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Largely unreported sections of an executive order signed last week by President Obama grant the U.S. government the right to seize property of American citizens determined to be undermining, even indirectly, the democratic processes or threatening the peace in Ukraine.

The executive order does not define which actions constitute a threat to Ukrainian democracy or peace.

It cites the National Emergencies Act, which subjects to revocation the constitutional right to habeas corpus, the requirement to bring an arrested individual before a judge or court.

The text of the executive order extends to the actions of what it calls any “U.S Person.”

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A “”U.S. Person” is defined by the order as “any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.”

The order freezes property of “U.S. Persons” deemed by the treasury secretary in consultation with the secretary of state to have been “responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly” in the following:

  • Actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;
  • Actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or
  • Misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine.

It’s hardly the first time Obama has issued an executive order extending the National Emergencies Act. The act was cited in previous orders on Russian highly enriched uranium, Iran sanctions and national security threats by terrorists.

Much of the major news media coverage of last week’s executive order focused on the sections that seek to impose restrictions on Russia or foreign interests while scarcely mentioning U.S. citizens are impacted.

Reuters reported that “President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered sanctions on people responsible for Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, including travel bans and freezing of their U.S. assets.”

CNN led the coverage by quoting senior administration officials telling reporters in a phone call the executive order means to “send a strong message that we intend to impose costs on Russia for this intervention.”

The Guardian newspaper of London ran the headline “U.S. imposes visa restrictions on Russian officials as Obama signs sanctions order.”

The second section of the order clamps down on “unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry” into the U.S. for those deemed to be undermining Ukraine’s democracy.

With additional research by Joshua Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.

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