Melissa (hat-tipping Shaker Moira, who gets credit for the post title, as well) called my attention to an Executive Order issued by the White House, titled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq” and dated July 17, 2007, and asked me to review it. In my considered opinion, I have to say…Holy SHIT.
[I’ll translate from legalese into English as best I can. Where I write ‘person,’ remember that it applies to all groups as well, including (arguably) Shakesville.]
Under this order, the Executive Branch can ‘starve out’ a person by completely freezing their assets, without trial, without the need to present evidence, and without appeal. The Treasury Secretary has sole discretion to determine who is in violation of this order, in ‘consultation’ with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State. That last part is verbiage; Treasury has the power per this order. Even better, the Secretary of Treasury has the explicit authority to delegate this decision to any flunky or flunkies of his choice per Sec. 6. This order applies to all persons within the United States. If Treasury declares that a person is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to commit violence in Iraq, or a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to support violence in Iraq in any way, or to have assisted in any way a person who is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to do so, all their assets are to be immediately frozen.
It is a further violation of the order to make a donation to such a person whose assets have been frozen. (I was being literal when I said ‘starve’ them. Such a person would have no legal means of acquiring food, clothing, or shelter. They couldn’t buy it with frozen assets, nor accept it as a gift, and stealing is already illegal.) [See here for the statute on which Bush relies to issue this order.]
Section 5 says that these actions will be taken by the government without any notice to the person whose assets are to be frozen. I see no procedure listed for any appeal from this action to anyone. In theory, a person could argue the matter in federal court. However, merely donating legal services to represent such a person would apparently be a violation of Sec. 1(b). The odds of an unrepresented person successfully challenging an executive order, when said order will be defended by a phalanx of Justice Department lawyers, are low.
Is that scary enough for you? When I first read it, I checked the site to make sure it wasn’t a spoof of some sort, a la the Onion. I may have missed something, but I hit the high points.
Oh, I probably don’t need to mention the obvious, but the lack of due process, lack of evidentiary requirements, and the vagueness surrounding exactly what constitutes a violation make this order a totalitarian dream. And there is no end to the ‘daisy chain’ it creates, either. If you donate money to a person whose assets were frozen because they gave money to a person who was declared to be a ‘significant risk’ to commit or support violence in Iraq, then you are subject to the order, subject to have your assets frozen, and anyone helping you thereafter gets the same treatment. This order is far in excess of the presidential orders from 20+ years ago that were circulated to make us afraid of the government. (FYI, there’ve been executive orders since at least Kennedy that declares the feds are in charge of everything in case of nuclear attack and such.)
This is some ham-handed work by the attorneys who drafted it. The only half-clever aspect of it is that, by freezing assets rather than claiming ownership of them, the feds are trying to side-step the prohibition against taking property without compensation. Of course, that is mere sophistry, as the total prohibition of all use of an asset is the same as taking the damned thing, especially as this order has no time limit on how long the assets are to be frozen.
One problem is that the order cannot be attacked in the courts as unconstitutional unless and until it is used against someone, because no one else would have ‘standing’. Being the political animals that they are, the first time they’ll use it will probably be against an undeniable sleazebag, someone almost certainly guilty of the charge. He’d have standing to challenge the order, but the ACLU and other interested groups would be trapped into ‘defending’ a terrorist. And that assumes that someone would be willing to violate the order by taking the case and risking having their entire firm’s assets frozen indefinitely.
The odds of us still having a republic in anything but name only by January 2009 grows more remote every day. I’m off to stock up the doomsday shelter now.