Obama administration refuses release documents about $1.7 billion ransom payment to Iran
On the same day in January that sailors captured by Iran were released, a $1.7 billion payment was made to Tehran, ostensibly a settlement of a longstanding legal dispute.
So says the White House. The fact that the announcement of the payment was made almost simultaneously with the release of the hostages was just "coincidence" says the administration.
Congress is demanding certain documentation on the legal settlement that the administration is refusing to supply. This has fueled speculation that the payment was, indeed, ransom that the White House doesn't want made public.
Congressional efforts to compel the Obama administration to come clean about the payment have yet to yield results, prompting a separate effort to determine whether the White House overpaid Iran and is now withholding information that would prove this claim, according to documents obtained by the Free Beacon.
Lawmakers suspect that key records relating to the $1.7 billion payout were not properly maintained over the years and are now seeking to force the Obama administration to hand over the evidence.
The timing of the March legal settlement has raised questions on Capitol Hill among lawmakers who view it as part of the Obama administration’s effort to free 10 U.S. sailors who had been abducted by Iran. It also is suspected that the payout was another byproduct of last summer’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
“Earlier this year, the administration announced a $1.7 billion settlement to a case that had been pending for 35 years before the [International Claims] Tribunal, claiming it was in the American public’s best interest to settle,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), one of the lawmakers spearheading the disclosure effort, told the Free Beacon. “But we’ve never seen the documents and we don’t know why a settlement was announced, conveniently, the day after restrictions were lifted on Iran’s Central Bank.”
The Obama administration denies all charges that the payment was related to Iran’s release of the U.S. hostages. The settlement, the administration maintains, was part of an effort to resolve decades-old legal disputes with Iran over several arms deals that were canceled in 1979, following the installation of Iran’s hardline Islamic government.
One congressional adviser who has worked on the issue told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration continues to hide information about the source of the $1.7 billion payout, which was taken from a taxpayer-funded legal account maintained by the Treasury Department.
“The entire payment has been shrouded in mystery from the beginning,” the source said. “The administration had to be badgered into even revealing where the money was coming from, and only now we’re finding out why they were so reluctant to reveal details: half of what they’re claiming contradicts the other half. But they can’t admit they paid a ransom to Iranian hostage-takers, because that would undermine their claims about how diplomacy with Iran works.”
The narrative must be saved at all costs. The administration touts the benefits of their opening to Iran while making a grubby, backroom deal - a bribe - to free our illegally held sailors. The Iranian government sees the payment as ransom, so the administration's denial rings hollow, indeed.
Congress should know by now that if the administration wants to keep something from them, they're not going to get it without taking them to court and getting a federal judge to order the release of the relevant documents. This is a process that usually takes years as the Justice Department does everything in its power to delay disclosure. Even then, the administration stonewalls the judiciary by claiming they can't find something or other documents don't exist or have been destroyed.
We'll probably never discover for sure where that money came from and what its real purpose was. But at least the narrative will remain intact and the president's legacy will be secure.