Washington, DC – Today, Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) sent a second Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Treasury to obtain records that will shed light on the Obama administration’s decision to ship more than $1.7 billion in untraceable cash to Iran. In light of recent testimony before Congress, as well as reports of concerns expressed by the Department of Justice, questions remain surrounding the decision to send cash rather than make the payments using more transparent means.

CoA Institute President and CEO, and former federal judge, Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.: “Regardless of the merits of the settlement agreement, and regardless of whether the cash payments created ‘leverage’ for the release of American hostages, shipping more than $1.7 billion in untraceable cash to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism appears to be unjustifiable – particularly when alternative, more transparent means were available.”

Between January 14 and February 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury transferred approximately $1.7 billion to Iran. The payments allegedly settled a long-standing claim before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, but Obama administration officials have also conceded that the payments served as “leverage” to ensure the release of several Americans held hostage by Iran. The Treasury Department wired each of the payments to a European bank, where it was then converted into foreign currency and the cash disbursed to an Iranian official.

Last month, President Obama said that “we had to give [the Iranians] cash . . . because we’re so strict in maintaining sanctions.” This month, the Treasury Department provided testimony to Congress directly contradicting the president’s statement and asserting that in fact the U.S. government has broad leeway to engage in transactions necessary to settle claims before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.  In fact, the Department of Treasury recently confirmed to Politico that two wire transfers occurred from the U.S. to Iran around the same time period.

This discrepancy raises questions about the nature of the payments and why – if they were made pursuant to a settlement agreement and therefore could have been wired – the Obama administration agreed to pay the Iranians in untraceable cash.

The FOIA requests all relevant Treasury authorization records for these payments as well as certain communications between the Treasury Department and the State Department concerning the settlement.

The full FOIA request can be found here.