America’s barbaric terrorist enemies have a friend in the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), an ultra-leftist public-interest law firm that for four decades has protected the supposed constitutional rights of those who would destroy the United States. From its founding in the tumultuous 1960s, CCR has used what it calls “innovative impact litigation” to aggressively attack U.S. anti-Communist policy, the war on Islamist terror, and American businesses. CCR lawyers agree with Islamic Fascists’ critique of American society and ritualistically denounce the U.S. for its supposed hegemony and imperialism, denying that America has a right to defend itself and regulate its borders.
CCR inhabits a paranoid, nightmarish parallel universe. In it, America is a land of breadlines, racism and totalitarian tyranny. In today’s America, “political dissent and protest are under grave attack … This political repression is accompanied by economic hardship for millions, while racism and environmental devastation flourish along with the fattened bank accounts of the war profiteers who run our government,” wrote CCR’s legal director, William Goodman, in its 2005 annual report.
After the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of 70 years of failed socialist policies, CCR “made a seamless transition from an alliance with communism to an alliance with Islamofascism in the name of the United States Constitution,” Power Line blog noted last year. The center, which remains as committed as ever to the well being of those who would eradicate America and freedom around the world, has aligned itself with leftist dictators and Islamic terrorists.
CCR believes U.S. soldiers should be globetrotting social workers. One CCR pamphlet protests the current war in Iraq, denouncing President George W. Bush’s “quest for world domination” and declaring that “the focus of our domestic and foreign policy should be eradicating hunger, poverty, disease, homelessness and environmental degradation and pollution.” Bush should be removed from the presidency and tried for war crimes, according to the center.
CCR, originally called the Law Center for Constitutional Rights, is located at the corner of Broadway and West 3rd Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, a longtime enclave of radicals and trendy artists who romanticize communism. The center is dedicated “to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” But it is far from clear how a group can advance and protect both the U.S. Constitution and the purported rights contained in the declaration. The Constitution protects the rights of individuals, but the declaration, which is not part of U.S. or international law, is a utopian socialist goodie bag that few thinking people take seriously. Adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, the declaration claims to guarantee some rights mentioned in the Constitution, but also purports to protect other so-called rights, including the individual’s right to “social security,” “periodic holidays with pay,” “rest and leisure,” “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,” and “just and favorable conditions of work and … protection against unemployment.”
CCR emerged from the “New Left” movement of the 1960s and was founded in 1966 by labor lawyer Morton Stavis, radical legal scholar Arthur Kinoy, and attorneys Ben Smith and William Kunstler, all admirers of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Kinoy, who in the 1950s represented executed Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, recognized the propaganda power of trials. “The test for a people’s lawyer is not always the technical winning or losing of the formal proceedings. The real test is the impact of the legal activities on the morale and understanding of the people involved in the struggle,” said Kinoy.
Kunstler, the most famous of the quartet, was director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1964 to 1972. A grandstanding, media-savvy lawyer, he rose to national prominence by defending the angry radical defendants of the “Chicago Seven” in their 1969 riot-incitement trial. Kunstler claimed “the Constitution is my Bible,” but embraced lawlessness. Notable Kunstlerisms include “any criminal trial in this country is an oppression,” and “I don’t disagree with murder sometimes, especially political assassinations.” He once told students, “You must learn to fight in the streets, learn to revolt, learn to shoot guns … You may ultimately have to take that final step. You may ultimately be bathed in blood.”
The current head of CCR, Michael Ratner, is an adjunct law professor at Columbia University and served as special counsel to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Marxist who was overthrown in 2004.
Ratner is an avid Communist sympathizer and is especially fond of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Cuba’s “accomplishments” under Castro have been “great,” Ratner said on CCR’s radio show, “Law and Disorder,” this summer when Castro fell ill.
Ratner abhors President Ronald Reagan for his anti-Communist foreign policy and bragged on Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now” radio show on June 9, 2004, that he spent “eight years, really, of my life, fighting everything Reagan did in Central America.”
Ratner, who has recruited hundreds of pro bono lawyers from outside CCR to represent those held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, favors putting the U.S. on trial for war crimes along with deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “If you want any kind of sense of legitimacy or fairness, you can’t just go after Saddam Hussein,” he told “Democracy Now” in 2003. In yet another example of leftists’ turning to the courts—even foreign courts—when they fail to win at the ballot box, Ratner personally traveled to Berlin, Germany, to file legal papers against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. His goal was to force German authorities, who have so-called universal jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes wherever they occur, to investigate Rumsfeld over the Abu Ghraib prison torture allegations. Germany has refused, but the center vows to exhaust all available appeals.
Attacking the War on Terror
Americans were reminded that the federal government needs to have tools to fight terrorism when British authorities uncovered an ambitious plan by Islamic extremists to blow up 10 airplanes en route to the U.S. Yet CCR would deprive the government of its powers to protect America. Indeed, the center has enjoyed success in its campaign to undermine the Bush Administration’s efforts at combating Islamofascism. It is currently suing to stop the wiretapping of terrorism suspects, and it has been on the winning side in three of the four major war-on-terror cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court, representing a group of alleged terrorists in one case and filing amicus curiae briefs on behalf of others.
CCR has argued repeatedly against the U.S. government’s practice of detaining terrorists without affording them the rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The Bush Administration has responded, citing legal precedents and international law, arguing that terrorist fighters—such as al Qaeda operatives—who fail to meet criteria such as wearing a uniform or identifying insignia are “unlawful combatants” not entitled to protection under the law of war.
But CCR is determined to give America’s terrorist enemies access to the U.S. civilian justice system—and it is succeeding. The center scored a major legal victory in 2004 when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Rasul v. Bush that CCR’s clients, 16 foreign nationals captured during U.S. hostilities with the Taliban in Afghanistan, had the legal right to challenge their detentions in U.S. civilian courts. Of the 16 clients, 14 reportedly remain in U.S. custody at Guantanamo. To assist in CCR’s legal campaign, the Atlantic Philanthropies announced this year that it will donate $2.25 million to the center through 2010. The Ford Foundation recently gave CCR $200,000 to advocate for the due-process rights of Guantanamo prisoners, the August 3 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported.
CCR also participated in three other key cases testing presidential wartime authority:
- In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, CCR filed an amicus brief on behalf of unlawful combatant Salim Ahmed Hamdan who was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver. The Supreme Court in June 2006 voted 5-3 to halt the military commission established to try Hamdan on conspiracy charges, finding its structure ran afoul of U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions.
- In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the center filed an amicus brief with a federal appellate court in 2002 on behalf of 140 law professors and 19 organizations including the National Lawyers Guild, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Freedom Socialist Party. The case concerned Yaser Esam Hamdi, a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen who was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the government has the power to detain unlawful combatants, but found that detainees who are U.S. citizens must have the ability to challenge their detention before an impartial judge.
- In Rumsfeld v. Padilla and a later, related case, Padilla v. Hanft, CCR filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and a federal appeals court on behalf of the would-be “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen. Padilla, a convicted murderer, gang member and Islamic convert also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir, allegedly plotted to detonate a bomb designed to disperse radioactive material over a wide area. The Bush Administration argues it has authority to detain U.S. citizens on U.S. soil during times of war, but in a brief, CCR rejected the President’s efforts to protect the nation by keeping Padilla locked up. The center argued that leaving in place a ruling maintaining Padilla’s detention would hurt “disfavored minorities” and be “a stain on the judicial history of the Republic.”
Undermining U.S. Foreign Policy
CCR has a long history of anti-American activism. When the Soviet Union was pointing nuclear missiles at U.S. cities during the Cold War, CCR was trying to sabotage U.S. foreign policy. During the Vietnam War, the center repeatedly challenged military draft policies in court. CCR claims to have inspired legal activists when it applied for an injunction against President Richard Nixon in 1972 to block the U.S.’s bombing of enemy targets. The center opposed Operation Babylift in 1975 in which the U.S. rescued more than 2,000 children from South Vietnam before North Vietnamese Communist forces swamped that country. CCR’s website absurdly refers to the victory of Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Cong as a “victory of the Vietnamese people.”
In Crockett v. Reagan (1981) CCR sued to prevent the deployment of U.S. military advisers to El Salvador to help train soldiers to fight against the local Communist insurgency. In the 1987 case Linder v. Calero, CCR sued the Nicaraguan anti-Communist force known as the Contras. CCR’s 1983 lawsuit, Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles v. Reagan, attempted to block U.S. nuclear weapons from a site in the United Kingdom. The suit failed, but it generated publicity for the unilateral disarmament movement, a leftist crusade in the 1980s that sought to disarm the U.S. while leaving the USSR’s nuclear missiles intact. In 1991, CCR filed suit in Dellums v. Bush to halt the deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf that drove Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait. Years later CCR sued, challenging President George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Links to Terrorism Enabler
CCR is an outspoken supporter of self-described radical human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart. Last year a Manhattan jury convicted Stewart of conspiring to provide material support for Islamic terrorists.
Stewart was counsel for convicted terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Muslim cleric and the spiritual leader of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which has ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The group subscribes to a radical interpretation of Islamic law, considers the United States an enemy, and seeks to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state. Rahman was convicted in 1995 of plotting to bomb New York City landmarks, including the headquarters of the United Nations, the institution CCR so admires. He is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison. Several Rahman followers participated in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. After Rahman personally issued a fatwa condemning Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to death, Islamic fundamentalists assassinated Sadat in 1981. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which is the largest militant group in Egypt, tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995. The group carried out an attack in Luxor, Egypt, in November 1997 that left 62 people dead and dozens wounded. The victims were variously shot, stabbed, beheaded and disemboweled.
While she was representing Rahman, Stewart agreed not to communicate with the news media on behalf of her client. The restrictions on Rahman, called “special administrative measures,” regulated the sheikh’s contact with the outside world. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno imposed them in April 1997 because she recognized that the terrorist leader’s words still resonated with his followers. But in 2000, following a meeting with Rahman, Stewart violated both the agreement and anti-terrorism laws by informing the media that Rahman had withdrawn his support for a ceasefire that had suspended terrorist operations by al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Not surprisingly, when a jury assessed the evidence last year, it held Stewart to account.
According to Stewart, Islamist terrorists are misunderstood freedom fighters. In an interview with Monthly Review, a Marxist magazine, Stewart hailed Muslim fundamentalists as “basically forces of national liberation,” and said “we, as persons who are committed to the liberation of oppressed people, should fasten on the need for self-determination, and allow people … to do what they need to do to throw off that oppression.”
Stewart supports the use of violence for political ends and claims that American society desperately needs “radical surgery.” Violence and revolution are needed to cleanse the U.S. of the economic and racial injustice of capitalism, she said. “I don’t believe in anarchistic violence, but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support,” she said in a revealing 1995 New York Times profile.
After the charges were filed, CCR stood by Stewart, who studied under CCR cofounder Kinoy at Rutgers University School of Law. During the trial, the center filed an amicus brief attacking the charges. In an unpublished 2002 letter to the editor of the New York Times, William Goodman, CCR’s legal director, publicly affirmed that the Center “does indeed support the defense of Lynne Stewart.” The prosecution of Stewart is part of “a strategy designed to weaken the Bill of Rights and to frighten lawyers who might represent unpopular and even distasteful clients,” Goodman wrote in the letter, which Stewart posted on her website.
Even now, CCR refuses to distance itself from Stewart. On the July 24, 2006, edition of “Law and Disorder,” Ratner described the government’s case against Stewart as “a legal and political outrage sending a message of fear into the heart of every lawyer who tries to defend their client.”
Who Pays CCR’s Bills?
CCR is funded by foundations and individual donors, according to financial data culled from databases that track nonprofit groups, foundation websites, and the center’s annual reports.
A traitor’s wife and a dazzling array of Hollywood entertainers fond of radical causes have contributed to CCR, according to its annual reports. The estate of Isabel Johnson Hiss, second wife of Alger Hiss, gave CCR as much as $99,999 in 2002. Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon gave CCR as much as $9,999 in 2002, and her charitable foundation gave up to $2,499 in 2005. Sarandon’s common-law husband, the moody actor-director Tim Robbins, also an Oscar winner, gave up to $4,999 in 2002. Hollywood director Sidney Lumet gave CCR up to $249 in 2005. The late actor Ossie Davis and his wife, actress Ruby Dee, gave up to $2,499 in 2002. Singer Natalie Merchant gave as much as $99,999 in 2005. Radical folk singer Pete Seeger, a former Communist Party member whom detractors once dubbed “Stalin’s songbird,” and his wife Toshi gave up to $249 in 2005.
Tycoon Peter B. Lewis gave CCR as much as $99,999 in 2005. Lewis, friend of George Soros and chairman of Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, the nation’s third largest automobile insurer, is also a member of Democracy Alliance, a group of deep-pocketed donors that aims to reinvigorate America’s political left. Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguistics professor and radical critic of U.S. society, gave CCR as much as $249 in 2002.
Groups suspected of ties to Islamic terrorists also have donated to CCR. Two organizations in Virginia, Safa Trust Inc. and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, each gave CCR donations of up to $99,999 in 2005. Federal authorities have accused Safa of funneling money to terrorist groups. Federal agents investigating terrorist financing raided the offices of both organizations in 2002. The Ohio branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), gave CCR up to $2,499 in 2005. Five of CAIR’s employees and board members have been arrested, convicted, deported or otherwise tied to terrorism-related charges and activities, according to analysts Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha. In 2005, CAIR gave CCR’s Ratner its Civil Rights Award.
Some large donations have come from the Atlantic Philanthropies ($2.25 million in 2006), the Ford Foundation (more than $1.7 million since 1988), JEHT Foundation ($637,500 since 2003), the HKH Foundation ($300,000 since 2002), and the CS Fund/Warsh-Mott Legacy ($180,000 since 2001). Since 2002 George Soros’s Open Society Institute has provided CCR with two grants each of up to $99,999. The Tides Foundation gave the Center up to $24,999 in 2002 and up to $99,999 in 2005. The Funding Exchange forked over up to $99,999 in 2005.
Path to Socialism
Since at least the Progressive Era, left-wing lawyers have tried to lead America down the path to socialism by subverting the Constitution through attacks on limited government, property rights, and freedom of contract. Today those who want to undermine the Constitution, and American institutions in general, have their champion in the Center for Constitutional Rights.