Photo: DefenseImagery.mil via Wikimedia Commons
On Feb. 23, a group meeting in the White House Situation Room made the call to develop a plan that would freeze Colonel Muammar Qaddafi‘s assets.They were hoping to seize $100 million.
70-two hours later, they ended up with an “excess of $29.7 billion — yes, that’s a B.”
(And they could have done it sooner; American officials waited for a ferry carrying 150 US citizens to leave Tripoli before initiating the seizures.)
The Washington Post details the timeline, offering a fascinating look at the mechanisms and players involved.
Normally, the process takes weeks or months, but the United States moved with exceptional speed.
Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence who drafted Executive Order 13566, delivered a plan on the morning of Feb. 24. His report showed Qaddafi had billions stored in banks around the U.S., most of it in one, unnamed location.
The Obama administration made the decision to hold off until the ferry and a chartered plane carrying embassy employees left Tripoli, but executed the order at 8 p.m. the next day.
According to the Post, “Within minutes, dozens of employees at the nation’s largest banks, who had remained at their desks that night waiting for the signal, sprang into action. They began freezing more than $30 billion in an effort to cripple a violent dictator half a world away.”
The model will be case study going forward in how to impose sanctions and, possibly, avoid military action.
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