On February 11, 2022, President Biden issued an executive order seizing $7 billion of currency reserves belonging to the country of Afghanistan that were being held in the United States, and then transferred those funds to an account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Subsequently, the Treasury Department ordered the Federal Reserve to transfer half of those assets into an account in the name of the Afghan Central Bank “for the benefit of the Afghan people and for Afghanistan’s future.” The other $3.5 billion will reside in a frozen account at the Federal Reserve, potentially available to satisfy default monetary judgments obtained against the Taliban by certain families of victims of the September 11 attacks.
The President’s seizure reflects a novel and apparently unprecedented use of emergency powers. Yet the administration has provided no clear explanation of its legal justification for these measures.
On February 17, 2022, the ACLU National Security Project submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Justice seeking records regarding the legal justification for these actions, which we seek to promote transparency regarding the government’s use of emergency powers. The ACLU is not taking a position on the proper use of the seized funds.
When no records had been released by April 6, 2022, we filed this lawsuit, together with the ACLU National Security Project, asking the court to order DOJ to release the requested records.