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With inflation hitting a 40-year high this week and President Biden’s approval ratings sinking to a low point in his presidency, not to mention the Freedom Convoy of Canadian truckers not only dominating the news cycle, but threatening to inspire U.S. truckers to imitate their efforts, the president is desperate for some positive news and what better way to accomplish this than to steer money to the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
President Biden began the process Friday of clearing a legal path for some relatives of 9/11 victims to pursue $3.5 billion from assets that Afghanistan’s central bank had deposited in New York before the Taliban takeover, the New York Times reported, citing officials familiar with internal deliberations.
The president signed an executive order “invoking emergency powers to consolidate and freeze all $7 billion of the total assets the Afghan central bank kept in New York and ask a judge for permission to move the other $3.5 billion to a trust fund to pay for immediate humanitarian relief efforts and other needs in Afghanistan,” the newspaper further reported.
Describing the actions as a “highly unusual set of moves,” the Times said the effort was “meant to address a tangled knot of legal, political, foreign policy and humanitarian problems stemming from the attacks and the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban was quick to claim a right to the money after taking control of Afghanistan, which resulted in the country’s economy collapsing. Faced with mass starvation, which the article said is creating “an enormous and destabilizing new wave of refugees,” the Taliban are desperate for humanitarian relief — which is not to say the current government would direct any funds to those in need.
However, a group of relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks who won default judgments against the Taliban lawsuits years ago got a judge to serve the legal department of the Federal Reserve of New York with a “writ of execution” to seize the money to pay that judgment, according to the Times, which said other Sept. 11 groups who filed similar lawsuits are also asking for a share of the Afghan bank assets.
Sources told the paper that the Biden administration will not object to any court decision to devote half of the money for the Sept. 11 claims, and the Justice Department is expected to say that victims of the attacks should have a full opportunity to have their claims heard. If the judge agrees to partly lift the writ of execution, Biden will reportedly seek to direct the remainder toward a trust fund to be spent on food and other assistance in Afghanistan — while keeping it out of the hands of the Taliban.
Here’s more from the Times on what it described as a two-part legal process being employed:
First, he would use emergency powers under a provision of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to “direct and compel” that a foreign country’s assets in the United States be moved to a segregated account. That would block them, but the Afghanistan central bank would still own them.
Second, officials have discussed then using a provision of the Federal Reserve Act that permits disposing of property belonging to the central bank of a foreign nation — so long as it has the blessing of someone the secretary of state has recognized as being “the accredited representative” of that foreign country.
It remains unclear who would qualify as such a person, considering Afghanistan’s former government no longer exists.
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