The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has noted that, in his recent visit to Syria for talks with President Bashar Assad and Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas, a recognized terrorist group on the U.S. terrorism list, former President Jimmy Carter may have violated the Logan Act (1799) which forbids private citizens, no matter how prominent, from conducting negotiations with a foreign government.
President Carter is reported to have said, following his meetings in Damascus, that “Syrian leaders told him, he said, that ‘about 85 percent’ of the issues between Syria’s government and Israel had been resolved in prior negotiations and that it wanted a peace deal ‘as soon as possible’ … Mr. Carter also said that what he learned about Syrian intentions toward Israel might prove more significant than the Hamas agreement. He asserted that Mr. Assad had said that there were only a few details left to work out on a full peace treaty but that the Bush administration was discouraging Israel from proceeding because of the Americans’ other concerns about Syria, especially related to Iraq. ‘All of our group were surprisingly impressed with his strength and knowledge of the details in contrast to what we had heard from propaganda,’ Mr. Carter said of the Syrian president. He emphasized that for Syria, a deal with Israel had to be brokered by the United States. While Mr. Assad has an alliance with Iran, Mr. Carter contends that the relationship is an alternative to ties with the United States and the West rather than Mr. Assad’s first choice. He said he expected that Mr. Assad would be willing to separate from that alliance because he wants full peace with Israel” (Ethan Bronner, ‘Carter Says Hamas and Syria Are Open to Peace,’ New York Times, April 22, 2008).
Carter is also reported to have said that, following his meetings in Damascus, Hamas had promised to respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip negotiated by Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) if it were ratified by a referendum of Palestinians. However, the New York Times also reports, “But Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader with whom Mr. Carter met in Damascus, gave a televised news conference late Monday in which he seemed to contradict Mr. Carter’s statements. ‘Hamas accepts the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and with full and real sovereignty and full application of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, but Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel,’ Mr. Meshal said.” Though shunned by the Olmert government, Carter conveyed messages to Israel from Mashaal, including a statement that Hamas might be willing to accept the right of Israel to “live as a neighbor next door in peace” (Hana Levi Julian, ‘Carter’s self-appointed mission fails,’ Israel National News, April 21, 2008).
The Logan Act (1799) states in § 953 regarding “Private correspondence with foreign governments” that “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects” (1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004); U.S. Code Collection, ‘§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments,’ Cornell University Law School website).
Hamas-connected terrorists have perpetrated attacks on Americans, including the 1983 Beirut suicide bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks that led to the murder of 242 U.S. servicemen on a peace-keeping mission. This was the largest slaughter of Americans by any terrorist organization in the world until the Al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.
Record of Hamas anti-U.S. statements:
· Abdel Aziz Rantisi: Following President Bush’s criticism of Hamas, after Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Israel, Rantisi stated “President Bush has become Islam’s biggest enemy” (San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2003).
· Sheikh Ahmed Yassin: “Bush must understand that religious people do not fear threats. Islam is stronger than Bush’s regime, stronger than Bush and stronger than his state and Islam will win.” Yassin predicts Bush “will be defeated, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Palestine and in all the Muslim lands” (Reuters, September 24, 2003).
· Abdel Aziz Rantisi: “Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas” (Fox News, March 28, 2004).
· Khaled Meshaal: “Were the entire umma (Muslim peoples) to fight as well as the Palestinians and Iraqis “in Rafah, Jenin and Falluja, then by God we will defeat both the United States and Israel” (Reuters, April 19, 2004).
· Hamas statement: “Hamas is condemning the U.S vote and stating that Hamas considers the U.S as an enemy and as an accomplice to the Israeli enemy aggression against the Palestinians. Hamas regards the U.S position as a criminal act that puts her in a confrontation with “weak” nations. The U.S will face responsibility for its position as an accomplice with Israel to the animosity” (Press Release, October 6, 2004).
· Khaled Mashaal: “We say to this West, which does not act reasonably, and does not learn its lessons: By Allah, you will be defeated. You will be defeated in Palestine, and your defeat there has already begun. True, it is Israel that is being defeated there, but when Israel is defeated, its path is defeated, those who call to support it are defeated, and the cowards who hide behind it and support it are defeated. Israel will be defeated, and so will whoever supported or supports it. America will be defeated in Iraq. Wherever the [Islamic] nation is targeted, its enemies will be defeated, Allah willing. The nation of Muhammad is gaining victory in Palestine. The nation of Muhammad is gaining victory in Iraq, and it will be victorious in all Arab and Muslim lands. ‘Their multitudes will be defeated and turn their backs [and flee].’ These fools will be defeated, the wheel of time will turn, and times of victory and glory will be upon our nation, and the West will be full of remorse, when it is too late … I say to the [European countries]: Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it. This is because our nation is progressing and is victorious. Do not leave a black mark in the collective memory of the nation, because our nation will not forgive you. Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination, but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good. Our nation is moving forwards, and it is in your interest to respect a victorious nation … The German [Chancellor Angela] Merkel pops up and says: Democracy and success in the elections are not sufficient for Hamas to gain legitimacy. To hell with you all” (Damascus‘ Al-Murabit mosque, Al-Jazeera TV, February 3, 2006).
· Mahmoud al-Zahar: On the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: “We are dead sure that the assassination of any of the people [like al-Zarqawi] who are resisting will not … end the resistance” (Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2006): Hamas statement: “With hearts full of faith, Hamas commends brother-fighter Abu Musab … who was martyred at the hands of the savage crusade campaign which targets the Arab homeland, starting in Iraq” (Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2006).
· Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV: Broadcasts a puppet show showing child stabbing and killing President Bush (‘Puppet show from Hamas TV shows child stabbing Bush,‘ Fox News, March 31, 2008)
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “President Carter was formally advised by the State Department not to undertake this trip to Syria. He also met with the head of Hamas, a terrorist group that has deliberately shed American lives and made the most vicious statements about America, including expressing hope for America‘s defeat and downfall, in addition to being dedicated in its Charter to the destruction of Israel (Article 1%) and the murder of Jews (Article 7). President Carter’s discussions with Meshal, leading to a Hamas ‘offer’ of a ten-year truce in return for the creation of a Palestinian state, were repudiated rightly by the State Department, with spokesman Tom Casey stating that, despite ‘all this language about truces and other kinds of issues. But the bottom line is, Hamas still believes in the destruction of the state of Israel; they don’t believe Israel has a right to exist,’ and ‘that nothing has changed.’
“However, President Carter’s actions in discussing these issues in Damascus are not meaningless in a moral and legal sense. It is therefore clear from the record that President Carter clearly sought to negotiate with Hamas, despite it being a murderous terror group that is not recognized by the U.S. and that he also conducted talks with the Syrian leadership on major diplomatic issues that are the sole responsibility of the U.S. government. Moreover, Hamas clearly is “in dispute” with the U.S. in its efforts to eliminate Israel, a close U.S. ally, and in its record of terror and violence against the U.S. and American citizens. Any dealings at all with Hamas is surely a matter which only the U.S. government can decide, rightly or wrongly, to pursue.
“President Carter claims that he was merely on a ‘fact-finding mission’ and that he did more than just receive information from his interlocutors, but this makes no sense. Reportage on his visit clearly indicates that he tried to broker diplomatic deals regarding Syrian peace negotiations with Israel and a Hamas cease-fire. That is a blatant usurpation of governmental powers and responsibilities by a private citizen and as such may well be a violation of the Logan Act.
“The Bush Administration should seek legal advice on which measures might be appropriate in dealing with President Carter’s possible breach of the Logan Act.”