DECEMBER 10, 2010
Caving in to the demands of liberal civil rights groups, the Obama Administration has quietly amended a counterterrorism sanction so that accused terrorists can pay for their defense with assets frozen by the U.S. government.
The exemption to the government’s Global Terrorism Sanctions was made official this week by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is responsible for enforcing economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security threats. The office operates under presidential national emergency powers and acts largely on international mandates.
Among its duties is to freeze the assets of individuals or groups engaged in terrorist activities. Under executive orders signed by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the OFAC can confiscate the assets of suspected terrorists identified by the Treasury Secretary if the funds are in control of institutions regulated by the U.S.
That means that individuals charged with terrorism can’t access money to pay for attorneys, something that has long bothered the left. This week the Treasury Department gave in, making it possible for terrorism suspects whose assets have been frozen by Uncle Sam to use the money to pay for legal representation. Suspects must apply for a special license from the OFAC, which will make the cash disbursements.
The official amendment in the Federal Register says that the OFAC is adding “new general licenses to authorize U.S. persons to receive specified types of payment for certain authorized legal services.” This also includes a license authorizing the establishment of legal defense funds that collect donations from persons who are not suspected of terrorism.
It’s unlikely that the mainstream media will give this much coverage or that White House press releases will tout it. After all, the official notice in the Federal Registry says that “public participation” or “delay in effective date” are not applicable because the amendments involve a foreign affairs function and executive order.
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