On May 25, 2023, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild filed comments with the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, to object to proposed extension of the MOU with the Government of Bulgaria as it impacts the importation of ancient coins.
Our procedural objections complained that the Federal Register public notice of only 5-days before the filing deadline was untimely and effectively denied the public the ability to submit meaningful comments. Our substantive objections focused on the Cultural Property Implementation Act, where we argued that ancient coins did not qualify as artifacts of “cultural significance,” that ancient coinage cannot be assumed to have been “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of Bulgaria, that other available “less drastic remedies” existed, that Bulgaria had not taken adequate measures to protect its cultural patrimony, and that there was no indication that the current 2019 United State-Bulgaria MOU was effective. Doug Mudd, of the American Numismatic Association, testified on the ACCG’s behalf at the CPAC’s public zoom session on June 5, 2023, because Randy Myers was unavailable. The ACCG's comments can be found at https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0016-0031.
On January 10, 2023, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild joined by the American Numismatic Association, filed commentswith the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, to object to proposed MOUs with the Governments of North Macedonia and Uzbekistan, as it applied to the import restriction of ancient coins.
While the public notice was published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2022, the CPAC’s website failed to state that they were considering import restrictions on coins until January 2f2023. Our comments raised a number of procedural and substantive objections.
Our procedural objections complained that the public notice was untimely, vague and inadequate, which effectively denied the public the ability to submit meaningful comments. Our substantive objections focused on the Cultural Property Implementation Act, where we argued that ancient coins did not qualify as artifacts of “cultural significance,” that ancient coinage cannot be assumed to have been “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of the two counties, that other available “less drastic remedies” existed, that neither country submitted a statement of facts for the CPAC’s “determination,” and that coins minted after 1773 cannot be restricted since the Act requires objects be “at least two hundred and fifty years old.” ACCG and ANA comments objecting to North Macedonia coin restrictions RMyers 1.10.2023.pd. ACCG and ANA comments objecting to Uzbekistan coin restrictions RMyers 1.10.2023.pdf
Written comments on the new proposed MOUs with North Macedonia and Uzbekistan must be received by January 23, 2023 at http//www.regulations.gov, enter docket DOS-2022-0048, then follow the prompts.
On November 15, 2022, the ACCG filed another Freedom of Information Act administrative appeal, this time for Customs and Border Protection’s refusal to produce any documents regarding three coin seizure incidents. Based on CBP’s earlier production to us of seized asset spreadsheets, our FOIA request centered on 24 coin seizure incidents, which was later reduced to nine incidents to avoid duplication. After CBP referred our FOIA request for six of the incidents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their response to us, the CBP then declined to produce any documents regarding their own three coin seizure incidents by asserting various FOIA Exemptions.
Our FOIA administrative appeal argues that the CBP's denial violates their own regulations and that the FOIA Exemption withholdings was erroneous. We also argue that the CBP failed to abide by FOIA’s requirement to provide “reasonably segregable” documents, since they could have produced the documents with limited redactions. We are concerned that the CBP’s FOIA blanket denial basically allows the CBP to seize property secretly, without an administrative or judicial forfeiture, while denying the public’s ability to know of the agency’s actions. It would defeat the very purpose of FOIA, which the Supreme Court states is intended to give citizens the means to know “what their Government is up to," which is “a structural necessity in a real democracy." Besides our FOIA administrative appeal, the ACCG has also filed a request to the Office of Government Information Services, which offers dispute resolution services between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies.
On October 17, 2022, we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Customs and Border Protection, for the glossary to explain their SEACATS spreadsheet column headings and designations. SEACATS stands for “Seized Asset and Case Tracking System” and details seizures of property by Federal agencies like the CBP. This FOIA request occurred after we earlier won a FOIA administrative appeal decision on September 30, 2022, when CBP provided us with a 13-page partially redacted SEACATS spreadsheet on their seizure of various items. But while the SEACATS spreadsheet listed 53 incidents where CBP seized coins between 2009 and 2021, their spreadsheet contained cryptic column headings and cryptic two and three letter designations that are unintelligible to the layman. In the meantime, however, we reached out to the Institute for Justice, at ij.org, a nonprofit public interest law firm that focuses on exposing government abuses and securing constitutional rights. The Institute, who earlier engaged in a multiyear legal battle with CBP for the SEACATS data codes, provided us with one of their reports which explained many of the SEACATS data codes. Now that we have most of the data codes and a better understanding of SEACATS list of CBP’s seizures, we plan to further examine the circumstances and outcomes of past CBP coin seizures.
On September 30, 2022, the ACCG won its Freedom of Information Act administrative appeal, were we sought documents from Customs and Border Protection, on the creation and enforcement of the Designated Lists of import restricted ancient coins of ten nations. Back on February 5, 2022 Customs and Border Protection had responded to our FOIA requests that they had "no documents." We then filed a FOIA administrative appeal that contended that their response was factually inaccurate and that they failed to conduct a thorough and reasonable search. In upholding our FOIA administrative appeal on September 30, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security’s FOIA Appeals, Policy & Litigation Branch informed us that responsive documents did exist. As for our request for documents on the creation of Designated Lists, they provided us with 66 pages of partially redacted records, while explaining that their agency only engaged in a “ministerial” function of publication in the Federal Register, and that it was “the State Department, through the Cultural Property Committee, [that] creates the Designated Lists.” As for our request for documents on the enforcement of Designated Lists, they provided us with 13 pages of partially redacted spreadsheets from their Seized Assets and Case Tracking System (SEACATS), that identified fifty incidents between 2009 to 2021 where they seized coins, most of which were “antique.”
On July 7, 2022 the ACCG filed comments with the Cultural Property Advisory Committee objecting to the proposed MOU with Libya as it impacts the importation of ancient coins We raise one procedural objection, and five substantive objections, why import restrictions should not include ancient coins, except to the extent that it is an artifact that has been identified as looted from one of Libya’s World Heritage sites.
The comments can be found here:
On April 14, 2022 the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild filed comments with the Cultural Property Advisory Committee objecting to the proposed MOU with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as it impacts the importation of ancient coins. We raise two procedural objections, and five substantive objections, why import restrictions should not include ancient coins.
On April 11, 2022, the ACCG submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of State, regarding the Designated List of restricted ancient coins from Albania, that was published by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on March 17, 2022. We requested seven categories of documents, including the basis of their “determinations” to legally justify such restrictions, how the restrictions can legally apply to coins that circulated outside Albania, and how they considered the public comments earlier submitted to the Cultural Properties Advisory Committee.
Our FOIA administrative appeal contends that Customs and Border Protection does have such responsive documents, and we cite not only the agency's legal obligations under FOIA's text and caselaw to conduct thorough and reasonable searches but offered examples where such CBP documents exist.
On January 13, 2022, the ACCG submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of State, regarding the Designated List of restricted ancient coins from Egypt, that was published by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on December 3, 2021. We requested eight categories of documents, including the basis of their “determinations” to legally justify such restrictions, how the restrictions can legally apply to coins that circulated outside Egypt, and how they considered the public comments earlier submitted to the Cultural Properties Advisory Committee.
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