Reading the "choices" as laid out to Assistant Secretary Dina Powell in the State Department's "action memo" I can only conclude that the "fix was in" on imposing import restrictions on coins of Cypriot type, perhaps even before the prospect of including coins was first disclosed during Cyprus MOU hearing in January 2007. See http://www.accg.us/issues/news/lawsuit-pries-loose-documents-more-being-contested.
Preordained decisions going against past precedent do not just happen. Rather, they are usually the product of some undue influence behind the scenes. Thinking about which group might have been best situated to have had such influence has led me to consider the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute ("CAARI") as a prime "suspect." See http://www.caari.org/index.htm.
CAARI's primary purpose is to promote cultural exchanges with Cyprus in the form of US sponsored archaeological investigations on the Island. In addition, however, CAARI has also emphasized its stand on collecting. In particular, CAARI's code of ethics states that "the illicit trade of antiquities [must] be actively discouraged." See http://www.caari.org/CodeofEthics.htm. While this sounds noble, in practice this means support for the dubious proposition that any artifact without a detailed ownership history should be deemed "stolen" as a matter of law. As such, groups like CAARI support imposing the "Devil's proof" on collectors of even common artifacts, like coins, to prove the negative. Not surprisingly, imposing the Devil's proof is just what import restrictions do -- like those now in place on coins of Cypriot type.
Certainly, CAARI publicly supported the renewal of the Cyprus MOU and the inclusion of coins. That, of course, is its perogative. However, what makes me queasy is the suspicion that CAARI likely traded on its contacts with the Department of State ECA over cultural exchanges to plead Cyprus' case for import restrictions behind the scenes. The board of CAARI certainly has more than its fair share of former diplomats. In addition, Ellen Herscher, a well known advocate of the proposition that unprovenanced artifacts should be deemed stolen, serves as the organization's VP. See http://www.caari.org/Trustees.htm.
Did CAARI exercise undue influence to press for the inclusion of coins in the Cypriot MOU? Was that influence so great it's recommendations could even supplant those of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the committee of experts which by statute has the role to advise the State Department on such matters? Hopefully, we will learn more as the FOIA litigation brought against the State Department by ACCG, IAPN and PNG unfolds.