- Sought to undercut counter-terrorism legislation
- Founder Sami al-Arian was arrested for terrorist activities
- Asserted that counter-terrorism laws were informed by racism and anti-Muslim bigotry
- Defunct since November 2006
The National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (NCPPF) was established in 1997 by then-University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, who at the time was secretly the leader of North American activities for the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Though NCPPF’s founding was financed by a seed grant from the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, the Coalition thereafter became an independent, tax-exempt entity in its own right.
Al-Arian, who also founded the World Islam Study Enterprise, created NCPPF to counter the “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,” which had been passed in the aftermath of Timothy McVeigh’s deadly 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Specifically, al-Arian objected to the fact that the 1996 legislation: (a) made it a criminal offense to provide “material support” or “expert advice or assistance” to terrorist groups; (b) allowed federal investigators to use secret evidence against terror suspects in court; and (c) authorized the U.S. government to designate particular organizations as terrorist groups. Notably, this latter provision enabled the U.S. government to officially designate PIJ as a terrorist entity in October 1997. Moreover, Al-Arian’s brother-in-law, Mazen al-Najjar, was arrested under the terms of the 1996 Act.
NCPPF’s stated mission was “to defend the constitutional rights in the United States of political association and due process for immigrants and citizens alike,” and “to help change the political climate to support due process and First Amendment rights by facilitating effective legal and political action.” Toward these ends, NCPPF endeavored to build a resistance movement of hard-left activists and organizations that collectively lobbied and litigated against U.S. counter-terrorism laws, provided legal counsel to terror suspects, and worked to overturn terrorism convictions in court. Among NCPPF’s most influential member groups were the American Muslim Council, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee.
Other organizations belonging to the NCPPF coalition were:
- the Ad Hoc Committee for Imad Hamad, which worked to protect its namesake—widely suspected of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—from deportation;
- the Committee for Justice for the L.A. Eight, which supported the cause of three additional PFLP operatives whom U.S. prosecutors had accused of providing material support for terrorist activities;
- the Committee for Justice for Nasser Ahmed, which lobbied on behalf of its Egyptian-born namesake, believed to be a confidante and paralegal to the terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman;
- the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, which received a $10,000 donation from the International Institute of Islamic Thought just weeks after the 9/11 attacks;
- the Irish Northern Aid Committee, which was established for the express purpose of funding the terrorist activities of the Provisional Irish Republican Army; and
- the National Conference of Black Lawyers, which not only hailed, as “committed freedom fighters,” convicted murderers like Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal, and Geronimo Pratt, but also lent its support to Palestinian terrorists in the Middle East and communist revolutionaries in Cuba, Nicaragua, Guyana, and Grenada.
In its effort to protect supporters and allies of Islamic terrorism, NCPPF tried to draw a distinction between demonstrable terrorist activity on the one hand, and relatively passive affiliations with groups that engaged in terrorism on the other. For example, in a July 2003 paper detailing the organization’s fears about government-imposed “draconian measures in the name of national security,” the Coalition fretted that one “disturbing trend we identify is an increase in prosecutions based on the imposition of guilt because of their association with individuals and groups associated with terrorism.”
In addition to the aforementioned endeavors, NCPPF also:
- sought to repeal large sections of the Patriot Act, specifically those areas that expanded the federal government’s mandate to conduct surveillance of terrorist groups;
- signed a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of Congress “to oppose ‘Patriot [Act] II'” on grounds that the new legislation contained “a multitude of new and sweeping law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights”; and
- gave its organizational endorsement to the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, a project that tried to influence city councils nationwide to pass resolutions creating “Civil Liberties Safe Zones” that were non-compliant with the provisions of the Patriot Act.
On November 21, 2006, the NCPPF board of directors voted to disband the Coalition.