Portland, OR 97217
November 27, 2002
R. Richard Newcomb, Director
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Department of the Treasury
Washington, DC 20220
Ref: FAC No. IQ-162016 and IQ-162433
Dear Mr. Newcomb:
Please accept this letter in place of the $10,000 civil penalty you have requested that I pay in your "Penalty Notice" dated November 4. I am requesting that you withdraw the assessed fine because it is part and parcel of a U.S. policy which stands in violation of international law. If you do not withdraw the fine, I request a court hearing on my case.
When your office issued the "Pre-Penalty Notice" to me, Bert Sacks, Randall Mullins, Joseph Zito and Voices in the Wilderness (VitW) in 1998, my response to you included a number of attachments, and VitW sent information including an analysis from international law Professor Richard Falk, which I have included here. As Professor Falk wrote in 1998, "Given our knowledge of the massive civilian suffering that has resulted from more than eight years of sanctions imposed on the people of Iraq, it becomes clear that their continuation amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law."
Your letter of November 4 acknowledges certain points which I raised in my response to you, which also included my administrative petitions for the return of goods seized upon my return from Iraq in 1997. You have rephrased my statements to fit your assertions regarding the regulations, and I would like to be clear about what I said.
In my December 27, 1998 letter, I stated that "I travelled to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness (VitW) in violation of the U.S. embargo to deliver medicine to sick and dying children. U.N. agencies in Iraq report that over one million people have died as a direct result of the sanctions on Iraq. It is our obligation as citizens of the country primarily responsible for these conditions to put an end to this immoral and illegal policy."
Your November 4 letter also acknowledges that US Customs (another branch of the Treasury Department) settled out of court to return all the items seized from me, including my videotapes and film, which were allegedly "goods and services of Iraqi origin." It is understandable, then, that you have decided not to attempt to impose fines on me (counts 5 and 7) for exporting goods to Iraq and importing them back into the U.S.
You state that I assert "that the purpose of [my] travel-related transactions took precedence over the Regulations' requirement to apply for and be granted a specific license." What I wrote in 1998 was "The U.S. government was informed of my intentions before I traveled to Iraq. ... I do not feel I can participate in your process to license those who wish to aid sick and dying children."
You challenge my assertion that my right to travel cannot be abridged by citing California v. Torres and Haig v. Agee. However, I would point again, as I did in my January 9, 1998 letter to Customs, to 103 PL 236 section 525 ("Free Trade in Ideas," attached) which in section (a) states "It is the sense of Congress that the president should not restrict travel or exchanges for informational, educational, religious, cultural, or humanitarian purposes or for public performances or exhibitions, between the United States and any other country."
While this law applies to Cuba, the Congress was clear that the President should not restrict travel for humanitarian purposes.
If OFAC will not concede that these Regulations (and the Iraq Sanctions Act and other legislative and administrative documents which led to their creation) are violations of both international and domestic laws, I request that I be afforded the opportunity to present my case before a court of law. I believe that people who have been fined by the Treasury Department with regards to travel to Cuba are entitled to a court hearing. I believe that my Fifth Amendment right to due process, as well as my 14th Amendment rights to equal protection, oblige the government to afford me this opportunity before attempting to collect the proposed fine.
Your letter states that you have determined I have violated the Regulations "based on a review of the entire case file," yet does not identify any specific violations of the regulations. As I have filed Freedom of Information Act Requests with both Customs and OFAC, which have not been fulfilled, I am hereby requesting a copy of this case file in order to properly prepare a defense in civil court proceedings.
Furthermore, I find your decisions to impose these fines to be arbitrary. Your pre-penalty notice of December, 1998 was issued to four individuals and the organization Voices in the Wilderness. However, your Penalty notices have been issued at various intervals. The November 4 Penalty Notice to Voices states: "Inasmuch as it is policy not to seek the filing of a complaint in federal district court in a debt collection action in the event of a default in payment of a penalty assessed by OFAC where the statute of limitations could be raised by the debtor as a defense, OFAC will not assess a penalty for Counts 1-4." Since Count 4 of the Pre-Penalty notice relates to a trip organized to bring medicine to Iraq in November, 1997--namely, the delegation I was part of--your decision to pursue my fine seems all the more arbitrary.
I would also call your attention to numerous documents which have been provided by Bert Sacks in his June 17, 2002 letter to you in response to the Penalty Notice he received, such as:
---An August, 1999 UNICEF statement, which includes:
"[UNICEF Executive Director Carol] Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: 'Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war.'"
--A "UNICEF in Iraq" booklet, which states:
"In 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that 'the effect of sanctions and blockades has been to cause suffering and death in Iraq, especially to children.'"
--A June, 2000, UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, paper titled "The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights" which clearly emphasizes:
"The sanctions regime against Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing international humanitarian law and human rights law. Some would go as far as making a charge of genocide."
-- An April, 2002, Amnesty International USA General Membership resolution, which:
Calls for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq, stating that they are an insupportable violation of the human rights of the Iraqi people.
--A September 2001, article by Professor Thomas J. Nagy titled "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply" which begins:
"Over the last two years, I've discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway. The primary document, 'Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,' is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its civilians."
-- A legal brief by Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois College of Law which outlines:
American citizens' rights and obligations to violate laws which are unjust.
I would add that you should review the article " Cool War: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction" by Joy Gordon in the November, 2002 Harper's Magazine. In part, it states: "Invoking security concerns -- including those not corroborated by U.N. weapons inspectors -- U.S. policymakers have effectively turned a program of international governance into a legitimized act of mass slaughter."
My humanitarian work with VitW has been in direct response to the aftermath of the U.S.' deliberate destruction of Iraq's infrastructure and the resulting epidemics of water-borne diseases which have killed thousands upon thousands of children and other non-combatants. Our efforts to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people resulting from the lack of clean water, compounded by lack of access to adequate food, medicine, and other of life's necessities due to the economic sanctions, derive from the Declaration of Human Rights adopted with the creation of the United Nations over 50 years ago.
Our country's adding extra requirements for governmental permission to provide aid to those families in Iraq who are suffering because of sanctions is arbitrary and cruel. Ordinary Iraqis, many of whom have no income except their government-supplied food baskets under the strictly regulated "oil-for-food" program, deserve to live in the same conditions they enjoyed prior to the imposition of sanctions and the bombings of 1991.
As stated above, I hope that you will reconsider your assertions regarding my "travel-related transactions" and rescind the Penalty Notice of November 4. As any such transactions are not the purpose of our humanitarian efforts, nor do they address the issues allegedly intended by the U.S. government (to influence the policies of the government of Iraq). Again, if you are not willing to withdraw the fine, I request the opportunity to challenge your assertions in a court of law.
cc: U.S. Customs Service Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Office
(Attn: Mr. Don Zainea)
Patrick V. McNamara Bldg.
477 Michigan Avenue. Rm 200
Detroit, Michigan 48226
Back to Voices in the Wilderness/Portland home page