In a move that pits national security concerns against academic freedom and the international flow of information, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control recently declared that American publishers cannot edit works authored in nations under trade embargoes. Although publishing the articles is legal, editing is a “service” and the treasury department says it is illegal to perform services for embargoed nations. It can be punishable by fines of up to a half-million dollars or jail terms as long as 10 years.
This week, one publisher decided to challenge the government and risk criminal prosecution by editing articles submitted from the five embargoed nations: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Cuba.
In a statement issued Friday in response to questions from the Los Angeles Times, Bush’s science advisor, indicated unease with the regulations but said he supports “the use of economic sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism.”
While they wait for possible action, organizations are struggling to decide what to do. Recently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has some 360,000 members worldwide, applied for a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control that would allow it to edit pieces by authors from embargoed nations.
Richard Newcomb, director of the office, said that request is being reviewed. Newcomb said the office does not see its ruling as involving 1st Amendment rights or inhibiting academic exchanges. Rather, he said, the regulations are a technical interpretation of how Congress intended embargoes to be enforced.