Jim McAndrew, a former top customs official detailed to head up enforcement of laws relating to cultural property, expressed serious concerns about the US State Department's and DHS' current handling of cultural property laws at this week's panel discussion at the New York City Bar. In brief, McAndrew believes US Customs agents may be confusing their roles. When McAndrew was in charge, he made sure whenever there was a foreign request for a seizure there was some suspicion US law was being violated. Now, however, McAndrew is concerned that while their badges say US Customs, DHS appears to be acting as Chinese, Egyptian, Italian, etc. Customs, i.e., there seems to be a "seize first" mentality based on little more than a foreign request.
Moreover, McAndrew, who also was a member of the State Department's "Cultural Antiquities Task Force," believes State views its sole mission as completing as many MOUs as possible. Whatever the law says or whatever the negative impact on US collectors and small businesses don't appear to be considerations.
Jim McAndrew thus joins former Deputy Legal Adviser Mark Feldman and former CPAC members in expressing serious concerns about how our government handles these issues. And with what appears to be a pre-judged Egyptian MOU on the horizon, it's well past time for members of Congress and the media to take notice.
CPO hopes to provide a complete summary of Thursday's panel discussion in the near future.