Thursday, December 29, 2005

Travel Bans

A recent article I read regarding the prosecution of Americans who travel to Cuba got me thinking - how in the hell can the US government prohibit me from traveling somewhere? I fully realize that if I choose to take holiday in the hellish circus-state of Sudan that I am on my own. Disclaimer: I don't want or need the protective hand-holding of the Federal government to assist me in my travels. Thanks. Just leave me alone. I digress. So, this being a pretty slow week - I looked it up. It seems that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control - a sub-department at Treasury - is the enforcement bogey-man in this respect. According to the "Mission Statement" on the OFAC's website:

The [OFAC] administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. OFAC acts under Presidential wartime and national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze foreign assets under US jurisdiction. Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments.

Got that?? So it seems that the President may unilaterally blacklist a country for all of us without Congressional approval by invoking a "national emergency" based on his Article II "Executive" power and designation as "Commander in Chief." This seems to be a pretty broad reading to me. Afterall, the actual "War Power" and "Commerce Power" are each vested in the Congress - not the President. But who wants to get bogged down with facts?? Anywho..., it appears that the Treasury Department's role is on the embargo enforcement front. Since we are all prohibited (either by Executive Order - as is the case with Sudan - or by federal statute - as with Cuba) from importing, spending or distributing specified amounts of U.S. currency (eg. my money over which the Feds mandate plenary control) in any embargo-sanctioned state via the World War I era, "Trading with the Enemy Act," the de facto result is a complete travel ban. Feels something like an mini-iron curtain, huh?