Obama Violated the Law with His Ransom Payment to Iran

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President Obama Violated the Law with His Ransom Payment to Iran



August 6, 2016 8:00 AM


The president hoped to camouflage what he knew to be against the law in his dealings with Iran.

Did it ever occur to President Obama to ask why he couldn’t just cut a check to the Iranian regime?


Outrage broke out this week over the revelation that Obama arranged to ship the mullahs piles of cash, worth $400 million and converted into foreign denominations, reportedly in an unmarked cargo plane. The hotly debated question was whether the payment, which the administration attributes to a 37-year-old arms deal, was actually a ransom paid for the release of American hostages Tehran had abducted.


It is a waste of time to debate that point further. The Iranians have bragged that the astonishing cash payment was a ransom — and Obama has been telling us for months that we can trust the Iranians. The hostages were released the same day the cash arrived. One of the hostages has reported that the captives were detained an extra several hours at the airport and told they would not be allowed to leave until the arrival of another plane — inferentially, the unmarked cargo plane ferrying the cash. The reason American policy has always prohibited paying ransoms to terrorists and other abductors is that it only encourages them to take more hostages. And, as night follows day, Iran has abducted more Americans since Obama paid the cash. No matter how energetically the president tries to lawyer the ransom issue, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . 


More worth examining is why the transaction took the bizarre form that it did. To cut to the chase, I believe it was to camouflage — unsuccessfully — the commission of felony law violations.


The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Justice Department strongly objected to the cash payment to Iran. As we shall see, that should come as no surprise. What is surprising is the Journal’s explanation of Justice’s concerns: Department officials, it is said, fretted that the transaction looked like a ransom payment. I don’t buy that. It is not a federal crime to pay a ransom; just to receive one. Our government’s stated disapproval of paying ransoms is a prudent policy, not a legal requirement. The Justice Department’s principal job is to enforce the laws, not to ensure good policy in foreign relations. It seems far more likely that Justice was worried that the transaction was illegal.

If they were, they had good reasons.


At a press conference Thursday, Obama remarkably explained, “The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran.” Really Mr. President? The whole point of sanctions is to prohibit and punish certain behavior. If you — especially you, Mr. President — do the precise thing that the sanctions prohibit, that is a strange way of being “so strict in maintaining” them.


Now, the sanctions at issue exclude Iran from the U.S. financial system by, among other things, prohibiting Americans and financial institutions from engaging in currency transactions that involve Iran’s government. Contrary to the nuclear sanctions that Obama’s Iran deal (the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or JCPOA) attempts to undo, the sanctions pertinent here were imposed primarily as a result of Iran’s support for terrorism. That is significant. In pleading with Congress not to disapprove the JCPOA, Obama promised lawmakers that the terrorism sanctions would remain in force.


Terrorism-related sanctions against Iran trace back to the early 1980s, shortly after the jihadist regime overthrew the shah, stormed the American embassy, took hostages, and triggered Hezbollah’s killing sprees. But the sanctions most relevant for present purposes stem from President Clinton’s 1995 invocation of federal laws that deal with national emergencies caused by foreign aggression.


Clinton concluded that Iran had caused such an emergency by, among other things, “its support for international terrorism.” Note that this was even before Iran killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.


To this day, Iran remains on our government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Clinton’s state-of-emergency declaration has been annually renewed ever since. Let that sink in: Notwithstanding Obama’s often shocking appeasement of Tehran, he has been renewing the state of emergency since 2009 — most recently, just five months ago. Indeed, it is worth noting what the Obama State Department’s latest report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism” has to say about Iran. This is from the first paragraph:




Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2015, including support for [Hezbollah], Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In 2015, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia terrorist groups[.] . . . Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.



It is due to this atrocious record that Congress pressed Obama to maintain and enforce anti-terrorism sanctions, which the administration repeatedly committed to do. This commitment was reaffirmed by Obama’s Treasury Department on January 16, 2016, the “Implementation Day” of the JCPOA. Treasury’s published guidance regarding Iran states that, in general, “the clearing of U.S. dollar- or other currency-denominated transactions through the U.S. financial system or involving a U.S. person remain prohibited[.]” (See here, p.17, sec. C.14.) I’ve added italics to highlight that it is not just U.S. dollar transactions that are prohibited; foreign currency is also barred. Obama’s cash payment, of course, involved both — a fact we’ll be revisiting shortly.


Treasury’s guidance cites to what’s known as the ITSR (Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations), the part of the Code of Federal Regulations that implements anti-terrorism sanctions initiated by President Clinton under federal law. The specific provision cited is Section 560.204, which states:




The exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, technology, or services to Iran or the Government of Iran is prohibited. (Emphasis added.)



The regulation goes on to stress that this prohibition may not be circumvented by exporting things of value “to a person in a third country” when one has “knowledge or reason to know that” such things are “intended specifically for supply, transshipment, or reexportation, directly or indirectly, to Iran or the Government of Iran.”


To summarize, the anti-terrorism sanctions are still in effect, a fact the administration has touted many times. Obama conceded at his press conference both that these sanctions are still in effect and that they applied directly to his $400 million pay-out to our terrorist enemies. But here’s the president’s problem: While he is correct that the sanctions barred him from sending Iran a check or wire transfer, that is not all they forbid — not by a long shot. They also make it illegal to do what he did.


As noted above, the sanctions prohibit transactions with Iran that touch the U.S. financial system, whether they are carried out in dollars or foreign currencies. The claim by administration officials, widely repeated in the press, that Iran had to be paid in euros and francs because dollar-transactions are forbidden is nonsense; Americans are also forbidden to engage in foreign currency transactions with Iran.


Obama had our financial system issue U.S. assets that were then converted to foreign currencies for delivery to Iran. Both steps flouted the regulations, which prohibit the clearing of currency of any kind if Iran is even minimally involved in the deal; here, Iran is the beneficiary of the deal.


The regs further prohibit supplying things of value to Iran, regardless of whether it is done “directly or indirectly.” Expressly included in the “indirect” category are transfers of assets to another country with knowledge that the other country will then forward the assets, in some form, to Iran. That’s exactly what happened here, with Obama pressing the Swiss and Dutch into service as intermediaries.


Although these regulations leave no room for doubt that their point is to prevent and criminalize things like sending $400 million in cash to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, the ITSR adds another reg for good measure. Section 560.203 states:



Evasions; attempts; causing violations; conspiracies: . . . Any transaction . . . that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this part is prohibited. . . . Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this part is prohibited.


By his own account, President Obama engaged in the complex cash transfer in order to end-run sanctions that prohibit the U.S. from having “a banking relationship with Iran.” The point of the sanctions is not to prevent banking with Iran; it is to prevent Iran from getting value from or through our financial system — the banking prohibition is a corollary. And the point of sanctions, if you happen to be the president of the United States sworn to execute the laws faithfully, is to follow them — not pat yourself on the back for keeping them in place while you willfully evade them. The president’s press conference is better understood as a confession than an explanation.


Oh, and there is also Section 560.701, which makes clear that willful violations of the regulations constitute serious felony offenses under federal criminal law — punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment.


I hope you’re not lawed out, because there are a couple of other criminal statutes to consider.


The first is the law against providing material support to terrorists, Section 2339A of the federal penal code. It says that anyone who provides resources — including “currency or monetary instruments” — to a person or entity with knowledge that they are to be used in the preparation or carrying out of terrorism offenses is guilty of a serious felony. I’ve italicized “knowledge” to underscore that intent is not required; to be guilty, you just need to know.


As we note above, the Obama administration has just reaffirmed that Iran remains a state sponsor of terrorism. Moreover, as our editors recounted in Friday’s National Review editorial:




(Secretary of State) John Kerry even admitted in January that funds channeled to Iran as part of the nuclear deal would “end up in the hands of the IRGC (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps) or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists.”



No doubt: The IRGC’s Quds Force is a formally designated terrorist organization, as, of course, is Hezbollah, Iran’s forward jihadist militia with which the IRGC colludes. And as Tom Joscelyn recently pointed out, Iran continues to harbor members of al-Qaeda (three of whom were just formally designated as terrorists).


In sum, the Obama administration has provided Iran with $400 million under circumstances in which it well knows that at least some of this cash will be used for terrorism. Indeed, as the editors point out, by providing the money in cash, Obama makes it more likely that it will be used for terrorism: Iran likes to deny its complicity in jihadist acts; so now, flush with cash, it can fund atrocities without leaving a paper trail.


The second law involves money laundering, criminalized by Congress in Section 1956 of the penal code. There are several prohibited varieties of money laundering. It can be a crime, for example, to conduct a financial transaction involving money used to facilitate unlawful activity. And if money is transferred outside the United States, it can be illegal to use it to promote criminal activity.

#related#As we’ve seen, both currency transmissions to Iran and the provision of material support to terrorism are unlawful activities. The administration has conducted a financial transaction (in fact, several transactions: the issuance of the assets, their conversion into foreign currency, and the transmission to Iran) which facilitated both currency transfers to Iran and Iran’s certain use of the money to support terrorism. Plus, the money was shipped outside the United States before being transferred to Iran and before Iran will use it to promote terrorism. Money-laundering cases often boil down to proof of intent; but there clearly are multiple grounds on which to investigate whether the laws have been transgressed.


The circumstances of Obama’s enormous cash transfer to our terrorist enemies raise serious questions about whether American policy against paying ransoms to terrorists has been flouted. But that should not obscure a more fundamental issue: The president has violated the law.




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Posted (edited) · Report post

The money paid to Iran was paid out of the United States Department of Justice Judgement Fund, which is authorized only for paying civil suits in US Courts.


By paying money out of this fund (instead of via Office of International Claims and Investment Disputes), O-bozo exposed himself to criminal liability.


In addition to all the other laws violated (mentioned above),something being pondered by DoJ attorneys right now is the possibility of charging Obonehead with violation of the Anti Deficiency Act.




The Antideficiency Act (ADA) (Pub.L. 97–258, 96 Stat. 923) is legislation enacted by the United States Congress to prevent the incurring of obligations or the making of expenditures (outlays) in excess of amounts available in appropriations or funds. The law was initially enacted in 1884, with major amendments occurring in 1950 (64 Stat. 765) and 1982 (96 Stat. 923). It is now codified at 31 U.S.C. § 1341. The Act is also known as Section 3679 of the Revised Statutes, as amended.


The ADA prohibits the U.S. federal government from entering into a contract that is not "fully funded" because doing so would obligate the government in the absence of an appropriation adequate to the needs of the contract.



Yeah, they're actually talking about this right now.  :point:

Edited by fishweewee

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Posted (edited) · Report post

As an aside, this is a timely thread.


On October 3, 2009, eight brave US soldiers LOST THEIR LIVES during the Battle of Kamdesh (Afghanistan) because COP Keating (which was under attack by 300 taliban) couldn't get air support when they asked for it.


Why was this?


Air assets were being tasked to search for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl.


O-bozo paid a ransom to secure his release.


Something to chew on.


The movie's out, by the way.




Edited by fishweewee

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26 mins ago, Gotcow? said:

Nobody (Republican) seemed to care enough to press the issue,


then or now

If you disagreed with Barry you were immediately labeled a racist. Sad reality.  

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In addition to the tens of millions paid to the Haqqani network to secure Bowe Bergdahls release, the search for him cost a total of 14 lives (six while searching, eight at COP Keating) and dozens wounded.


From The Daily Mail UK


Revealed: Hunt for Bowe Bergdahl left troops unprotected in infamous Afghan battle that left EIGHT U.S. soldiers dead and 22 wounded and produced two Medal of Honor recipients

  • Just 53 U.S. soldiers were left to defend an ammunition depot with no air support or reserves on Oct. 3, 2009, after nearly 350 Taliban attacked a combat outpost and 35 Afghan National Army soldiers fled their posts
  • Sources tell MailOnline that 8 U.S. soldiers died and 22 were wounded because additional troops and air cover were diverted to hunt for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
  • 'Those guys didn't have the complete support they needed ... because all the assets and everything were diverted to us,' a member of Bergdahl's platoon said
  • Combat Outpost Keating was the site of one of the bloodiest battles during America's engagement in Afghanistan, with 150 Taliban paying for the armed assault with their lives
  • Two US Army sergeants won the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for bravery, in the Battle of Kamdesh in eastern Afghanistan




PUBLISHED: 17:59 EDT, 3 June 2014 | UPDATED: 04:51 EDT, 4 June 2014


The hunt for missing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left U.S. military outposts up and down the Afghanistan-Pakistan border shorthanded for months, costing eight American soldiers their lives in the Battle of Kamdesh, according to a Pentagon official.


Kamdesh was one of the bloodiest battles in America's longest war and earned two U.S. servicemen America's highest military decoration for bravery, the Medal of honor.


The October 3, 2009 battle was so bloody, wounding 22 Americans in addition to the eight dead, because support and additional troops were spread out over a vast search area and unavailable to relieve the remote outpost, the official told MailOnline.


The bloodbath at Combat Outpost Keating, near the town of Kamdesh in Nuristan province, lasted more than 12 hours – far longer than it would have if air cover and supplemental infantry units had been available.


'The COP Keating battle was so deadly because ISAF numbers were so low,' the Pentagon official said, referring to the International Security Assistance Force, the generic term for the U.S.-led coalition fighters that included small numbers of soldiers from Afghanistan, Latvia and other nations.


'And that was because so many U.S. troops were off searching for Bergdahl.'


The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment publicly.


An internal Pentagon report released in 2010 found that air support was late to arrive at the battle, and no 'quick reaction force' showed up for 13 hours.


By that time, Taliban fighters had pushed through fences and overrun the facility, killing or wounding more than half of the U.S. personnel at the site and laying waste to most of the base.


American forces abandoned the outpost days later, but had to bomb its remains from above in order to prevent the Taliban from carrying away the last of the live ammunition that it had once housed.


Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid bragged to the Associated Press at the time that 'this is another victory for Taliban. We have control of another district in eastern Afghanistan. Right now Kamdesh is under our control, and the white flag of the Taliban is raised above Kamdesh.'


On that same day, President Barack Obama was announced as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Edited by fishweewee

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44 mins ago, fishweewee said:






Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal



The Office of International Claims and Investment Disputes is responsible for representing the United States before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.


In 1981, the United States and Iran entered into the Algiers Accords, which brought an end to the Embassy hostage crisis and created the Tribunal to resolve existing disputes between the two countries and their nationals. The Tribunal sits in The Hague, The Netherlands and is comprised of nine arbitrators: three appointed by Iran, three by the United States, and three by the party-appointed members acting jointly or, in absence of agreement by an appointing authority.


Under the Accords, the United States released the vast majority of Iran’s “frozen” assets and transferred them directly to Iran or to various accounts to pay outstanding claims. Almost all of the approximately 4,700 private U.S. claims filed against the Government of Iran at the Tribunal have been resolved and have resulted in more than $2.5 billion in awards to U.S. nationals and companies. The period for filing new private claims against Iran expired on January 19, 1982.


The two governments have also filed claims against each other. The vast majority of these inter-governmental claims were filed by Iran against the United States. While some parts of those claims have been resolved, a number of major cases remain to be adjudicated at the Tribunal.


Persons seeking additional information with respect to the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal may write to:


Office of the Legal Adviser
Suite 203, South Building
2430 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037-2800

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50 mins ago, fishweewee said:





Yeah, and Trump would not have put him in jail.


It was the return of seized assets that had been tied in the world's courts for decades. I have no love for Obama as a President, but nothing you can throw at him can add lipstick to the pig that is in the WH now. You ordered your pizza from Pizza Hut. Don't blame Dominoes for the rat droppings on it.

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