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StateSide:Policy
Insight
Exec Order on Terror Assets Flawed?
ACLU Warns Broad Scope Could Impact Humanitarian Donations
07/20/2007 4:28 PM ET
Earlier this week, President Bush issued a new executive order instructing the Treasury Department to block the assets of individuals who--through their own personal acts of violence or their support of others--endanger "the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq" or "undermin(e) efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq."

The White House released the order with little fanfare, and few in the media questioned the intent or scope of the new measure. Kudos to Spencer Ackerman at TalkingPointsMemo.com for taking the time to look a little closer.

Ackerman spoke to the ACLU's chief national security lawyer, Michael German, who warned of the possible "chilling effect" the new order could have on humanitarian donations, and the lack of due process for people affected by it.

German disputed Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise's depiction of the order as a narrowly-focused measure against supporters of the Iraqi insurgency. "She's saying this doesn't affect (legitimate) charitable donations. Actually, it directly does." The order skips right over a relevant citation: section 203b(2) (pdf) of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, which specifically denies to the president the ability to "regulate or prohibit ... donations, by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of articles, such as food, clothing and medicine, intended to be used to deal with human suffering." The order accepts the other restrictions applied by IEEPA, intended to protect, among other things, postal communications and legitimate journalism from unilateral executive restriction.

And that leads to to the broader problem with the order, according to Gerson: "the complete lack of due process" for those accused of violating it. Once someone's assets are frozen, there's no conviction, no appellate process. A better way of stopping terrorist finance, he says, would be "to bring them into court, and do something that would expose their activity... the idea that the executive can seize whatever he wants on his own volition with no sort due process cuts against American principles -- exactly the principles we're trying to get these other countries to follow."

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