President Joe Biden can’t touch anything without having it turn to disaster, and that, alas, is the case with billions in previously frozen Afghan funds meant to compensate terror victims and their loved ones.
In a February executive order, Biden effectively confiscated $7 billion of those funds, which had been sitting in US banks, and directed half for Aghan humanitarian aid and half for US victims of terror. Critics question his right to such action, yet surely the Taliban’s role in 9/11 and the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa justify any move to keep the money out of their hands.
Trouble is, Biden’s order limits the pool of terror victims who’d benefit from their $3.5 billion half to only those who already had claims on the cash — about 150 people (and possibly some insurance companies that promise to distribute funds to other victims). That leaves out thousands of others who suffered in the 9/11 and other attacks, rewarding only those who managed to get to the courthouse early.
Sure enough, a legal battle has erupted between victims over the pot, an especially ugly development considering the horrors these people have already endured. Congress sought to avoid just such a nightmare — and to ensure all terror victims are treated fairly — when it set up the US Victims of State Sponsored Terror fund in 2015. Yet Biden’s order simply bypasses that fund, leaving just the lucky (politically connected?) few to benefit.
And get this: Fees to lawyers who help victims get compensation from the VSST fund are capped at 15%, while attorneys who serve as go-betweens on Biden’s funds get up to 33% — more than $1 billion. It’s right to suspect that might be the motive behind Biden’s order, especially since one of the lawyers repping the lucky victims, Lee Wolosky, had worked for Team Biden on Afghan matters 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 steering of the assets to plaintiffs represented by a recently-departed White House official and the sheer amount of money at issue raise considerable questions about President Biden’s order” — creating “at the very least” a perception of “impropriety,” charge GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Nicole Malliotakis (NY) and Mike Johnson (La.) in a letter to the White House.
Biden could fix the problem and avoid favoritism by simply amending his order and directing the $3.5 billion to the VSST, where it can be doled out to all terror victims equitably while also saving on lawyers’ fees. If he doesn’t, Congress should legislate such a move, over the prez’s veto if necessary.
Terror attacks on individual Americans are attacks on the entire nation, which thus has a moral obligation to provide whatever compensation it can. But fairly — not by picking a select few to reward while neglecting thousands of others.