In an article Monday in the New York Sun, Claudia Rosett may have found one of the missing links in the Obama administration's Iran ransom story.
The White House says the $1.7 billion it agreed to give Iran in January wasn't in exchange for the release of American hostages but rather to settle a $400 million arms deal that fell apart after the shah was toppled in 1979. The additional $1.3 billion, said the administration, was interest. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, the $400 million was paid in cash. And that's because President Obama explained, "we couldn't send them a check and we couldn't wire the money."
Rosett's detective work suggests that Obama was lying. It seems likely that the $1.3 billion was wired only a few days after the cash was delivered on January 17. Rosett's reporting suggests that the sum was paid through the Judgment Fund, which, according to a Treasury Department website, writes Rosett, is "a permanent, indefinite appropriation" used to pay monetary awards against U.S. government agencies in cases "where funds are not legally available to pay the award from the agency's own appropriations."
Rosett searched an online database maintained by the Judgment Fund. "A search for 'Iran" since the beginning of this year turns up nothing," she writes.
But a search for claims in which the defendant is the State Department turns up 13 payments for $99,999,999.99.
They were all made on the same day, all sharing the same file and control reference numbers, all certified by the U.S. Attorney General, but each assigned a different identification number. They add up to $1,299,999,999.87, or 13 cents less than the $1.3 billion Messrs. Clinton and Kerry announced in January.
Treasury has provided no answers to my queries about whether these specific payments were for the Iran settlement. Nor why these transfers comprised 13 payments, each of which was a cent under $100,000,000.
Rosett continues: "State has refused to disclose even such basic information as the date on which Iran took receipt of the $1.3 billion. As recently as August 4, a State spokesman told the press: 'I don't have a date of when that took place.'"
However, last week Obama administration officials briefed reporters to explain that, according to Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper'sTwitter feed, the $1.3 billion has already been paid. And, they said, paid "through [the Department of] Treasury" in an "'above-board way.'"
It's not clear what the senior administration officials meant by "above-board" but as the Judgment Fund website explains, the "preferred method" for payments is "by electronic fund transfer."
If, as Rosett's story suggests, the 13 payments the Judgment Fund sent to the State Department represents the $1.3 billion in interest, the administration has some questions to answer. Was the interest paid in cash like the $400 million, or by wire? If the latter, why was the $400 million paid in cash?