Because the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are moderates and signed a peace deal with the Philippines

Via San Jose Mercury News

Shocking enough are the allegations that a long-perceived unassuming state senator tried brokering an international arms deal with military-style rifles and rocket launchers, but Leland Yee may have narrowly escaped an even more ominous label: supporter of terrorism.

Yee, whose arrest after an FBI undercover sting shook the California political world last week, would likely have been charged with aiding terrorists if not for a bureaucratic label missing from the militant Filipino group that he is accused of sourcing for an international arms deal, counterterrorism experts told this newspaper.

His ties to the group, whose leader has said he personally met with Osama Bin Laden, are spelled out in a 137-page affidavit. It accuses Yee and two associates of conspiring with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Mafia gangster to purchase up to $2.5 million in weapons from a source with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.

The group is not among the 56 foreign terrorist organizations designated by the U.S. State Department, although its three-decade reign of terror, including bombings, kidnappings and killings of civilians mirror other designated groups.

Groups identified as terrorist organizations cannot legally receive financial support, services, training or any assistance from U.S. residents, among other restrictions.

The State Department designates groups every two years based on a combination of factors, including intelligence, input from the U.S. Embassy in the host country and the stated goals of the organizations.

“If (the Filipino group) were a designated terrorist group (Yee) would be subject to prosecution,” said Michael Kraft, former senior adviser for the State Department counterterrorism office and co-author of 1996 legislation creating laws against supporting terrorist groups.

Yee could have still been charged with material support to an undesignated group if the FBI found Yee intended to help the terrorists or if the money went to a specific act of terrorism, but the sting never went that far.

A spokeswoman with the law firm of Yee’s new attorney, Jim Lassart, said he had no comment.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Friday. The office announced the indictment Friday of Yee and 28 other defendants arrested following a five-year FBI investigation. The indictment formalizes the allegations the government outlined against Yee in the affidavit.

Yee was charged with corruption, wire fraud and conspiracy to traffic arms. A terrorism charge would carry a 15-year sentence or life if a death could be linked to the aid. Yee faces a five-year sentence for gun trafficking.

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