Last July, President Bush issued a broadly-worded executive order authorizing the government to seize the assets of “any person” who threatens the stability of Iraq and, more controversially, any person who provides assistance to such a person.
The scope, objectives and precedents of the order — Executive Order 13,438, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq” — were examined in a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.
“The broad language of this executive order has been the subject of a degree of criticism as potentially reaching beyond insurgents in Iraq to third parties, such as U.S. citizens, who may unknowingly be providing support for the insurgency,” the CRS report noted, citing prior reports in the Washington Post, TPM Muckraker, and elsewhere.
In fact, the potential application of the order appears to be technically unlimited since it includes a recursive clause that has no defined endpoint.
Thus, section 1(b) of the Order states that any person who provides goods or services to a person whose actions are proscribed under section 1(a) is himself subject to section 1(a). But then, anyone who provides similar support to that person could likewise be swept up in the expansive terms of the order. And so on, without end.
In practice, the application of the order will be defined by implementing regulations to be issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which will also prepare an initial list of blocked individuals and organizations. Those have still not been published.
A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.