three plaintiffs sue federal government regarding unjustified terrorist designation

by Tim Phillips

In 1995, the U.S. Department of Treasury labeled Muhammad Salah a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Salah is apparently the only U.S. citizen residing in the U.S. who is subject to this classification. Without specific approval from the Treasury Department, he cannot work, spend money, or receive any gift – including food, clothing, lodging, transportation, or medicine – from any person in the U.S. or its territories. According to a lawsuit filed today in federal court:

From 1998-2000, Salah and his counsel approached nearly every major bank in downtown Chicago in an effort to open a licensed account. Each bank refused because of the onerous licensing and reporting requirements… Salah made many attempts to find employment, but the fact that he had to inform prospective employers that he was a “Specially Designated Terrorist” made finding a job difficult.

The federal government imposed these restrictions without any judicial approval or notice to Salah, much less an opportunity for him to challenge the designation. (He first learned of the designation when a local bank informed his wife that their account was frozen at the U.S. government’s direction.) Although Salah eventually found employment and a bank that would open an account for him, that bank closed his account three years later and he has been unable to open an account since May 2004. In addition, his automobile insurance provider cancelled his insurance in May 2007 because of the terrorist designation, which seems to stem from assistance he allegedly provided to Hamas before this was prohibited by U.S. law.

The restrictions also forbid U.S. entities from providing support to a person labeled a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), both advocacy organizations, seek to collaborate with Salah regarding their efforts on his behalf; but government restrictions prohibit any “coordinated advocacy.” For this reason, the AFSC and ADC joined Salah in suing the federal government regarding the unjustified terrorist classification.