Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Federal Judge Rules That US Treasury Dept. Violated Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation's Fourth Amendment Rights

Judge Garr King for the US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled that the US Treasury Department's freezing of the assets of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation violated the organization's due process rights because it failed to give any basis for designating it a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" (SDGT) organization. Judge King opined that the Treasury violated the charity's rights by not giving the foundation adequate notice and a chance to make an argument against the designation.

The seizure of the organization's assets was authorized by Executive Order 13224 which allows the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to block the assets of individuals or entities designated as SDGTs.

Judge Garr King indicated that in his view, the language "provide material support" to terrorism as a basis for designating an entity an SDGT (the criterion established under Executive Order 13224), is unconstitutionally vague.  EO 13224 does not define "material support."  He did not overturn the designation, however, as it has yet to be decided whether the due process violation was harmless error.

The case also involves the issue of whether the terrorist designation can be made by relying on classified documents. Judge King ruled that the Treasury Department did have the authority to keep the classified record secret under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. "I conclude, however," he wrote,"that the government violated Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation-Oregon's due process right to adequate notice prior to designating it."

The Ashland, OR chapter of the now-defunct Saudia Arabian charity was led by Pete Seda, who was indicted in 2005 on money-laundering and tax fraud charges. Seda fled the country, but returned in November 2007 to face federal charges.

In a separate challenge to the terrorist designation, the charity and government lawyers have battled over a National Security Agency document that was accidentally given to Al-Haramain lawyers. The document has been under tight security ever since the lawyers reported it to the Justice Department and all copies were returned at the government's insistence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit returned that case to a trial judge for another hearing after rejecting part of the challenge.

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