Biden’s order on Afghan funds puts interests of lawyers ahead of victims of US terrorism
President Joe Biden can’t touch anything without it turning into a disaster, and sadly that’s the case with the billions in previously frozen Afghan funds intended to compensate victims of terrorism and their loved ones.
In a February executive order, Biden effectively confiscated $7 billion of those funds, which had remained in US banks, and directed half to Aghan humanitarian aid and the other half to US victims of terrorism. Critics question his right to such action, but the Taliban’s role in 9/11 and the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa certainly justify any move to keep the money out of their reach.
The problem is that Biden’s order limits the pool of terror victims who would benefit from their half of $3.5 billion to those who already had claims on the money — about 150 people (and possibly certain insurance companies that promise to distribute funds to other victims). That leaves out thousands of other victims of the 9/11 attacks and others, rewarding only those who made it to the courthouse early.
Sure enough, a legal battle erupted between the victims over pot, a particularly ugly development considering the horrors these people have already endured. Congress sought to avert such a nightmare — and ensure that all victims of terrorism are treated fairly — when it created the US Victims of State Sponsored Terror Fund in 2015. Yet Biden’s order simply bypasses that fund. , leaving only the lucky (politically connected?) few to benefit.
And get this: Fees for lawyers who help victims get compensation from the VSST fund are capped at 15%, while lawyers who serve as intermediaries on Biden funds get up to 33% — more than a billion dollars. It’s fair to suspect that this might be the motive for Biden’s order, especially since one of the attorneys representing the lucky victims, Lee Wolosky, had worked for the Biden team on Afghan cases until just days before quitting and taking them on as clients.
“The White House’s apparent desire to avoid the established VSST Fund process, the transfer of assets to plaintiffs represented by a recently deceased White House official, and the amount of money involved raise considerable questions about the order. of President Biden” – creating “at the very least” a perception of “irregularity,” GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Nicole Malliotakis (NY) and Mike Johnson (La.) charge in a letter to the White House.
Biden could solve the problem and avoid patronage by simply changing his order and directing the $3.5 billion to the VSST, where it can be distributed to everything victims of terrorism fairly while saving on attorney fees. If he doesn’t, Congress should legislate such a decision, beyond the prez’s veto if necessary.
Terrorist attacks against Americans are attacks against the nation as a whole, which therefore has a moral obligation to provide whatever compensation it can. But fairly – not by choosing a select few to reward while neglecting thousands of others.