Daniel A. Handelman
District Director of Customs
Patrick V. McNamara Bldg
477 Michigan Ave Rm 200
Detroit, MI 48226
Att: Darrell Woodard, Don Zainea
PETITION FOR THE RETURN OF SEIZED ITEMS
January 9, 1998
Mr. Woodard and Mr. Zainea:
This is my petition for the return of items seized from me upon my return from a trip to Jordan and Iraq on December 3, 1997 at the Detroit airport. My seizure number is 1998 3801 000 23501.
It is my understanding that by filing this petition and checking the first box on the form AF, I am requesting that you decide administratively to return my items. I also understand that, subject to filing a claim and a cost bond, I am entitled to a judicial determination of the constitutionality and legality of the seizure should you decide not to return my items administratively.
If anything I have stated above is incorrect, I would like you to contact me immediately so I can take appropriate action. The availability of a full judicial determination is of utmost importance to me.
I would also like to assure you that my intent is to get back the informational materials you have seized from me. I am not interested in filing a lawsuit if my items are returned to me.
I should first make it clear that as a member of Voices in the Wilderness, I travelled to Iraq to deliver medicines to children's hospitals because I felt a moral obligation to help the Iraqi people. As I said in the interview with Special Agents Sward and Steinbeck, over 500,000 children have died due to U.S./U.N. sanctions. If I and the other members of the 8 delegations to Iraq have violated the sanctions, we have acted to prevent a greater harm, that is, the deaths of innocent children.
The items which were seized from me should be returned on this basis alone.
I will add to the reasons you should return my property by addressing your Notice of Seizure: You cite that my bringing these items into the U.S. violates CFR part 575.204, sanction on imports from Iraq. This section of the CFR states that "no goods or services of Iraqi origin may be imported into the U.S., nor may any U.S. person engage in any activity that promotes or is intended to promote such activity."
Items 1 & 2 below, my video and film, are informational materials which I generated, not "goods or services of Iraqi origin." As explained below, the unexposed videotape and film themselves were purchased in the U.S. Item 3, the video tapes given to me by television networks, and the relief organization Equilibre, contained information about my delegation and efforts by other non- Iraqis to relieve the suffering. Similarly, most, if not all of the paperwork seized had to do with the situation in Iraq and my efforts there, and do not fall into this category. I gathered all of this information for non-profit purposes to educate the American public as to the situation caused by U.S. sanctions. (I find it ironic that these sanctions would also be the cause for the seizure of my video tapes.) Furthermore, I believe I have first amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press which would allow me to bring these items into the U.S. I would call your attention 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 code refers to the "Trading with the Enemy Act," the language is clear in its intent: TRAVEL AND INFORMATIONAL EXCHANGES WITH ANY COUNTRY CANNOT BE PROHIBITED BY THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT. I should further note that specific items exempted include "publications, films,...tapes, artworks, and news wire feeds." While you have not cited this section of law, I would again point to this as an indication of the sense of Congress on this matter.
Item 4, my paperwork, is similarly not covered by the definition of "goods or services of Iraqi origin imported into the U.S." nor "promot[ing] such activity." The other items, numbers 5 and 6, postage stamps purchased in Jordan and miscellaneous souvenirs, are also part of the effort to educate the public on the culture and the people of Iraq, and should be exempted as well.
I believe that seizure of these materials is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee to free speech.
These are the specific items seized which I believe should be returned to me:
1. Five (5) 8mm video cassettes.
These tapes were purchased in the U.S., contain information gathered by me, and are not "goods or services of Iraqi origin" nor do they "promote or intend to promote" importation of such items. As such, the tapes do not violate CFR 575.204. Therefore, these tapes are not subject to seizure.
2. Three (3) rolls of exposed, undeveloped film.
Same as #1.
3. Five (5) other video cassettes.
One cassette was produced by French relief agency Equilibre, documenting their efforts to bring items of need to Iraqi school children. This is an item of French origin, not of Iraqi origin.
The other cassettes are copies of mainstream news items about our trip, including a story on CNN, produced by an American reporter. These tapes were provided by the news media agencies themselves with permission for me to show the tapes in the US for non-profit purposes. These tapes were given to me, not purchased; they are not for commercial purposes; and they were given to me by members of the international press corps. They are not Iraqi goods or services, and do not promote (or intend to promote) the importation of Iraqi goods or services. Furthermore, the exemptions listed in 103 PL 236 section 525 cited above include "news wire feeds." Therefore, I believe these tapes are not subject to seizure.
4. Fifty-nine (59) assorted papers.
While these papers may or may not have details about my trip, they were not to the best of my knowledge purchased in Iraq and therefore also do not fall under the regulations.
5. Fourteen (14) collected postage stamps.
These are Iraqi stamps, but I bought them at a shop in downtown Amman, Jordan. Certainly any tourist to Jordan could have done the same. Since buying goods in Jordan is not in violation of the regulations, these stamps should also be returned to me.
6. Other items, including 100 dinars Iraqi currency (value 6 cents US),
15 postcards (value $1 US),
1 audio cassette (value $3 US)
and1 water bottle label (no US value).
These are personal souvenirs, represent a very minimal expenditure, and are items I can use to educate the public about Iraqi culture. They also would be considered materials exempted on the list above cited in 103 PL 236 section 525 (publications, artworks, tapes). I am not consenting to these being seized, but they are not essential and I do not feel as strongly that they need to be returned.
To reiterate, I see no reason for you to have seized items #1-5 in the first place, and I would like them returned to me promptly. You have cited 19 USC 1595a (c)(2)(b) which allows items to be seized if importation requires a license, permit or other authorization. As I have pointed out above, none of these items #1-5 are items of Iraqi origin and are therefore not subject to such a requirement.
The gravity of the situation in Iraq means that every day I do not have these items for my educational presentations, 124 Iraqi children will die of starvation and disease caused by the sanctions.
I would be willing to send you postage paid containers for overnight delivery if this would help speed up the process of having my materials (none of which is "merchandise") returned to me.
I would like to thank you for your consideration in expediting your decision on this matter. There are many hundreds of people who have been made aware that Customs has possession of my video tapes, and they are anxious to see what is on them.
In closing, I would like to restate that I do not wish to give up my rights to other legal means for retrieving my items by filing this petition.
Daniel A. Handelman
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