One of the most shocking developments since 9/11 is President Biden’s decision to wheel against victims of the attacks in favor of relief for the Taliban regime. Mr. Biden this morning issued an order to put $3.5 billion out of reach of a lawsuit being levied by 9/11 families over money in Afghanistan’s central bank. He will instead set aside the money “to benefit the Afghan people,” the White House says, but first a federal judge has to agree.
Mr. Biden is trying to try to palm off on Americans the idea that the money he’s putting out of reach of the 9/11 families won’t go to the Taliban itself. The administration promises “a path for the funds to reach the people of Afghanistan, while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban.” That canard ignores the fact that the 9/11 families have already won a judgment in federal court for every dollar of the $7 billion in question.
That’s a point that a federal judge, Sarah Netburn, may want to weigh when she rules on the September 11 families’ case. That $7 billion judgment, entered in federal district court in 2012, has the full force of law. The award coincides with the amount in the Federal Reserve’s vault at New York in the account of Afghanistan’s central bank. So Mr. Biden proposes taking from the 9/11 families and giving to the Taliban.
Mr. Biden seems, at least to us, to be oblivious to how mendacious his plan is. “Even if funds are transferred for the benefit of the Afghan people,” the White House says, “more than $3.5 billion” will be left over for the 9/11 families. What does that mean, though, if not that the Americans should be happy with half a loaf and the rest should go to a Taliban that is not only an enemy of the Afghan government in whose account the money is held but is an enemy of America?
Nor is the administration even certain the remnant of the money will go to the 9/11 families. The “assets would remain in the United States,” the White House says, and remain “subject to ongoing litigation by U.S. victims of terrorism.” The 9/11 families, a fact sheet about Mr. Biden’s order says, would “have a full opportunity to have their claims heard in court.” The White House seems to have contempt for the fact that the 9/11 families already had their claims heard, and they won.
The White House does concede the 9/11 families have received “writs of execution” — court orders — allowing them to seize the Afghan assets at the Fed. Yet the seizure has been delayed while Mr. Biden’s Justice department decided what to do. The White House now says “the court will need to issue a further decision regarding the scope of those writs.” That leaves the matter, the White House says, “pending a judicial decision.”
It sets the stage for a dramatic showdown in Judge Netburn’s courtroom in Manhattan. Judge Netburn has previously granted two requests by the Justice department to delay the seizure of the funds, citing “the interest of comity” and “complicated questions of law and policy.” Now that the White House has spoken, the Justice Department is expected to ask today that Judge Netburn to approve its scheme.
We did put in a call to the spokesman for Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban National Resistance Front, Ali Nazary. He scoffs at the idea that money Mr. Biden might send the Taliban would go to humanitarian aid. He argues that the funds on deposit at the Fed should be set aside for a legitimate Afghan government and the 9/11 families’ claims laid, instead, to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which he calls “a proxy of Pakistan,” and their sponsors.
So far, we have yet to spy any questioning from Judge Netburn of the Justice department’s requests for a delay in the dispute. Now that the case is down to tachlis, though, the question is whether our independent judiciary will step up and rule against Mr. Biden’s proposal to take billions from the 9/11 families and hand it over to one of the very organizations responsible for the horrors of that day.