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Freezing Their Assets Off

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What does it mean to "freeze" the assets of terrorists?

On September 24, President Bush issued an executive order freezing the financial assets of individuals and organizations the government deems are involved in or supportive of terrorism. When the feds say assets are frozen, they simply mean that it is illegal to move the asset (usually money) from where it is. Like turkey, fish and green beans, money just isn't as good once it's been frozen.

Here's an example: You're a terrorist with a savings account at Bank of (Death to) America. First of all, shame on you. With interest rates so low, you might as well put your money in a checking account. More importantly, if your account has been frozen, you cannot withdraw or transfer your money without the authorization of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury. They actually have a phone number to call and a form to fill out to apply to get your assets thawed.

This isn't some new policy for terrorists only. We've been doing it to the governments of Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Cuba -- not to mention drug traffickers -- for years. Pretty effective, I'd say.

Freezing doesn't just apply to banks, but also to individuals and money-wiring services like Western Union. Failure to freeze an account that the government tells you to is punishable by hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and up to 12 years in jail.

OFAC's list of terrorists and organizations whose accounts we've frozen is about 20 pages long and growing. It's an alphabetical list of mostly Arabic names, which isn't too surprising considering that militant fundamentalist Islam is a trendy threat these days. The list includes a disproportionately large number of men named Ahmed, including Ahmed The Egyptian, Ahmed The Tall and Ahmed The Tanzanian (who also goes by Foopie). Hopefully American banks didn't wait until after 9-11 to stop doing business with the more obvious threatening names on this list. After all, did we really need an executive order to tell us that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group might be a problem?

E-mail your questions to andisheh@creativeloafing.com. *

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