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May 16, 2007 

Civil Rights Group Sues Treasury Department Over SDN List

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for denying access to records concerning the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) maintained by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

As a result of complaints from U.S. consumers that were wrongly associated with names appearing on the SDN list, in 2005 the LCCR filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with Treasury seeking access to specific information regarding the SDN List, including calls made to OFAC's compliance "hotline" regarding SDN-related issues, procedures for individuals to remove their names from the SDN List and the number of complaints from individuals that were erroneously included on the SDN List.

In response to the FOIA request, OFAC said that the agency did not track complaints from individuals, maintained no complaint mechanisms for consumers mistakenly flagged by the watchlist and would not provide policies or procedures since such records were not covered by FOIA. To date, OFAC has yet to release any of the requested documents.

LCCR's lawsuit requests the court to find that OFAC violated FOIA and demands immediate disclosure of the requested documents.

In March 2007, the LCCR published a report entitled "The OFAC List: How a Treasury Department Terrorist Watchlist Ensnares Everyday Consumers" which cited numerous examples of individuals who were denied consumer transactions because of erroneous matches to the SDN List. The report mentions the names of prominent individuals, including Barack Hussein Obama, Alberto Gonzales, Muhammad Ali, etc. whose first, middle or last names appear on the SDN List and therefore may be confused with a restricted person.

A copy of the LCCR's Complaint and accompany attachments (including the LCCR's FOIA request letter and correspondence from Treasury) can be found at:
http://www.lccr.com/5%2016%2007%20OFAC%20FOIA%20Complaint.pdf
(Note: This is a large file).

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