Global Relief Foundation, Inc. v. O'Neill

Decision Date11 June 2002
Docket NumberNo. 02 C 674.,02 C 674.
Citation207 F.Supp.2d 779
PartiesGLOBAL RELIEF FOUNDATION, INC., Plaintiff, v. Paul H. O'NEILL, Colin L. Powell, John Ashcroft, R. Richard Newcomb, and Robert S. Mueller, III, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Roger C. Simmons, Victor E. Cretella, III, Matthew H. Simmons, Shawn P. Cavenee, Gordon & Simmons, Frederick, MD, Thomas A. Durkin, Durkin & Roberts, Chicago, IL, for plaintiff.

Robert D. McCallum, Jr., Assistant General, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney, Thomas P. Walsh, Assistant United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, David J. Anderson, Joseph H. Hunt, Sandra M. Schraibman, John E. Smith, Elizabeth J. Shapiro, Adam J. Szubin, Anne M. Joseph, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ANDERSEN, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Global Relief Foundation, Inc. for preliminary injunctive relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

OVERVIEW

Before addressing the motion for preliminary injunction filed by the plaintiff, Global Relief Foundation ("Global Relief"), a brief description of this case is in order.

On December 14, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") searched the headquarters of Global Relief and the home of its executive director. Pursuant to the searches, materials were seized for analysis by the FBI. Global Relief contends that both the search and seizure were unauthorized by law and unconstitutional. The defendants maintain that both the search and seizure were lawfully authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and that they were constitutional. This Court agrees with the defendants.

Also on December 14, 2001, the Office of Foreign Asset Control ("OFAC") of the United States Department of the Treasury issued a blocking order freezing the financial assets of Global Relief pending the FBI's investigation of what relationship, if any, Global Relief might have to the terrorists behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Global Relief contends that the order temporarily "freezing" its assets was not authorized by statute, executive order or the Constitution. The defendants maintain that this blocking order was both lawful and constitutional. They cite the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended by the USA Patriot Act, as the statutory basis for the authority to issue the blocking order. This authority was granted first to the President and then delegated by him to the Treasury pursuant to Executive Order Number 13224. Once again, this Court agrees with the defendants.

The assets seized for analysis and the funds blocked by OFAC's order have been seized and blocked "pending investigation" of Global Relief and others. Thus far, no agency of the United States government has declared or requested any forfeiture of assets to the government. Nor have any individuals or Global Relief been charged with any crimes. Hence, Global Relief's request for a preliminary injunction is directed only to the release of funds and materials seized for investigative purposes while the investigation itself is ongoing.

To justify its emergency search and, to some extent, the blocking order, defendants have asked this Court to review materials, in camera and ex parte, without revealing them to Global Relief or its attorneys. In accordance with our order of April 5, 2002, we have reviewed materials furnished by the FBI to us and have concluded that they are relevant to the ongoing investigation and that their disclosure to Global Relief, while the investigation is pending, could undermine this investigation and others of national significance.

BACKGROUND

Global Relief began operating in 1992 as a domestic, non-profit corporation chartered and headquartered in Illinois. According to its complaint, Global Relief claims to be a charitable organization that funds humanitarian relief programs throughout the world. These programs allegedly distribute food, fund schools for orphans, and provide medical services.

Global Relief characterizes itself as the largest U.S.-based Islamic charitable organization "with respect to the geographic scope of its relief programs." (Complaint ¶ 12.) As contributions to Global Relief increased (in 1995, the organization reported accepting donations totaling $431,155; by 2000, it reported nearly $3.7 million), it appears to have expanded the reach of its efforts. In 1995, it reported funding programs in Chechnya, Bosnia, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Lebanon. It reported funding additional programs in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan in 1996, Bangladesh in 1997, Iraq and Somalia in 1998, Albania, Belgium, China, Eritrea, Kosovo, and Turkey in 1999, and, eventually, Ethiopia, Jordan, Palestine, and Sierra Leone in 2000. Global Relief also has funded programs in Gaza and the West Bank. (Complaint ¶ 11.) To assist with the distribution of humanitarian aid abroad, Global Relief established regional offices in Belgium, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan. Reportedly, such offices received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions, in addition to the amounts reported by the headquarters in the United States. Although Global Relief has funded relief programs in the United States, over 90 percent of its donations have been sent abroad.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States. Individuals hijacked four commercial airliners containing passengers and crew and flew them deliberately into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City as well as into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. The fourth plane was diverted from its path and crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 people were murdered.

On September 24, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency with respect to the "grave acts of terrorism and threats of terrorism ... and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on United States nationals or the United States." Exec. Order No. 13224, 66 Fed.Reg. 49074 (2001). The President determined that the acts perpetrated on September 11 constituted "an unusual and extraordinary threat to national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States." In light of the "pervasiveness and expansiveness of the financial foundation of terrorists," the President cited the need for financial sanctions against individuals or organizations that engage in or support terrorism throughout the world.

On December 14, 2001, pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, then-acting Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson authorized the search of Global Relief's Bridgeview, Illinois office and the residence of its executive director. The FBI's Chicago Division Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted both searches. From the Global Relief office, the FBI seized items including computers and servers, modems, a cellular phone, hand-held radios, video and audio tapes, cassette tapes, computer diskettes, a credit card imprinter, foreign currency, U.S. mail, photographs, receipts, documents, and records. From the executive director's residence, the FBI seized computers, computer diskettes, video and audio tapes, cassette tapes, date books, a cellular telephone, a camera, a palm pilot, credit cards, foreign currency, photographs, documents, records, and $13,030 in U.S. currency. Since being seized, the items removed from both the Global Relief office and the executive director's residence have been secured in FBI custody for review and analysis.

Also, on December 14, 2001, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and President Bush's Executive Order, OFAC issued a "Blocking Notice and Requirement to Furnish Information" to Global Relief, which "froze," until further notice, the funds, accounts, and business records in which the organization had an interest. OFAC has claimed that it acted on the basis of substantial classified and unclassified information related to Global Relief's possible connections with terrorist organizations.

The blocking order advised Global Relief of the administrative procedures available to it should it choose to contest OFAC's action, including the right to challenge the blocking and to seek licenses to resume operations in whole or in part. Although Global Relief applied for and was granted licenses to access limited blocked funds to pay for legal expenses, salaries, payroll taxes, health insurance, rent, and utilities, it did not challenge the blocking order itself through administrative procedures.

On January 28, 2002, Global Relief filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief and for a writ of mandamus with this Court, naming Paul H. O'Neill, Colin L. Powell, John Ashcroft, R. Richard Newcomb, and Robert S. Mueller III, in their official capacities, as defendants (collectively, the "defendants"). In its petition, Global Relief requested that the defendants be ordered to "unfreeze" its assets and return the items seized during the search of the organization's office and the executive director's residence. In addition, on February 12, 2002, Global Relief filed a motion for preliminary injunction, arguing that the blocking of its assets and records was both unlawful and unconstitutional.

DISCUSSION

In its motion, Global Relief has requested a preliminary injunction from this Court that would serve to enjoin the defendants from: 1) blocking or otherwise controlling Global Relief's property; 2) barring Global Relief from doing business; 3) withholding Global Relief's records; 4) "smearing" its name; and 5) punishing Global Relief's donors for making donations to the corporation. (Global Relief Prelim. Injunction Brief at 2.) In this circuit, to obtain a...

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