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:
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:
On November 21, 2006, the NCPPF board of directors voted to disband the Coalition.