Threatening Letter to Bobby Fischer

I am deeply thankful to a person who says that he wishes not to be identified for providing a copy of the 1992 letter from the US Treasury Department which, in effect, made Bobby Fischer an international fugitive from justice.

My initial reaction is that this letter constitutes an unconstitutional bill of attainder and, as such, constitutes a violation of Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the United States.

A Bill of Attainder is defined in the law as: "A law or legal device which outlaws people, suspends their civil rights, confiscates their property, or punishes without a trial."

Generally, any act of a legislative body which targets a particular person constitutes an unconstitutional bill of attainder. This is why the United States Congress in proposing and drafting laws always tries to be careful to write laws which apply generally to all and do not single out any individual or group. The "Windfall Profits Tax" was found by the courts to be an unconstitutional bill of attainder because it exempted from the law the North Slope of Alaska.

In this case, we do not even have a law but rather have an arrogant declaration by an agency bureaucrat directed to the punishment of a person: Bobby Fischer. Bobby Fischer is ordered not to play chess with Boris Spassky. This order comes from the authority of the President of the United States.

However, the United States of America is supposedly not a dictatorship. President Bush had no legal right to order Fischer not to play chess. Bush's "Executive Order" to the extent that it applied to Fischer was plainly illegal. Therefore, sending this letter to Fischer was a crime.

Perhaps even more importantly, there was no way that the Executive Order of President Bush could be interpreted as prohibiting Fischer from playing a game of chess. The Executive Order "prohibits U.S. persons from performing any contract in support of a commercial project in Yugoslavia, as well as from exporting services to Yugoslavia."
Bobby Fischer in Argentina

Fischer did not engage in any commercial activity in Yugoslavia. Fischer did not export any services to Yugoslavia. Playing a game of chess is clearly not "exporting a service."

The United States Supreme Court long ago ruled that Americans have the constitutional right to travel. I suppose that if a person travels to Yugoslavia and orders a meal in a restaurant, he could be said to be engaging in a "commercial activity". However, if that is the definition, then this makes the constitutional right to travel a nullity.

Somebody said, "Fischer is not that important. He is not entitled to special treatment."

However, that is precisely the problem here. A great multitude of American citizens traveled to Yugoslavia during the war. Not one of them has ever been prosecuted for violating Bush's "executive order." Our own United States Chess Federation continued to buy chess books from Yugoslavia throughout the war. Yet, not one official of the United States Chess Federation is in jail for this (although that is where some of them belong, in my opinion).

One of my closest friends, Charles Weldon, a distinguished professor of Computer Science at City University of New York, went to Yugoslavia during the war. Clearly, his presence in Yugoslavia, in view of his position of one of America's most distinguished computer scientists, was a matter of more serious concern than a few games of chess played by Bobby Fischer. Yet, Weldon was never harassed by the US Government because of his presence in Yugoslavia.

Unfortunately, this had a tragic end. Weldon became ill with appendicitis, which would have been easily treatable in America. Because of the US embargo, Weldon could not get adequate treatment in Belgrade where he was and died as a result. I am told by a mutual friend, a girlfriend we once shared who became a medical doctor, that Weldon was asking about me just before he died.

I believe that the Treasury official who wrote the letter to Fischer, R. Richard Newcomb, should be criminally prosecuted for writing this letter. Making threats such as those contained in his letter which are without legal basis and which cannot be carried out is clearly a crime. Please note that Newcomb threatened Fischer with ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If Mr. Newcomb happens to be a lawyer, he can easily be disbarred for writing this letter.

The tragedy is that this 1992 letter made Bobby Fischer an international fugitive from justice and he has not returned to America because of this.

I must also mention that it was within this time frame that my own daughter was kidnapped in the United Arab Emirates in 1990 from my care and custody through the efforts of a State Department official named Stephen R. Pattison. The sort of arrogance of these federal government officials in writing threatening letters to Bobby Fischer and in kidnapping my 8-year-old daughter, Shamema, is exactly what is being cited by those who hole up in the mountains of Montana and Idaho and who declare themselves sovereign and independent of US authority and who blow up federal office buildings and try to kill federal officials for reasons which they feel are entirely justified.

Sam Sloan

PS: For those who missed it, here again is the full text of the letter to Fischer:

Department of the Treasury
Aug 21, 1992

Order to Provide Information and Cease and Desist Activities

FAC No. 129405

Dear Mr. Fischer:

It has come to our attention that you are planning to play a chess match for a cash prize in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) (hereinafter "Yugoslavia") against Boris Spassky on or about September 1, 1992. As a U.S. citizen, you are subject to the prohibitions under Executive Order 12810, dated June 5, 1992, imposing sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. The United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control ("FAC"), is charged with enforcement of the Executive Order.

The Executive Order prohibits U.S. persons from performing any contract in support of a commercial project in Yugoslavia, as well as from exporting services to Yugoslavia. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the performance of your agreement with a corporate sponsor in Yugoslavia to play chess is deemed to be in support of that sponsor's commercial activity. Any transactions engaged in for this purpose are outside the scope of General License No. 6, which authorizes only transactions to travel, not to business or commercial activities. In addition, we consider your presence in Yugoslavia for this purpose to be an exportation of services to Yugoslavia in the sense that the Yugoslav sponsor is benefiting from the use of your name and reputation.

Violations of the Executive Order are punishable by civil penalties not to exceed $10,000 per violation, and by criminal penalties not to exceed $250,000 per individual, 10 years in prison, or both. You are hereby directed to refrain from engaging in any of the activities described above. You are further requested to file a report with this office with 10 business days of your receipt of this letter, outlining the facts and circumstances surrounding any and all transactions relating to your scheduled chess match in Yugoslavia against Boris Spassky. The report should be addressed to: The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Enforcement Division, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Annex - 2nd floor, Washington D.C. 20220. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Merete M. Evans at (202) 622-2430.

Sincerely, (signed)
R. Richard Newcomb
Office of Foreign Assets Control

Mr. Bobby Fischer
c/o Hotels Stefi Stefan (Room. 118)
85 315 Stefi Stefan
Montenegro, Yugoslavia


Charles P. Pashayan, Jr., Esq.
1418 33rd St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20007

Choate & Choate
Attorneys at Law
The Pacific Mutual Building
523 West Sixth Street
Suite 541
Los Angeles, CA 90014

U.S. Embassy
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

UPDATE: The above letter may be viewed in adobe PDF format on Bobby Ang's home page.

After 27 years of giving almost no interviews with the press, Bobby Fischer has been interviewed on the radio three times. Here are two of those interviews!

Here is commentary on a question which has been posted about Where is Bobby Fischer?

Here is: The Outrageous Letter which made Bobby Fischer an International Fugitive From Justice.

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