The Trump administration is reportedly mulling a move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist (or terror-supporting) organization, following a bill introduced last year by Ted Cruz. Needless to say, all the smart people are against this proposal. It will damage academic research, say academics. It will fuel extremism, says a(nother) leaked CIA memo. It will lead to a witch-hunt, says the Council on American-Islamic Relations (which has some reason to fear it will be target #1 of that hunt, given that Ted Cruz's bill mentions them by name). Human Rights Watch tells us that the move would threaten rights to free association for Muslims in the United States.
The most interesting argument is that the designation would actually be illegal.
To qualify for a designation, the organization has to be engaged in terrorism or still has the capability and intent to do so, and it has to pose a threat to U.S. nationals or our national security. The Muslim Brotherhood as a whole obviously doesn’t qualify on either count. McCants and Wittes say that certain individual affiliates might qualify for such a designation, but the entire group cannot be defined as a terrorist organization:The decision by Hamas (which is already designated) to ally with ISIS seems to me to ease the path to designation. ISIS is not just a terrorist organization in the same way that Hezbollah is not. They also intend to run a state, and are organized in part to do so. Yet no one would argue that ISIS should not be designated as a terrorist or terror-supporting organization just because some elements of their organization are aimed at, say, provision of clean water.The short answer is that the Brotherhood is not in a meaningful sense a single organization at all; elements of it can be designated and have been designated, and other elements certainly cannot be [bold mine-DL]. As a whole, it is simply too diffuse and diverse to characterize. And it certainly cannot be said as a whole to engage in terrorism that threatens the United States.
My guess is that the new Attorney General will be able to defend the decision if they decide to go forward with it, and this report only makes that defense easier to do.
UPDATE: Apparently Hamas could really use the help.