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GREGORY TOSI: Giving The Secretary Of State More Power Could Seriously Backfire


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Gregory Tosi Contributor
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The shocking attack by Hamas on innocent Israelis last Oct. 7 has revived concerns about terrorism and the threat to American lives and interests.

Understandably, policymakers in Washington are searching for ways to limit resources available to terrorists. But in one case, lawmakers are going too far.

A well-intentioned bill in Congress would eliminate the tax-exempt status of charitable organizations that the secretary of State deems to support terrorist activities. The legislation gives the secretary extraordinary and potentially dangerous powers. (RELATED: SHOSHANA BRYEN: The Results of Biden’s Policy Toward Iran Are Now Evident)

The bill, H.R. 6408, which revokes “the tax-exempt status for any organization that provides financial support or resources to designated terrorist groups,” has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate. It should not be enacted into law.

The measure sounds sensible on the surface. But it isn’t, especially in light of the ways President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has used its prosecutorial authority for blatantly political purposes. Exhibit #1: the federal indictments against former President Donald Trump.

H.R. 6408 is framed as antiterrorism legislation, but it would open the door to similar executive branch overreach. It would permit a political appointee to designate organizations with which they disagree as “terrorist supporting organizations” without requiring any certainty or clarity about what is — or is not — a terrorist. Such unchecked discretion in the hands of a single political actor could be used as a bludgeon against political enemies.

Domestic political organizations whose members do things the secretary of state dislikes could be threatened with a serious, expensive sanction. This is not an America anyone wants.

Hyperbole? Not at all. The Federal Bureau of Investigation lists various U.S.-based groups as supporters of domestic terrorism simply because they question the actions of the government and the legitimacy of government intrusions into Americans’ private lives. This has included conservative-leaning civil society groups that merely disagree with Democratic Party orthodoxy.

Federal authorities have warned financial institutions that “those Americans who expressed opposition to firearm regulations, open borders, COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and the ‘deep state’ may be potential domestic terrorists.” They circulated a list of groups that included the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute, and Federation for American Immigration Reform. These groups advocate conservative positions on public policy and have nothing to do with terrorism.

Another example: The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis shared intelligence with financial institutions that was used to identify individuals who fit the profile of “domestic violent extremists,” often because of their conservative political views, according to the House Judiciary Committee.

If H.R. 6408 becomes law, Secretary of State Antony Blinken would have license to harass contrarian organizations that ask too many probing uncomfortable questions. This would be a serious abuse of power and a violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech.

He has already shown a willingness to do so. Blinken has been linked to falsehoods about Hunter Biden’s laptop computer including a letter signed by 51 former intelligence officials that incorrectly alleged a Russian misinformation campaign against Hunter Biden and his laptop.

Neither Blinken nor any other secretary of state should be given arbitrary authority to revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations they disagree with.

U.S. law already prevents organizations from supporting terrorism. The federal government can identify and prosecute these groups.

The Biden administration does not need a new, untested authority that can be used to arbitrarily attack conservative groups it finds disagreeable. HR 6408, while well-intentioned, should not become law without big changes to protect Americans from governmental abuse.

Gregory Tosi is a former senior congressional staff member and a frequent commentator on public policy issues.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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