Treasury Dept confiscates domain names of Brit travel agent who booked Cuba tours

The US Treasury Department confiscated the domain names of a British/Spanish travel agent who specializes in Hemingway tours of Cuba. Treasury claims that since Americans might have made reservations through the sites, that they were entitled to march into the domain registrar and take away a foreigner's business.
Susan Crawford, a visiting law professor at Yale and a leading authority on Internet law, said the fact that many large domain name registrars are based in the United States gives the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, control “over a great deal of speech – none of which may be actually hosted in the U.S., about the U.S. or conflicting with any U.S. rights.”

“OFAC apparently has the power to order that this speech disappear,” Professor Crawford said.

The law under which the Treasury Department is acting has an exemption, known as the Berman Amendment, which seeks to protect “information or informational materials.” Mr. Marshall’s Web sites, though ultimately commercial, would seem to qualify, and it is not clear why they appear on the list. Unlike Americans, who face significant restrictions on travel to Cuba, Europeans are free to go there, and many do. Charles S. Sims, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose in New York, said the Treasury Department might have gone too far in Mr. Marshall’s case.

Link (Thanks, Bill!)


  1. They will never stop until someone stops them. Addington has even said as much saying that they intend to push until they meet some resistance. So far there has been none, not even from Dems.

    BTW, FISA is not looking so good. It appears that it will come to a vote soon and that immunity will go through.

  2. We should take all the US military sites off the internet as well, since they facilitate the travel of many Europeans to Cuba/Guantanamo.

  3. The poor US government, what would “they” do if not screw up on a daily basis? If only we could get rid of that idiot president and his utterly corrupt toadies. They all need to be sent to Cuba!

  4. Agreed Jeff.

    (comment threadjack)
    Question regarding FISA: where’s the best place online to keep up with all those shinanigans. I’m very interested (as we all should be) to see how that turns out. (/threadjack)

  5. I do think it’s crap, but to be fair, these were all .com domains which are administered by the US Department of Commerce. So there is a bit of overlap there. Anyone in the world can register them, but the domain space is “owned” by the US. (At least as far as something like domain space can be owned.)

  6. We recently covered this in our podcast. This overly broad application without so much as a court hearing is particularly disturbing in light of Bush’s decree (executive order) of July 17th, 2007 “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq”. This decree directs the Treasury Dept to seize the assets of those who interfere with the US backed govt of Iraq. A similar executive order was issued on behalf of the White House’s foreign policy interests in Lebanon as well.

    At the time, this order received relatively little press. The White House said it was necessary to stop “perpetrators of violence in Iraq …”

    However, this decree was criticized by some as so broad that it could potentially apply to any activism or dissent which undermines the US backed government of Iraq.

    In light of the Treasury’s actions on these domains I now worry that political activists and dissidents could face seizure of their own domains under Bush’s executive order.

  7. the non-American based domain registries would like to express their appreciation to these busy,busy little people and encourage them to do more of the same

  8. Aren’t the arguments for having the DNS entries being US based basically to prevent this sort of action from happening?

    It seems that the benevolent dictator approach the US has just lost the benevolence. What won’t the US gov’t screw up?

  9. I see a profitable consulting business. For a reasonable fee, I will review all your personal and corporate vulnerabilities vis-a-vis American government confiscation and extra-territorial attack. No sense in investing where an arbitrary dictatorship can take your money and work. I need a brand….. “Bushco-Proofing?”

  10. Well, this certainly goes a long way towards reviving the push by other countries to remove domain registration from US control and placing it with an international body.

    If this doesn’t happen, I can easily see there being a split in the internet and those of us who actually valuing freedom of expression using non-US DNS services as a primary source.

    To #8, it’s well documented (now) that the Bush administration had begun working with AT&T and Verizon, etc. on monitoring calls and internet traffic several months before 9/11. Any benevolence disappeared no later than Bush took office.

    Given the Clipper Chip fiasco, I think it started well before that. We’re not far behind Britain in demanding that people hand over private keys for all encrypted information.

  11. That would be a legitimate part of risk management. But I don’t think that most businesses that would be impacted have RM teams. As the US increases its efforts to freeze foreign assets, domains, etc. it could be a growth industry. Your first client would likely be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

  12. In light of this and many other stories in the recent press, we of the Rest Of The World would like to convey the following message to the USA:

    “Dear America – What. The. Fuck?”

  13. You know, citizens of a free country would be able to travel anywhere they please…

    Now show me your papers.

  14. On a land of the free note, I can’t travel to Mexico this spring break without government issued ID and a passport or birth certificate.

    WTF, when did ‘papers please’ stop being a snarky phrase and start being the reality???

  15. Why would anyone wish to leave the Fatherland? It is highly suspect, all this foreign travel.

  16. What I find most interesting is the fact that he had more than 80 websites, all basically doing the same thing (selling travel to Cuba) but taking different “angles”. Sounds like a great idea. I just finished putting up a web shop yesterday (which have had no business yet, because I have not yet promoted it), I will now create many other shops, selling basically the same thing. And learning from his experience, they will not be all under my own name.

  17. Umm, what the US could do to any company dealing with Cuba, no matter what country they were from started with this.

    It changed the domestic/international policy divide overnight because basically it was a domestic piece of legislation that said any company anywhere in the world that trades with Cuba and whose trade brings into play any materials once owned by US concerns in Cuba, or US citizens (who were Cuban at the time, thereby covering most everything industrial and commercial that exists in Cuba). Could be sued in the United States. Whether or not they had anything to do with the US of A.

    Time to stop commenting here and start pushing back eh?

  18. the current American recession can be explained in part by the removal of foreign capital from a risk zone. Every time they do something like this (the domain theft), one more investor hedges his bets elsewhere. After a while,the effect is noticeable.

  19. WTF! Rage isn’t a strong enough word to describe my response to this latest piece of totalitarian bullying. As if the absurd US embargo on Cuba weren’t shitty enough, the good ole US of A now decides it can take it upon itself to ‘own’ the internet and interfere with the perfectly legitimate activities of citizens of other sovereign states. Looks like McCarthy and J Edgar Hoover never went away and that America never escaped from the 1950s. You guys have really, really got to bring about some serious changes…

  20. We ban travel to Cuba to protest their oppressive government that jails dissidents and stifles free speech.

    Now let’s all drive to Wal-Mart and pick up some cheap crap made by Chinese slave labor.

  21. I was talking to a Cuban pal of mine yesterday and talking about this issue. He’s in Miami and asked me if I wanted to go to Cuba next week while I’m visiting. I had to say no, for obvious reasons. But still, it’s a small world and I can’t quite understand why the US needs to continue making its point by punishing Cuba. It’s like beating up the poor little kid, just because you can.

  22. URINALPOOPER, if that is your real name, you make an excellent point. You might also want to point out though, that 10% of the american adult population cannot join you at wal-mart because they are currently incarcerated.

    Cuba is a lovely place, just got back from Holguin and environs, made even nicer by the dearth of loud obnoxious americans, although the loud obnoxious brits come a close second. The poverty is pretty brutal though, and the continuing embargo by the US is just mean at this stage of the game, and all for being p0w3d by castro 50 years ago. Hell hath no fury like a republican scorned.

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