From the Providence Journal:
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U.S. can seize assets, no conviction required
BY GERALD M. CARBONE
Journal Staff Writer
Section 806 of the USA Patriot Act allows the president of the United
States to take the property of anyone who is "perpetrating" or
"planning" terrorism against the country, its people or their property.
Any person or group found to be planning to commit a criminal and
dangerous act to coerce government policy could lose all assets,
regardless of whether they actually commit the crime.
In an analysis of the Patriot Act written for Congress, Charles Doyle
of the Library of Congress wrote: "broad as the president's war powers
may be, they would hardly seem to provide a justification for section
806, which . . . is neither limited to foreign offenders nor predicated
upon war-like hostilities."
This section of the Patriot Act employs "forfeiture of estate,"
allowing the government to take all property. This is unusual in
American legal tradition, which has historically employed "statutory
forfeiture," limiting seizure to assets derived from, or used for, a
A person whose property is seized under 806 also loses the right to
pass property to heirs, creating what the U.S. Constitution calls "the
corruption of blood."
Article III of the Constitution protects people from punishment for
the acts of their ancestors.
This is why, Doyle noted in his analysis, "President Lincoln insisted
that the confiscated real estate of Confederate supporters should
revert to their heirs at death."
Waiving the rules
The Patriot Act also addresses property forfeiture in Section 106,
titled Presidential Authority.
This section says that when the United States is "engaged in armed
hostilities," the president may seize "any property" within U.S.
jurisdiction from "any foreign person" that the president determines
has aided in "such hostilities."
This section has its roots in a 1917 law called the Trading With the
Enemy Act, which gave the president power to seize assets in any
This power had been weakened under the 1977 International Emergency
Powers Act, which limited it to times of war.
Section 106 of the Patriot Act amends the 1977 law to restore the
president's authority to seize property in any national emergency.
The Trading with the Enemy Act once involved President Bush's family.
In 1942, the U.S. government seized assets of the Union Bank because it
was controlled by Fritz Thyssen, who helped bankroll Adolf Hitler's
rise to power. Prescott Bush, the president's grandfather, was a
director of that bank when the United States seized it.
The government later reimbursed him $1.5 million for his single share
in the bank.
Section 106 also reinforces the government's authority to make its case
for property forfeiture in the secrecy of a judge's chambers, and
without the defendant present.
This section also lets courts waive the Federal Rules of Evidence to
protect national security, permitting hearsay and other evidence that
might normally be inadmissible.
Sections 106 and 806 do not require conviction of a property owner for
the government to seize assets.
Section 106 applies only to foreign-owned property, but 806 applies to
"any individual," including any American, who the government says is
planning to coerce people or government policy through a criminal and
Doyle told Congress that besides Article III of the Constitution,
these amendments might violate two of the amendments in the Bill of
Rights: the Eighth Amendment, barring excessive fines, and the Fifth
Amendment's double-jeopardy clause, which applies to forfeitures that
are so punitive "as to negate any presumption of remedial purposes."
Gerald M. Carbone
Contrary to popular belief, most of the Patriot Act does not
automatically expire next year.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their
offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of
Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance
"The rights of the individuals are restricted only to the extent that
they have been voluntarily surrendered by the citizenship to the
agencies of government."
City of Dallas v Mitchell, 245 S.W. 944