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ANYONE ELSE a bit TROUBLED by the FIFA INDICTMENTS?

I have mixed feelings about the FIFA indictments.  I have little doubt that at the very least soccer is badly governed and may be corruptly so.  (Of course all defendants in the US legal system are innocent until proven guilty!)  Here are some thoughts about soccer in general and the World Cup specifically.

But my light skim of certain pages of the indictments do suggest something troubling:  the use of the US banking system and the use of the US communications system (wouldn’t in be ironic if USA Patriot Act powers were used to catch the FIFA defendants?  More on that below.) to invoke the jurisdiction (power) of the US courts and law over foreign parties.  They may technically be right; I would make that argument that extraterritorial reach of US criminal law is unconstitutional and violates international law.  But the USA Patriot Act DOES extend the power of the US criminal law in banking areas beyond the borders of the US.

Many in the world (especially in the UK press) regard us as a hero for having the courage to act against FIFA.  They have a point:  Smaller nations – even Britain – might not want to push the issue against FIFA for fear of retaliation against your football/soccer national federation.

Let me also raise a third point:  This series of trials will take (taxpayer paid) resources away from prosecuting terrorists, tax evaders or real drug dealers.  But I have a more profound question:  But what happens when the cheering stops?

And it never started in Russia for example:

“Without going into the details of the accusations … this is clearly another case of illegal exterritorial use of US law,” said a statement on the website of the Russian foreign ministry.

***

“Once again we are calling on Washington to stop attempts to make justice far beyond its borders using its legal norms and to follow the generally accepted international legal procedures,” it said.

Doesn’t Russia have a point?  It was not Russia’s Duma that targeted individuals and companies for human rights abuses internal to Russia and its alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict:  It was our Congress.  We have done a similar policy, for example, in Zimbabwe:

Fact: U.S. targeted sanctions apply to only 113 Zimbabwean individuals and 70 entities (mostly farms and legal entities owned by the 113 individuals) as of February 18, 2014.  For an up-to-date list, please go to http://sdnsearch.ofac.treas.gov/ and select “Zimbabwe” from the list on the Program menu.

Do we always do it right?  Ask a Serb:  we attached their nation in 1999 for no real reason.

How about the Iraq War? I would say the failure of that policy is evident.

Or Afghanistan?  Yes we had to go to Afghanistan but could have done it differently.

How about economic sanctions that hurt innocent people with little or no say in their government’s actions?

What will happen when the cheering stops?  And it will stop when foreign nations, leaders and entities realize this could happen to them.  And the NSA spying program could look especially menacing after this realization sets in.  As Ron Paul would say:  There’s blowback coming.  Nations are not going to allow us to be the prosecutor and punisher of worldwide crimes or alleged crimes without their consent.

One form of blowback might be an attempt to try US citizens for extraterritorial crimes.  Our former President Bush has been threatened with that very thing:  Arrest by foreigners.  (They might even snatch them from the streets of the USA and force them to be tried in foreign courts – we have endorsed this in the Alvarez-Machain case.)

Another might be if we end up hosting the 2018 or 2022 (or even 2026) World Cup is a boycott and even perhaps an alternative event (remember the Goodwill Games?) could be set up.  I do think we must renounce hosting the World Cup if we proceed with these indictments.

Another could be an attempt to set up an alternative banking system with a new reserve currency.  There is some evidence China is doing exactly that.  Even Britain wants to join!

It might turn out that more good will come of this then bad.  But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Arrogance and superiority is not the answer; humility and working to protect the sovereignty of smaller nations is a better policy.  Let’s be careful to use our power wisely and discreetly.

Yes, defend our rights when necessary.  Yes even go to war.  But do it constitutionally – to paraphrase what a famous and great man once said:  Declare the war or authorize the military action, fight it and win it and come home.

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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