adjudication of terrorism cases, CCR's assistant legal director, Barbara Olshansky, sought to discredit the order by conflating it with other “notorious episodes in our nation’s history,” such as “the Red scare and the Palmer Raids after the First World War, the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, the repressive and chilling measures of the McCarthy era, and the harassment and prosecution of political dissidents during and after the Vietnam War.” According to CCR president Michael Ratner, military tribunals were nothing more than “kangaroo courts” that would “not be trusted” in the Muslim world. “It would be much better,” Ratner advised, “to demonstrate to the world that the guilty have been apprehended and fairly convicted in front of impartial and regularly constituted courts.”

In the 2006 Supreme Court case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, CCR filed an amicus brief on behalf of unlawful combatant Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, who had been captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan while he fought alongside the Taliban. Finding that the military commission which had been established to try Hamdan on conspiracy charges did not conform with U.S. law and the Geneva Convention, the Court in voted 5-3 to halt the trial.

The USA PATRIOT Act: Enacted by a huge majority in the House of Representatives (356-66), and almost unanimously in the Senate (98-1), this legislation became the keystone of the American government’s legal response to Islamic terrorism. But CCR had two major complaints: First, according to Barbara Olshansky (CCR's assistant legal director), the new law “confers vast and unchecked powers to the executive branch”—a concern that never prompted the Center to deviate from its unwavering support for the Communist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Second, the Center decried the PATRIOT Act's “suspension of civil liberties,” citing the “silencing of political dissent,” “the death knell [of] privacy,” and “stripping immigrants of constitutional protections.” True to its beliefs, CCR argued in court that the PATRIOT Act provision outlawing “material support” for terrorism was unconstitutional and “imposes guilt by association.” Thus did the Center feel justified in rallying to the defense of Sami al-Arian, a former Florida professor who in 2005 was put on trial for raising funds for the Hamas sister group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

CCR was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, also known as “PATRIOT Act II,” which was then under consideration. The letter asserted that the new legislation "fail[ed] to respect our time-honored liberties," and "contain[ed] a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights." In addition, CCR supports the California-based Coalition for Civil Liberties, which tries to influence city councils to pass resolutions creating "Civil Liberties Safe Zones"; that is, to be non-compliant with the provisions of the PATRIOT Act.

CCR found fault with newly implemented PATRIOT Act provisions that allowed the FBI, CIA, and INS to share vital information with one another in order to derail terrorist plots. Such procedures, CCR warned, constituted an assault on “our privacy.”

CCR also complained that because of the PATRIOT Act, entry into the U.S. could now be barred to those who had previously used their “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”

Presidential Wartime Authority vs. The Rights of Captured Terrorists:

*
In the 2002 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, CCR filed an amicus brief with a federal appellate court on behalf of 140 law professors and 19 organizations, among which were the National Lawyers Guild, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Freedom Socialist Party. Centering around Yaser Esam Hamdi, a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen whom American forces had captured in Afghanistan as he fought alongside the Taliban, this case was subsequently referred to the Supreme Court. In 2004 the Court ruled 6-3 that detainees who were U.S. citizens were entitled to challenge their detention before an impartial judge.

* After 9/11, CCR became directly involved in a number of major lawsuits filed on behalf of terror suspects. These included, most notably, Habib v. Bush and Rasul v. Bush, both of which challenged the Bush Administration’s contention that because the Guantanamo Bay prison camp was located outside of U.S. jurisdiction, its inhabitants were not entitled to access American civilian courts. CCR later combined both cases under Rasul v. Bush and won an important ruling (on June 28, 2004), which ultimately paved the way for the Center to gain direct access to the Guantanamo detainees.

* In the 2004
Rasul v. Bush decision, CCR scored a major legal victory when the Supreme Court ruled that 16 CCR clientsall of whom were foreign nationals captured by U.S. forces during combat with the Taliban in Afghanistanhad a legal right to challenge their detentions in American civilian courts.

* In
Rumsfeld v. Padilla (2004) and Padilla v. Hanft (2005), CCR filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and a federal appeals court on behalf of U.S. citizen and would-be “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla. While the Bush Administration argued that it had authority to detain American citizens on U.S. soil during wartime, CCR held that such a policy would harm “disfavored minorities” and be “a stain on the judicial history of the Republic.”

Other CCR Actions in the Post-9/11 Period

*
CCR spokespeople trumpeted allegationseventually demonstrated to be untruethat the terror suspects who had been captured by U.S. forces and transported to the American Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay were being “ill treated.” For example, said CCR, the prisoners were “shackled, hooded, and sedated during the 25-hour flight from Afghanistan”; “their beards and heads were forcibly shaved”; and upon their arrival at Guantanamo, they were “housed in small cells that failed to protect against the elements.” CCR president Michael Ratner denounced the “incredibly inhuman conditions” at Guantanamo. In April of 2005, CCR launched its Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy project dedicated to promoting the cause of the detainees. CCR attorney Joshua Denbeaux claimed in June 2006 that those detainees, far from being enemy combatants, were in fact a pressing “civil rights issue.”

* In July 2005, CCR joined a coalition "including individuals and organizations ranging from Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, Not In Our Name, Code Pink, the Culture Project, [and] United For Peace and Justice" -- who together demanded the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and an "immediate independent investigation into the widespread  allegations of abuse taking place there."


* CCR condemned the Bush administration for expanding the authority of security agencies to conduct wiretaps and surveillance on suspected terrorists, and also to detain suspected terrorists for longer time periods than ordinary criminals.

* CCR continued full-steam-ahead with its efforts to defend the rights of illegal aliens in the United States. In 2002, for example, when residents of one Long Island, New York neighborhood began protesting—and videotaping—large groups of illegal Latino immigrant day-laborers congregating there, CCR asserted that those workers were: (a) “seeking only to support themselves and their families,” and (b) being “subjected to an organized campaign of harassment by anti-immigrant forces.” CCR's Barbara Olshansky said, “We have developed litigation to challenge this campaign of harassment, and are working to educate these workers about their rights as well.”

* On June 11, 2002, CCR filed a federal lawsuit charging that President Bush had acted unconstitutionally when he terminated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that the U.S. had was signed in 1972 with the now-defunct Soviet Union. By CCR's reckoning, that Treaty— which prevented America from developing a means to defend against a nuclear strike—was “the cornerstone of strategic stability.”

* On January 17, 2006, CCR filed a lawsuit against President George W. Bush, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the other major security agencies, “challenging NSA's surveillance of persons within the United States.” (The NSA program targeted communications between persons in the United States and persons abroad where one party was suspected of having connections to terrorism.)

* Characterizing President Bush as a political leader who was "out of control" and engaged in the "reckless abuse of power," CCR in 2006 produced a book titled
Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. This screed accused the President of "illegally spying on U.S. citizens, lying to the American people about the Iraq war, seizing undue executive power, and sending people to be tortured overseas." Moreover, CCR exhorted likeminded people to sign its online impeachment petition.

* When law-enforcement agencies detained hundreds of non-citizens from the Middle East for possible terrorist connections in the wake of 9/11, CCR vehemently denounced such actions as an ugly form of “racial profiling.”

* When the FBI and other law-enforcement personnel attempted to interview, on a voluntary basis, several thousand Middle Eastern men who were in the United States on temporary visas, cries of “racial profiling” again emanated from CCR.

* When Attorney General John Ashcroft declared, “Let the terrorists among us be warned [that] if you overstay your visas even by one day, we will arrest you,” CCR characterized his comments as “chilling.”

CCR Blames U.S. for Provoking Terrorism


CCR’s views on the political and psychological roots of anti-American terrorism were summarized in March 2002 by the organization’s president, Michael Ratner, who said: “If the U.S. government truly wants its people to be safer and wants terrorist threats to diminish, it must make fundamental changes in its foreign policies ... particularly its unqualified support for Israel, and its embargo of Iraq, its bombing of Afghanistan, and its actions in Saudi Arabia. [These] continue to anger people throughout the region, and to fertilize the ground where terrorists of the future will take root.”

Ratner denounced America's “intensive bombing campaign” in Afghanistan—lamenting that thousands of refugees were being forced to flee, and citing a United Nations prediction that some 100,000 Afghani children would die as a result of U.S. “aggression.” He suggested that as an alternative to waging a retaliatory war—which was spawning “hate for Americans” among Middle Eastern Muslims we are creating the terrorists that will visit terror upon our children, the U.S. ought to “treat the attacks on September 11 as a crime against humanity, establish a UN tribunal, extradite the suspects, or if that fails, capture them with a UN force, and try them.”

Because of America's military action, Ratner continued, “hate for Americans is pouring into the streets of ... Muslim countries; we are creating the terrorists that will visit terror upon our children....” He explained that as an alternative to war, the US ought to "treat the attacks on September 11 as a crime against humanity, establish a UN tribunal, extradite the suspects, or if that fails, capture them with a UN force, and try them."

Ties to Lynne Stewart, Terrorism Abetter

Of all the radical attorneys who aligned themselves with CCR post-9/11, one of the most noteworthy was Lynne Stewart, who in 1995 had provided legal represention for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, sentenced to life-in-prison for his role in masterminding a number of Islamic terror plots. In April 2002 Stewart was indicted on charges that she had illegally “facilitated and concealed communications” between the Sheik and members of the Islamic Group, an Egypt-based terrorist organization that he headed. Specifically, when Stewart visited her client in prison, she knowingly permitted Rahman to give an Arabic translator messages that Rahman wanted transmitted to the Islamic Group — in essence allowing the Sheik to direct terrorist activities from his cell. But after Stewart was arrested, CCR issued a press release describing the case “as an attack on attorneys who defend controversial figures and an attempt to deprive these clients of the zealous representation that may be required.” In 2002, CCR legal director William Goodman stated that the Center “does indeed support the defense of Lynne Stewart,” adding that the prosecution of Stewart was part of “a strategy designed to weaken the Bill of Rights and to frighten lawyers who might represent unpopular and even distasteful clients.” CCR paid tribute to Stewart at its annual convention in 2004. And in July 2006, CCR president Michael Ratner depicted the government’s case against Stewart as “a legal and political outrage sending a message of fear into the heart of every lawyer who tries to defend their client.”

Criminal Complaints Against High-Ranking U.S. Officials

In November 2006, CCR filed a criminal complaint requesting “an investigation and, ultimately, a criminal prosecution that will look into the responsibility of high-ranking U.S. officials for authorizing war crimes in the context of the so-called ‘War on Terror.’” The defendants in the case included former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former Chief White House Counsel (and current Attorney General) Alberto R. Gonzales. The complaint was brought on behalf of 12 Iraqi citizens who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one Guantánamo detainee -- all of whom were, according to CCR, tortured by American authorities.

Supporting the Holy Land Foundation

In December 2006, CCR and the Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) jointly petitioned a federal judge to dismiss many of the charges brought against the Hamas-linked organization Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which in 2001 was shut down by the U.S. government because of its terrorist ties. Defense attorneys argued that Executive Order 13224, the statute under which HLF was named as a financier of terrorism, was overly broad.

Defending the Reputation of a Former Guantanamo Prisoner

In April 2010, after the New York Times had published excerpts from a trove of WikiLeaks-obtained documents identifying former Guantanamo Bay detainees who had allegedly returned to jihadism following their release, CCR issued a press release depicting onetime detainee (and CCR client) Abu Sufian bin Qumu -- one of those named in the documents -- as a harmless individual who was actually pro-American. Condemning the Times for its "unfiltered recycling of out-of-date and long-discredited DOD [Department of Defense] claims," CCR complained that Qumu had been wrongly "listed as a recidivist, when in fact he was jailed on his return to Libya and is now allegedly fighting with the U.S.-supported rebels ..." But on September 11, 2012, Qumu, whose freedom CCR had helped secure five years earlier, led the deadly terrorist attacks that killed four Americans (including Ambassador Chris Stevens) at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Anti-Israel

CCR has filed a number of legal actions against high-ranking Israeli defendants:

In the 2005 Matar v. Dichter case, CCR and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) brought a federal class action lawsuit against Avi Dichter, former director of Israel’s General Security Service (GSS), on behalf of certain Palestinians who had been killed or injured in a 2002 targeted assassination air strike in Gaza. The lawsuit charged Dichter with war crimes, extra-judicial killing and other human rights violations for supposedly providing the necessary intelligence and giving final approval to drop a one-ton bomb on an apartment complex. The attack was intended to, and did in fact, kill Saleh Mustafa Shehadeh, a Hamas leader. Claiming that the targeted killing also resulted in foreseeable civilian deaths and casualties, CCR and PCHR brought the case under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to have their claims heard in United States courts even where no Americans are involved in the dispute.

Also in 2005, CCR brought another class action lawsuit, Belhas v. Ya’alon, against a former head of the Israeli Defense Force’s Army Intelligence, charging him with war crimes and extra-judicial killing for his alleged role in the Israel Defense Forces’s attack on a United Nations compound in Qana during the course of a 1996 bombing campaign directed against Hezbollah. This suit was thrown out on immunity grounds, a decision upheld on appeal.

Reflecting CCR's anti-Israel orientation the presence on
CCR's board of directors of former American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabara, a PLO supporter who had become active on behalf of the Palestinian cause after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In addition to his involvement in CCR’s litigation against Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Jabara's anti-Israeli activities reportedly included attempting to prevent the collection of money for Israel and trying to prevent the entry of Prime Minister Shamir and an Israeli Military Attache into the United States. Jabara also embraced the thesis of the controversial book Overcoming Zionism by Joel Kovel, who argued that the only tenable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem is the establishment of a single secular state in place of a Jewish homeland. Jabara is no stranger to terrorist causes. He teamed with Lynne Stewart and Ramsey Clark in representing Sheikh Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric leader convicted in New York Federal District Court of supporting terrorism. Two years before 9/11, Jabara accused the U.S. government of committing “genocide” and of “pursuing policies that are themselves producers of terrorism and violence.”

Defending ACORN

InNovember 2009, t
wo months after Congress had voted to cut off federal funding for the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN, CCR lawyers filed suit on that group's behalf. According to CCR, the funding ban constituted a “bill of attainder”i.e., a legislative act declaring a person or group guilty of a crime without trial.

Opposing the Targeted Killing of Terrorists

In 2010, CCR and the American Civil Liberties Union jointly filed a lawsuit seeking to end a U.S. government program authorizing the killing of accused terrorists like the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual citizen of the United States and Yemen. An al Qaeda "regional commander," Awlaki was known to have called for Muslims worldwide to wage jihad against America and the West. His sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers (two of whom he met with privately) and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan (with whom he communicated regularly, and whose deadly 2009 shooting rampage he praised). Moreover, "Christmas Day bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab identified al-Awlaki was one of his al Qaeda trainers and spiritual advisers. In July 2010, Awlaki published an article in al Qaeda's English-language magazine,
Inspire, calling for Muslims to assassinate several people, including a young female cartoonist in Seattle and the novelist Salman Rushdie.

Key CCR Personnel

Rachel Meeropol, who has worked at CCR since 2002, is the co-editor and primary author of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, and the editor of America’s Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the “War on Terror” (2005). Moreover, she is the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Soviet spies who were executed in New York in 1953. On the 50th anniversary of their execution, Meeropol professed her grandparents' innocence, expressed the “sense of pride” she felt for how they had lived their lives, and lamented “the injustice” of “the terrible situation that they had been placed in.” Rachel’s father, attorney Robert Meeropol, is the founder and executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Laila Al-Arian, daughter of former Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, sits on CCR's board of directors.

Peter Weiss served for many years as CCR's vice president, and continues to hold a spot on the organization's board of directors.

David Cole was a staff attorney with CCR from 1985-90.

CCR's Funders and Allies

A member organization of the Abolition 2000 and United For Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions, CCR is supported by donations from
many charitable foundations, including the Arca Foundation, the Careth Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, he Compton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Funding Exchange, the Harold K. Hochschild Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, the New World Foundation, George Soros's Open Society Institute, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, the Surdna Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Vanguard Public Foundation. For a list of additional funders of CCR, click here.

Noteworthy o
rganizations that have contributed money to CCR include the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Safa Trust Inc., and the Trans Arab Research Institute (which in 2004 expressed its “deepest sorrow” upon hearing of the death of Palestinian terrorist mastermind Yasser Arafat).

In addition, CCR has received large donations from high-profile
individuals like actor Ossie Davis, actress Ruby Dee, billionaire financier Peter B. Lewis, film director Sidney Lumet, singer Natalie Merchant, actor-director Tim Robbins, actress Susan Sarandon, and singer Pete Seeger. The Center also received money in 2002 from the estate of Isabel Johnson Hiss, the second wife of the Soviet spy and dedicated communist Alger Hiss.

CCR identifies itself as an ally of such organizations as the (now defunct) community organization ACORN, the Alliance For Justice, Friends of the Earth
, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.


NOTE:

[1] Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005), p. 218.

 

 

 

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