Friday, January 21, 2011

State, CBP Take Direction from AIA on New Restrictions on "Coins of Italian Type"

I have noted that the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center and US Customs and Border Protection have ignored the following in extending new restrictions on "coins of Italian type:"
  • Prior precedent from 2001 and 2006 when such coins were exempted from import restrictions on Italian cultural artifacts;
  • The vast majority of public comment to CPAC; and
  • The concerns expressed by members of Congress, including the current chairs of the House Budget and Foreign Relations Committees.

In contrast, State and Customs adopted the suggestion of the Archaeological Institute of America's President that restrictions should be focused on the early coins of Italy including Greek and Etruscan issues. See Helpfully, someone (presumably also from the AIA) then provided State and Customs with the names of the two major references in the field, Rutter and Hill, to cite to in the applicable regulations.

In retrospect, this should not be all that surprising. The State Department's Cultural Heritage Center has been run like a wholly owned subsidiary of the AIA for years. State has dispensed millions of dollars to support archaeological projects abroad after AIA members savaged the Bush administration for the looting of the Iraq Museum. The AIA's influence at State (the bureaucratic competitor of the Pentagon) and with Customs officials that work with State on repatriation matters has only increased since that time. Now, we've just reached a point where State and Customs are willing to casually throw out existing precedent, and ignore public and Congressional opinion based on what the AIA's President suggests. Don't get me wrong. Dr. Rose has always acted most professionally at CPAC hearings and has done much to tone down the rhetoric (if not the attitudes towards collectors) at the AIA. Nonetheless, the State Department's process for imposing import restrictions was meant to reflect the views of all stakeholders, and not just that of the archaeological community. That archaeological interests are now paramount is not what the drafters of the statutory authority contemplated, nor is it acceptable or desirable from a public policy perspective.

1 comment:

Wayne G. Sayles said...

And, of course, the above is precisely why ECA will not release the time of day to the general public without being forced to do so (FOIA notwithstanding). The DOS bureaucracy is the antithesis of transparency and it's not hard to figure out why. I'm surprised that the AIA ethics committee can't see a problem with this appearance of collusion that has rightly been called "Un-American". Can this really be for the greater good? Or ultimately for the good of Archaeology?