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Iraq War Protesters Face Fines
'Human Shields' Violated U.S. Sanctions, Treasury Says
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 12, 2003; Page A02
They failed to get the attention of the invading U.S. military, but the civilians who traveled to Iraq as "human shields" to stop the war last winter have since attracted the attention of the Bush administration's Treasury Department.
Over the past several weeks, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has been contacting an undisclosed number of protesters who placed themselves in harm's way before the war, warning them that they face $10,000 fines for violating U.S. sanctions that forbade most travel to Iraq and commerce with Saddam Hussein's regime. If they don't pay, the human shields face up to 10 years in prison. Treasury spokesman Taylor Griffin said yesterday that the effort to enforce prewar sanctions is "absolutely not" politically motivated.
"Choosing which laws to abide by and which to ignore is not a privilege that is granted to anyone in a society supported by the rule of law," he said.
A Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said none of the shields has yet been fined. They have been told they may have violated U.S. sanction laws, been informed of the potential penalty and been asked for more information, he said. The shields will be allowed to contest their fines before a federal judge, he said.
But the administration's efforts to enforce the law are handing war protesters a new megaphone to broadcast their opposition to U.S. policies in Iraq.
"I have no intention of paying them any sum of money," announced Ryan Clancy, a 26-year-old former record store owner in Milwaukee who spent much of February and March in and around a food silo in Taji, Iraq. "They seemed to be open to some kind of negotiations and asked me if I had any suggestions. I told them I had a suggestion for them, but it didn't have anything to do with giving them money."
The human-shield brigade that descended on Iraq was never shy about publicity, which may explain how Treasury has tracked them down. Griffin said Treasury is tracking down the human shields through customs records, travel documents and "high-profile" activities.
Clancy spent quality television time on CBS-TV's evening news broadcast, he said.
Faith Fippinger, a 62-year-old retired schoolteacher from Sarasota, Fla., was on ABC's "Good Morning America" and National Public Radio and appeared in the Daily Telegraph of Sydney, Australia; the San Francisco Chronicle; the Irish Times; and the Times of London before being featured in a profile in The Washington Post.
Now, she's getting a second 15 minutes of fame. On Friday, she told the Associated Press she was refusing to pay Treasury the fine she found waiting for her when she returned home in May. By yesterday, she was back on television, declaring on CNN, "I will not contribute any money to the continual buildup of America's weapons of mass destruction, which, as far as I know, far exceed the weapons of all other nations combined, and, in fact, have escalated the buildup of weapons everywhere."
Faced with a new round of media inquiries, Tom Andrews, national director of the antiwar group Win Without War, quipped, "Let things roll."
Such sanctions are fairly routine, especially for those doing business with Cuba, Griffin said. The New York Yankees settled a $75,000 fine with Treasury this spring for allegedly violating sanctions on Cuba. Playboy Enterprises Inc. paid $27,500 for Cuba sanctions charges. Caterpillar Inc. paid $18,000 for similar charges, according to documents posted on the Treasury Department's Web site. No individuals are listed on the Web site to protect their privacy, Griffin said.