Way back in April of 2004, I wrote the following note to Sam Brownback:
I’m writing to you because you sit on the subcommittee which oversees the Treasury. I just saw an AP report that, since 1990, the Treasury has only opened 93 enforcement actions on terrorism financing, resulting in $9,425 in fines. In contrast, the Treasury has opened 10,683 actions over the Cuba embargo, yielding over $8 million since 1994. Had the Treasury taken the threat from Osama bin Laden as seriously as it took Fidel Castro, would we face as deadly an enemy today?
This is not a partisan issue, it cuts across three presidencies. Has the Office of Foreign Assets Control re-assigned resources to reflect the changed realities of 2001, or is it still fighting the Cold War? These are questions that must be asked. If Congress needs to shift funds or provide guidance to the Treasury, it should do so, to make clear that depriving terrorists of funds is a greater threat than pursuing a policy against Cuba that is no more likely to succeed now than it has been for the last 50 years.
With a Democratic Congress, we finally get some answers. Alas, they are bad answers:
Catching Americans who travel illegally to Cuba or who purchase cigars, rum or other products from the island may be distracting some American government agencies from higher-priority missions like fighting terrorism and combating narcotics trafficking, a government audit to be released Wednesday says.
The report, from the Government Accountability Office, says that Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts secondary inspections on 20 percent of charter passengers arriving from Cuba at Miami International Airport, more than six times the inspection rate for other international arrivals, even from countries considered shipment points for narcotics.…
The audit also called on the Treasury Department to scrutinize the priorities of its Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces more than 20 economic and trade sanctions programs, including those aimed at freezing terrorists’ assets and restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but has long focused on Cuba.
Between 2000 and 2006, 61 percent of the agency’s investigation and penalty caseload involved Cuba embargo cases. Over that period, the office opened 10,823 investigations into possible violations involving Cuba and just 6,791 investigations on all other cases, the audit found.
All I want for Christmas is a government that takes its responsibilities seriously.