International Emergency Economic Powers Act

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International Emergency Economic Powers Act
Great Seal of the United States.
Long title The International Emergency Economic Powers Act
Colloquial acronym(s) IEEPA
Enacted by the  95th United States Congress
Public Law 95-223
Stat. 91 Stat. 1626
U.S.C. sections created 50 U.S.C. §§1701-1707
Legislative history
United States Supreme Court cases
Dames & Moore v. Regan

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Title II of Pub.L. 95–223, 91 Stat. 1626, enacted October 28, 1977, is a United States federal law authorizing the President to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States which has a foreign source.


In the United States Code, the IEEPA is Title 50, §§1701-1707.[1] The IEEPA authorizes the president to declare the existence of an "unusual and extraordinary threat... to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States" that originates "in whole or substantial part outside the United States."[2] It further authorizes the president, after such a declaration, to block transactions and freeze assets to deal with the threat.[3] In the event of an actual attack on the United States, the president can also confiscate property connected with a country, group, or person that aided in the attack.[4]

The IEEPA falls under the provisions of the National Emergencies Act (NEA), which means that an emergency declared under the act must be renewed annually to remain in effect, and can be terminated by Congressional resolution.


Curtailment of Emergency Executive Powers[edit]

Congress enacted the IEEPA in 1977 to clarify and restrict presidential power during times of declared national emergency under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 ("TWEA"). Under TWEA, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, presidents had the power to declare emergencies without limiting their scope or duration, without citing the relevant statutes, and without congressional oversight.[5] The Supreme Court in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer limited what a president could do in such an emergency, but did not limit the emergency declaration power itself. A 1973 Senate investigation found (in Senate Report 93-549) that four declared emergencies remained in effect: the 1933 banking crisis with respect to the hoarding of gold,[6] a 1950 emergency with respect to the Korean War,[7] a 1970 emergency regarding a postal workers strike, and a 1971 emergency in response to inflation.[8] Congress terminated these emergencies with the National Emergencies Act, and then passed the IEEPA to restore the emergency power in a limited, overseeable form.

Unlike TWEA, IEEPA was drafted to permit presidential emergency declarations only in response to threats originating outside the United States.[9] Beginning with Jimmy Carter in response to the Iran Hostage Crisis, presidents have invoked IEEPA to safeguard U.S. national security interests by freezing or "blocking" assets of belligerent foreign governments,[10] or certain foreign nationals abroad.[11]

IEEPA After 9/11[edit]

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13224 under IEEPA to block the assets of terrorist organizations.[12] The President delegated blocking authority to federal agencies led by the U.S. Treasury. In October 2001, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act which, in part, enhanced the IEEPA asset blocking provisions under §1702(a)(1)(B) to permit the blocking of assets during the "pendency of an investigation." This statutory change gave the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control the power to block assets without the need to provide evidence of the blocking subject's wrongdoing nor to permit the blocking subject a chance to effectively respond to the allegations in court.[13] Executing these blocking actions led to a series of legal cases challenging federal authority to indefinitely prevent charitable organizations from accessing their assets held in the United States.[14]


Notable Cases[edit]

IEEPA Violations[edit]

  • On December 16, 2009, it was announced that the U.S. Dept. of Justice reached a settlement with Credit Suisse over accusations that the bank assisted residents of IEEPA sanctioned countries to wire money in violation of the Act from 1995 to 2006. The settlement resulted in Credit Suisse forfeiting $536 million.[18]

Current subjects of IEEPA emergencies[edit]

As of 2013, commerce with the following, among others, are restricted under IEEPA:[19]


  • Iran (since 1979 for the Iran hostage crisis and subsequent sponsorship of terrorism)
  • Myanmar (since 1997 for repressing democratic opposition)
  • Sudan (since 1997 for human rights violations and sponsoring terrorism)
  • Russia (since 2000 to prevent export of weapons-grade uranium, since 2014 regarding the Crimean crisis)
  • Zimbabwe (since 2003 for undermining democratic institutions)
  • Syria (since 2004 for sponsorship of terrorism and later for human rights abuses)
  • Belarus (since 2006 for undermining democratic institutions)
  • North Korea (since 2008 for risk of the proliferation of weapon-usable fissile material)


Exports in general[edit]

Many federal regulations dealing with export restrictions are based on IEEPA authority. This regulatory system was developed under the Export Administration Act of 1979. When the law nearly expired in 1984, the President declared the expiration to be an emergency and reauthorized the entire set of regulations then in force. The same happened in 1994 when the law finally expired, and this presidential extension of export restrictions has continued ever since.

Past subjects of IEEPA emergencies[edit]

  • Haiti (1991–1994)
  • Iraq (1990-2004 for invading Kuwait)
  • Kuwait (1990–1991, while occupied by Iraq)
  • Liberia (2001-2004 for human rights violations)
  • Libya (1986-2004 for sponsoring terrorism)
  • Nicaragua (1985-1990 for aggressive activities in Central America)
  • Panama (1988-1990 for military coup by Manuel Noriega)
  • Serbia and Montenegro (1992-2003 for sponsoring Serb nationalist groups)
  • Sierra Leone (2001-2004 for human rights violations)
  • South Africa (1985-1991 for maintaining apartheid)
  • UNITA (1993-2003 for interfering with UN peacekeeping efforts)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 50 U.S. Code Chapter 35 - INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY ECONOMIC POWERS | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2014-06-16.
  2. ^ 50 U.S.C. §1701(a)
  3. ^ 50 U.S.C. §1702(a)(1)(B)
  4. ^ 50 U.S.C. §1702(a)(1)(C)
  5. ^ H. Rep. No. 95-459, at 7 (1977) "[the TWEA] has become essentially an unlimited grant of authority for the President to exercise, at his discretion, broad powers in both the domestic and international economic arena, without congressional review. These powers may be exercised so long as there is an unterminated declaration of national emergency on the books, whether or not the situation with respect to which the emergency was declared bears any relationship to the situation with respect to which the President is using the authorities"
  6. ^ Executive Order 6102
  7. ^ Executive Proclamation 2914,
  8. ^ S. Rep. No. 93-549, at 2 (1973),
  9. ^ 50 U.S.C. §1701(a)
  10. ^ Executive Order 12170, 44 C.F.R. 65,729
  11. ^ Exec. Order No. 12,978, 60 C.F.R. 54,579 (1995) (blocking the assets of certain Colombian narcotics traffickers)
  12. ^ Exec. Order. No. 13224, Sec. 1(a),
  13. ^ Kindhearts v. Geithner, 647 F. Supp. 2d 857, 866, ND Ohio 2009,,14&as_vis=1
  14. ^ See e.g., id.
  15. ^ KindHearts v. Geithner, supra
  16. ^ USDOJ: Office of the Pardon Attorney: Clemency Recipients. Retrieved on 2014-06-16.
  17. ^ Williams, Timothy; Rashbaum, William K. (2006-08-25), "New York Man Charged With Enabling Hezbollah Television Broadcasts", The New York Times 
  18. ^ Press Release, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Credit Suisse Agrees to Forfeit $536 Million in Connection with Violations of the International Emergency Powers Act and New York State Law (Dec. 16, 2009)
  19. ^ U.S. Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control, Sanctions Programs and Country Information