In a sign of the enormous importance placed on the issue, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed an amicus brief asking the court to remove CAIR and several hundred other Muslim individuals and institutions from a list of unindicted co-conspirators filed by the Justice department in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case. The legal basis for the request was summarized as:
The Fifth Amendment was violated because the public naming of the unindicted co-conspirators damaged their reputation, good name, and economic well-being, without offering a forum for vindication, and without a legitimate governmental reason for doing so. The First Amendment was violated because the governmental action of publicly naming the unindicted co-conspirators chilled the expressive associational activities of the unindicted co-conspirators and the government does not have a substantially related compelling interest for their action.
The brief spends a great deal of time identifying the various harms that CAIR says it has suffered as a result of being named. First, the organization says that it has been the subject of “inflammatory media reports, singling out “weblogging pundits” and “right-wing internet groups” but also mentioning that mainstream media has reported on the naming. Second, CAIR says that it has suffered both a decline in membership and donations as well as having been the recipient of hate mail and death threats, all of which having impaired their ability to function. Finally, CAIR says that the action has ” severely damaged the reputation, good name, and dignity of these uncharged individuals and organizations” as well as causing them economic damage such as preventing future employment opportunities and impacting immigration and travel rights. Also mentioned was the potential for “violence from certain segments of the American public.”
The brief sums up the aggregate impact of the naming, perhaps accurately, as follows:
Furthermore, though, the public ‘outing’ of CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator fundamentally undercuts their central mission to protect Muslim-Americans’ civil rights and foster an atmosphere of acceptance of Muslims in American society. Any message that CAIR tries to deliver to the American public, will be undercut by the insinuation that they are a criminal terrorist organization. The American public and the media which CAIR uses to deliver its message will no longer believe in the veracity of such message because CAIR will be perceived as a terrorist front organization.
The brief is the clearest indication to date that CAIR, and perhaps the other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups and individuals named by the Justice Department, have suffered serious damage as a result of the action by the Justice Department.