Attacked for using the Internet to advocate Cuba travel

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 8 11:39:14 MST 2002


-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Warner [mailto:warner at scn.org]
Sent: Saturday, December 07, 2002 6:44 PM
To: Craven, Jim
Subject: I Have Been Accused of Using the Internet to Advocate Travel to Cuba

Tom Warner here! I may have the dubious honor of being the first person who
has been attacked by the Bush administration for using the internet to
oppose the policies of the government. - I have been known to do that from
time to time, and the internet has been a huge liberating factor in freeing
the public from the confines of the commercial media - news print - TV -
radio - etc. Now for the first time demonstrations of heretofore
unprecedented size can happen within weeks of a reactionary development.

What I have been accused of is using the internet and the web site of the
Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee to "organize and promote" a trip to Cuba
without a license. I regularly do publicize trips to Cuba, both licensed
and unlicensed. I have had to engage attorneys on my behalf to represent me
in this matter.

I am concerned that this assault on the freedom of speech and expression -
especially through the internet - be stanched before it chills peoples free
expression and their ability to respond to objectionable behavior by the
government or other powers in authority. I am attaching jpg. images of the
letter that they sent to me and the "evidence" that they are using from our
web site. Failure on my part to respond in a timely manner to these
accusations can result in a penalty of thousands of dollars.

As a first step in fighting against this undemocratic act by the Treasury
Department, I would like to call a press conference and I would like to
have you and the staff of your magazine present. The press will be more
attentive if there are concerned citizens such as yourself present.  Could
you attend such a press conference? Could you write up an article about
this assault on civil liberties and the internet and computer usage?

If you know of others in the progressive community or who have strong
feelings for an unfettered internet, have them contact me, please.

In solidarity,

Thomas W. Warner (Secretary Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee) 8923 2nd
Ave. N.E. Seattle, WA, 98115 (206) 523-1720 warner at scn.org
http://www.seattlecuba.org

This is the answer that my attorneys have prepared for me to avoid a many
thousand dollar fine for non-response.

9 December 2002
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Attn: Martin O. Odenyo
1500 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. (Annex)
Washington, D.C. 20220
Re: FAC No. CU-201336

Dear Mr. Odenyo:

This letter is in response to your Requirement to Furnish Information
letter to Mr. Thomas W. Warner, dated 16 October 2002. I represent Mr.
Warner in this matter and am supplying this response to you on his behalf.

In your letter, you refer to a posting on a website (www.seattlecuba.org),
in which Mr. Warner allegedly forwarded information about a conference held
in Havana, Cuba, on 17-24 February 2002. Mr. Warner did not personally
attend the conference; he did not travel to Cuba; nor did he organize the
conference.

I have reviewed the federal regulations that were referenced in your
letter, 31 C.F.R. 515.201(b), and do not see that forwarding information to
an Internet site about a conference in Cuba in any way is prohibited.
Passing along information hardly qualifies as the type of prohibited
financial transaction covered by the Treasury Department=s regulations.

Mr. Warner possesses certain First Amendment rights, as well as rights
under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the
U.S. has signed and ratified), to freedom of speech. These rights include
the right to advocate that other Americans exercise their rights, under the
U.S. Constitution (Amendments 1 and 5) and the ICCPR, to travel freely
abroad, to seek information through such foreign travel and to exchange
information with foreign persons.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury therefore has no authority under the
U.S. Constitution, the ICCPR or 31 C.F.R. 515.201 to interfere with Mr.
Warner=s rights to post information on the Internet about a conference in Cuba.

Although it is our position that Mr. Warner has the right to urge people to
travel to Cuba without a Treasury Department license, notably, nothing on
the Internet posting urges people to break the law in order to attend the
conference.

As you are undoubtedly aware, there are a variety of Treasury Department
regulations which authorize travel to Cuba B 31 C.F.R. 515.420 (fully
hosted travel), 515.575 (humanitarian projects), 515.574 (support for the
Cuban people), & 515.567 (public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic
and other competitions). See also 31 C.F.R. 515.560 (Travel-related
transactions).

There is no indication that someone posting information on an Internet
website about a conference in Cuba would expect that people reading the
website would not be eligible for a specific or general license, issued by
the Treasury Department under one of these various sections.

In this regard, apparently, according to press accounts, prominent elected
officials and civic leaders from Seattle did attend this conference. I have
learned from other counsel that these individuals traveled to Cuba pursuant
to License #CU-63506. Thus, even if Mr. Warner=s alleged speech activity of
posting an informational article on a website had the effect of influencing
someone to go to Cuba to attend the conference, and even, assuming arguendo
that various constitutional and international law provisions do not protect
his speech, any travel that occurred was not prohibited.

Finally, with regard to your request for detailed information pursuant to
31 C.F.R. 501.602, your requests interfere with Mr. Warner's, and others'
rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process of law
protected under U.S. Const. amends. 1 & 5, and the ICCPR, Article ___. To
the extent that the request subjects Mr. Warner to any criminal sanction,
he is invoking his right to remain silent under U.S. Const. amend. 5.

Additionally, in light of the substantial numbers of Cuban-Americans and
others who travel to Cuba, with the knowledge of the OFAC, in apparent
violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, but without consequence,
and in light of the large number of people who express opinions to others
about the desirability of travel to Cuba, your request for information
constitutes discriminatory enforcement of the laws in violation of the
First and Fifth Amendments.

Sincerely, Lynne Wilson
Attorney at Law



Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org


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