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Aiding the Enemy Acts

The outbreak of war normally ends all forms of normal relations between belligerent states. In support of the war effort municipal laws may be implemented to prevent citizens and other persons within a belligerent state's jurisdiction from assisting an enemy state through trade or other forms of contact. In the United States, for example, the Trading with the Enemy Act (40 Stat. 411 as amended [1917]) suspends all forms of trade or communication with persons in enemy territory. The statutory or executive restrictions imposed under the Trading with the Enemy Act are limited to formal periods of war, although other authority exists permitting the president to impose restrictions on trade or communications with a country without a declaration of war.

Because the Trading with the Enemy Act and similar statutes apply specifically to other nations in times of war, their provisions do not apply easily to dealings between citizens of the United States and members of terrorist organizations. After the SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS were perpetrated by terrorist organizations against the United States, Congress enacted the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) (Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 277) in order to strengthen the ability of the United States to protect itself from terrorist activities. The USA Patriot Act amended the existing statutory provisions permitting the president to restrict transactions and other transfers with foreign countries, organizations, and persons in order to respond to unusual and extraordinary threats against the United States.

The current statutory provisions allowing the president to impose economic sanctions against a nation that the president deems to be a threat against the United States are provided by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Pub. L. No. 95-223, 91 Stat. 1626 (50 U.S.C.A. §§ 1701-1702). Under this act, the president may, with respect to any person or property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, investigate, regulate, or prohibit transactions in foreign exchange; transfers of credit or payments by or to any banking institute; or importation or exportation of SECURITIES or currency. The president and the federal government may also confiscate property owned by certain foreign countries, organizations, or nationals.

Violation of an EXECUTIVE ORDER issued pursuant to the IEEPA prohibiting trade with a foreign nation or organization may result in criminal sanctions. During the Gulf War in 1991, President GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH issued an executive order prohibiting citizens of the United States from traveling to or dealing with the government of Iraq. Arch Trading Company, Inc., a corporation based in Virginia, violated this decree by completing a contract with Iraq. The U.S. government brought criminal charges against the company for conspiring to commit an offense against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 371 (2000). Despite arguments by the company that violation of the order was not an "offense" under federal law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the company could be properly charged. United States v. Arch Trading Co., 987 F.2d 1087 (4th Cir. 1993).


Bordwell, Percy. 1994. The Law of War between Belligerents. Littleton, Colo.: Fred B. Rothman.

Green, Leslie C. 1999. Essays on the Modern Law of War. 2d ed. Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational.


Rules of War; War.

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