The State Department is considering designating the Turkish NGO IHH as a terrorist organization, according to acting department spokesman Mark C. Toner.
"I believe we're looking at the IHH, but it's a long process to designate something – an organization a Foreign Terrorist Organization and there's nothing to announce on that," Toner said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday. Toner was asked whether such an investigation would occur after a bipartisan group of 87 senators wrote President Obama last month requesting that IHH be added to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The June 21 letter, initiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, supported Israel's right to self-defense following the violent confrontation that occurred between Israeli commandos and IHH operatives on the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31st. The letter further states:
"We are deeply concerned about the IHH's role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas. The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by, and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department."
Last month, Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley confirmed that IHH has ties to Hamas, saying "That is obviously of great concern to us."
According to intelligence sources, IHH previously had ties to other terrorist groups. French intelligence expert Jean Louis-Bruguiere stated in an interview with the Associated Press last month that IHH "were basically helping al-Qaida when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
Bruguiere had previously testified that IHH played an "important role" in al-Qaida's millennium bomb plot. A 2006 study conducted by a Danish research institute cites a French intelligence report stating that IHH and its president, Bulent Yildirim, logistically and financially supported jihad activities in Muslim countries during the mid 1990's and members of IHH were preparing to fight in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan before they were detained by Turkish authorities.