Voltaire Network
# 5 News Story selected by Project Censored in 2009

Seizing War Protesters’ Assets

George W. Bush signed more laws and executive orders trampling civil rights and liberties than any president in US history. The two examined below, specifically crafted to stifle and criminalize protests both at home and abroad against U.S. policies in Iraq and Lebanon, fly in the face of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects against abuse of government authority. These unconstitutional retaliatory measures, which have been glossed over by the mainstream media, remain in full force under the Obama Administration.

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Masked protestors are arrested by police after they would not move out of an intersection, as part of a protest against the war in Iraq, in Washington on Wednesday March 19, 2008.

President Bush has signed two executive orders that would allow the US Treasury Department to seize the property of any person perceived to, directly or indirectly, pose a threat to US operations in the Middle East.

The first of these executive orders, titled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq”, signed by Bush on July 17, 2007 [1], authorizes the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to confiscate the assets of US citizens and organizations who “directly or indirectly” pose a risk to US operations in Iraq. Bush’s order states:

"I have issued an Executive Order blocking property of persons determined 1) to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq . . . or 2) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order . . ."

Section five of this order announces that, “because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine . . . there need be no prior notice of listing or determination [of seizure] . . .”

On August 1, Bush issued a similar executive order, titled “Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions" [2] While the text in this order is, for the most part, identical to the first, the order regarding Lebanon is more severe.

While both orders bypass the Constitutional right to due process of law in giving the Secretary of Treasury authority to seize properties of those persons posing a risk of violence, or in any vague way assisting opposition to US agenda, the August 1 order targets any person determined to have taken, or to pose a significant risk of taking, actions—violent or nonviolent—that undermine operations in Lebanon. The act further authorizes freezing the assets of “a spouse or dependent child” of any person whose property is frozen. The executive order on Lebanon also bans providing food, shelter, medicine, or any humanitarian aid to those whose assets have been seized—including the “dependent children” referred to above.

Vaguely written and dangerously open to broad interpretation, this unconstitutional order allows for the arbitrary targeting of any American for dispossession of all belongings and demands ostracism from society. Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration says of the order, “This is so sweeping it’s staggering. I have never seen anything so broad. It expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population.”

In an editorial for the Washington Times, Fein states, “The person subject to an asset freeze is reduced to a leper. The secretary’s financial death sentences are imposed without notice or an opportunity to respond, the core of due process. They hit like a bolt of lightning. Any person whose assets are frozen immediately confronts a comprehensive quarantine. He may not receive and benefactors may not provide funds, goods, or services of any sort. A lawyer cannot provide legal services to challenge the secretary’s blocking order. A doctor cannot provide medical services in response to a cardiac arrest.” Fein adds, “The Justice Department is customarily entrusted with vetting executive orders for consistency with the Constitution. Is the Attorney General sleeping?” [3].

Citation:

1. Bruce Fein, “Our Orphaned Constitution,” Washington Times, August 7, 2007.

UPDATE BY MATT ROTHSCHILD

This is a story that went virtually nowhere that I know of in the mainstream press. When I traveled around the country giving speeches last summer and brought up the subject of this executive order, people couldn’t believe it and wondered why they hadn’t heard about it. I’m still wondering that myself.

Here are a couple of good places to check for issues related to this story:

- The American Civil Liberties Union

- The Center for Constitutional Rights

Sources

- Global Research, July 2007
Title: “Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement
Author: Michel Chossudovsky

- The Progressive, August 2007
Title: “Bush’s Executive Order Even Worse Than the One on Iraq
Author: Matthew Rothschild

- Student Researchers: Chris Navarre and Jennifer Routh

- Faculty Evaluator: Amy Kittlestrom, PhD

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- Earlier Project Censored entries here.

Remarks by Voltaire Network:
Several of Voltaire Network’s collaborators were directly affected by Presidential Orders 13438 and 13441 due to their intellectual or material support to resistance movements in the Middle East. On this account Thierry Meyssan, President of Voltaire Network, was deprived of the possibility to lodge an appeal against his first publisher, who stole the proceeds of his book sales by transferring them to a subsidiary in the United States. By the same token, Washington enlisted the help of NATO member states against Thierry Meyssan (cf. « Si j’avais plié, je n’aurais pas eu à partir »).

Michel Chossudovsky

Michel Chossudovsky Professor of economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Michel Chossudovsky is Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

 
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