H.R. 4985, Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016

H.R. 4985

Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016

Sponsor
Rep. John Katko

Date
May 10, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4985, the Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on April 18, 2016 by Rep. John Katko (R-NY) and was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary. The Committee on the Judiciary ordered the bill reported on April 20, 2016, without amendment, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4985 amends the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to protect classified information in federal court challenges involving international drug kingpins. Under current law, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is able to designate international drug traffickers as kingpins, and thereby block them from using the U.S. financial system. A designee can challenge their listing in federal court. However, the Kingpin Act does not contain a provision to protect classified information when such information is used as the basis for a designation. As a result, the U.S. government risks having classified information being publicly disclosed.[1] H.R. 4985 permits OFAC to submit classified information to defend its designations in federal district court without it being publicly disclosed.

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[1] See Rep. Katko’s Press Release, “Katko Takes Action to Crack Down on International Drug Trafficking, Combat Central New York Heroin Epidemic” April 20, 2016.

Background

In 1999 Congress passed the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, giving the U.S. Department of the Treasury the authority to block any individual determined to be a specially-designated narcotics trafficker from property and interests in property in the United States. The names of individuals and entities designated are incorporated in a publicly available list of Specially-Designated Nationals and listed in the Federal Register.[1]

Since 2000, OFAC has designated more than 1,800 people, all of whom are non-U.S. persons. These designations can be made under both the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Kingpin Act, and are often based upon classified information. Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, OFAC is permitted to submit information “ex parte in camera” to a court. However, under the Kingpin Act, such a mechanism does not exist to protect classified information from potential release during a delisting process. According to the Judiciary Committee, that means OFAC may lose the opportunity to designate a high-level drug kingpin because it cannot risk the disclosure of classified information.[2]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “As a former federal organized crime and narcotics prosecutor, I recognize that attacking the heroin epidemic requires the targeting of high-level drug traffickers – both domestically and internationally. In order to do so effectively, we must ensure that we are able to impose the toughest sanctions on these drug kingpins.  This important, bipartisan legislation strengthens the process by which we hold international drug traffickers accountable in Federal court, while protecting classified information from disclosure.”[3]

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[1] See Chairman Goodlatte’s Statement at Markup of H.R. 4985, the “Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016” April 20, 2016.
[2] Id.
[3] See Rep. Katko’s Press Release, “Katko Takes Action to Crack Down on International Drug Trafficking, Combat Central New York Heroin Epidemic” April 20, 2016.

Cost

An official Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.