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Decision: Antifa is an anarchist-communist organization with foreign origins and global reach which engages in systematic violence to further its political objectives. Therefore the President should immediately direct the Secretary of State that Antifa be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Reason: Anti-Fascist Action, or “Antifa” as it is widely known, is a violent insurrectionist movement with its roots in anarchist and communist ideology. While operating under the cover of 1st amendment protected protests, Antifa members are not legitimate protestors, but rather engage in premeditated assault and property destruction, along with the construction, distribution and use of weapons of mass destruction, with the stated goal of overthrowing the United States government and/or affecting political change.

Additionally, Antifa activities have increasingly escalated.

The internet and social media are replete with acts of violence being perpetrated by self-identified Antifa members.  Antifa has been getting bolder in their violence, its members seemingly feeling that there won’t be serious consequences for their actions. This indicates a very dangerous stage in the organization’s life cycle.

In July 2019, William Van Spronsen, a member of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, an antifa affiliate, firebombed a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, before being killed by police.

Senator Ted Cruz has called for the Justice Department to go after Antifa using RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act), which was designed to take down the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates. This idea still has merit and should be immediately pursued. However designation as Foreign Terrorist Organization brings with unprecedented resources and capabilities to bear in pursuing Antifa, and generates a more profound impact. Perhaps most importantly by opening up charges of material support for terrorism against the network of groups and organizations which support Antifa and its members.

Background: In recent days the United States has been beset with violent riots timed in conjunction with protests related to the killing of George Floyd by a police office in Minneapolis. However, the level of preparation and organization of widespread urban violence stretching from coast to coast has the hallmarks of an insurgency. It is highly likely that the killing of George Floyd served as a catalyst for touching off a series of planned criminal incidents prepared in advance.

In the midst of this violence President Trump announced that Antifa would be designated a terrorist organization. Traditionally federal law enforcement has classified antifa as “anarchist extremists” and investigating incidents related to them as domestic terrorism. There is no statute for the designation of domestic terror groups.

The only official U.S. terrorist designation is the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Foreign Terrorist Organizations are foreign organizations that are designated by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. FTO designations have played a critical role in the war on terrorism and have proven an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to end terror activities.

There are 3 legal criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended:

  1. The organization must be foreign.
  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.

Some critics have claimed that Antifa cannot be designated because it is not foreign. That is factually inaccurate. Antifa’s origins are foreign and they continue to operate as a terrorist organization with global reach. Modern day Antifa has its origins in the 1960s as a pro-communist extremist movement operating in Europe during the Cold War. The Maoist Communist League and part of the West German organization formed the Red Army Faction, a notorious Left-wing terrorist organization in the 1970s and 1980s and which  served as a “fellow traveler” to Soviet subversion, disruption and espionage against the West.

Today, Antifa continues its violent campaigns in Europe. As recently as May of this year, French police uncovered an Antifa plot to carry out a violent attack against law enforcement.

Antifa operates in multiple countries, including the United States, and throughout much of western Europe. International structures link Antifa affiliates, including for example, the International Antifa Defense Fund, which claims to have provided funds to Antifa in 18 countries.

Designating Antifa a Foreign Terrorist Organization would restrict the travel of its members, make illegal virtually all types of support for Antifa and authorize the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to seize any assets discovered and reported under mandatory reporting by all financial institutions.

Pushback: Some claim that Antifa is not a terrorist organization, that it is not violent, and that it is receiving the blame for violence committed by other groups and individuals. There is a great deal of video evidence to the contrary and Antifa members have been arrested and prosecuted for violent acts.

Others argue that Antifa lacks any comprehensible structure and cannot be adequately described as an organization. While Antifa does deliberately maintain an amorphous and cellular structure, there are clear self-identified local and regional Antifa chapters which are networked across both state and international jurisdictions. Additionally, under the Immigration and Naturalization Act definition, which is the controlling definition for FTO Designation, an organization is defined to include, “a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup which engages in..” terrorist activity as defined by the INA.

It is worth noting that Antifa maintains close political ties to those who support the group’s goals, including in some cases prominent elected officials at the local, state and national level. The Administration should be prepared to expend substantial political capital in order to achieve this worthwhile goal.

Governing Laws and Regulations: Antifa can be designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended.

The Bottom Line: Antifa is in fact a Foreign Terrorist Organization and should be designated as such. It is high time that Antifa were stopped and their supporters charged with material support for terrorism.  We urge President Trump to order that Antifa be so designated as per his expressed intention on May 31, 2020.

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