A Colorado congressman is calling for an investigation of San Francisco State University, its president and two professors for their involvement in facilitating a virtual event that featured Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled.
Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn sent a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Sept. 29 claiming that the event’s organizers, professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa, as well as university president Lynn Mahoney and S.F. State “generally,” were in violation of federal law that prohibits providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Khaled hijacked two planes in 1969 and 1970 as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that both the State Department and the European Union have designated as a terrorist organization. Zoom, Facebook and YouTube all blocked the Sept. 23 event from their platforms, stating that it violated their company policies.
In his letter, Lamborn called Khaled an “unrepentant terrorist” and said Abdulhadi, Kinukawa and Mahoney likely violated specific parts of a 1994 statute that prohibits individuals from providing “service,” “communications equipment” or “expert advice or assistance” to terrorist groups.
Mahoney wrote in a Sept. 23 statement to the community that the university had not invited Khaled as “a member, representative, spokesperson, or surrogate” of the PFLP, an assertion that Lamborn disputed in his letter.
Prior to the event, which was online for 23 minutes before being cut off by YouTube, some Jewish groups expressed opposition to Khaled’s involvement. The Lawfare Project, a New York-based pro-Israel nonprofit, sent a letter to the Department of Justice National Security Division on Sept. 15, making a case similar to Lamborn’s and suggesting that SFSU would be violating the law by hosting Khaled. The response from national security attorney Thomas A. Durkin said the Lawfare Project’s suggestion to bring legal penalties against the university lacked precedent and would amount to stifling of free speech.
Neither S.F. State nor Abdulhadi responded to requests for comment Monday morning.
Lamborn has represented Colorado’s fifth congressional district since 2007. He has historically taken conservative stances on many issues, including health care, gun control and same-sex marriage.