I (and supposedly many other who had written emails to ACS expressing their concerns regarding the expulsion of Iranian members) received the following letter from ACS a couple of days ago. It carries two main points with it:
1. That ACS will not be providing its members in sanctioned countries with two of the membership services (career development and subsidized attendance of ACS meetings)
2. ACS's future coordination with National Academies regarding scientific collaboration.
The PDF file was sent from ACS's president's email account and is password protected.
American Chemical Society
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Catherine T. Hunt
Immediate Past President, 2008
May 19, 2007
Dear [Deleted Name],
Thank you for your recent communication regarding the American Chemical Society's (ACS) action affecting its members residing in Iran. We have carefully reviewed all of the comments from concerned ACS members and others on this complex issue. In addition, our General Counsel and his staff have innitiated additional contacts with the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and have conducted a further legal review. We are pleased to inform you after considering all of these factors we have reinstated these chemists from Iran as ACS members.
The ACS will now be offering members in OFAC sanctioned countried our member benefits, with two main restrictions: these members will not have access to services relating to career development and they will not be able to register for ACS national meeting at discounted rates. As you may know, the ACS has for many years pursured policies to foster freedom of scientific exchange and collaboration. We are continuing our efforts, through an OFAC licensing application, to be able to provide these members with all ACS member services. In addition, we are coordinating with the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific societies on broader OFAC issues relating to scientific collaboration.
Again, thank you for your valuable input on this important issue.
Caterine T. (Katie) Hunt
ACS Vision: Improving People's Lives through the Transforming Power of Chemistry
The American Chemical Society -- with more than 160,000 members -- os the largest scientific society in the world. ACS is a nonprofit membership organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research.
After outcry, ACS restores members
36 Iranians and one Sudanese had been expelled
By Jonathan Zebrowski
Princetonian Senior Writer
In the wake of complaints from scientists worldwide, the American Chemical Society (ACS) announced Friday that it would reinstate chemists in Iran and Sudan whose memberships it had previously revoked on legal grounds.
The organization had initially barred 36 Iranian members and its one Sudanese member on the grounds that their membership violated U.S. trade sanctions on those countries. Of the Iranians, 22 did not receive membership renewal notices and the others, whose memberships were not up for renewal, were informed that their memberships had been terminated, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Monday.
But when ACS officials later consulted with the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the enforcement of those sanctions, they decided to reverse the earlier decision, an ACS press release said.
After the expulsions took place, "the [ACS] board received a number of letters from concerned ACS members who wanted their Iranian colleagues reinstated," the press release added.
On campus, the news of the expulsions spread swiftly through the scientific community. An email, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Princetonian, circulated among academic departments, criticized the organization's move and asked recipients to contact ACS officials and lodge complaints.
"It is understandable that the ACS's board of directors would try to protect the society against the fines predicted by the sanction laws, but the way the ACS has managed the issue is not what other societies have done in the past," the email said, adding that "the common procedure among scientific organizations" has been to ignore the provisions of sanction laws while applying for an exception in the meantime.
"I think that barring foreign members or any members from a society like this is outrageous," chemistry department associate chair Michael Hecht said in late April. "We don't penalize people for the opinions of their governments. Scientific or academic organizations should know better than to do this."
According to the latest ACS statement, the association will now offer memberships in all sanctioned countries, though it won't provide career development services and discount registration fees to national meetings.
The members who were barred were sent an email Friday inviting them to rejoin, and their membership fees and annual postage will be paid by an anonymous donor, ACS executive director Madeleine Jacobs told the Chronicle.
The ACS has over 160,000 members worldwide and provides "a broad range of opportunities for peer interaction and career development, regardless of professional or scientific interests," according to the organization's website.
Chronicle's coverage of the ACS incident is by far the most complete version of the story I know of. I expect it to have some inaccuracies though. read below:
American Chemical Society, in Reversal, Reinstates 36 Iranian Members
By BURTON BOLLAG
The American Chemical Society announced on Friday that it had reversed an earlier decision to expel its members in Iran and will allow all 36 scientists in that country to rejoin. The group had earlier said that having such members put the society in violation of U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.
The decision to remove the Iranians drew protests from academics, especially from Iranians living in the United States.
But a statement placed on the society's Web site on Friday said that, after further reviewing its legal options and after consulting with the federal agency overseeing the trade sanctions, the society's Board of Directors had decided to reinstate the Iranians.
They will, however, be denied two benefits that other members receive: the group's career-development services, and reduced-price admission to the society's twice-yearly national meetings.
The society's one member in Sudan -- another country under U.S. trade sanctions -- had also been removed and was being invited back with the same restrictions. The society, which has 160,000 members and calls itself the world's biggest scientific association, would not disclose whether its members in Iran and Sudan work for academic institutions, government agencies, or industry.
The society's executive director, Madeleine Jacobs, said the original decision to remove the Iranians and the one Sudanese had been made by midlevel staff members without her knowledge or that of the society's board. She said no employee would be penalized for the action.
"We had a snafu, a breakdown of communications," Ms. Jacobs said in an interview. "We would not have rescinded membership if it had come to my attention." Although the expulsions were carried out in January, Ms. Jacobs said she and the society's other senior officials had learned of the move from an article in the journal Science only at the end of March.
Ms. Jacobs said the whole affair started almost a year ago, when the unidentified member in Sudan inquired about his or her eligibility for all membership benefits despite the U.S. trade laws barring American organizations from doing business with people in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan, among other countries. The society's assistant general counsel, identified in the Science article as David T. Smorodin, conducted a review of U.S. government regulations and determined that the society was prohibited from having members in countries under trade sanctions.
The society then had an outside lawyer contact the agency overseeing the sanctions, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, and, without identifying the chemical society, inquire about restrictions on foreign membership. That inquiry appeared to confirm Mr. Smorodin's conclusion, Ms. Jacobs said, and the midlevel decision was made to rescind membership for the 36 Iranians and one Sudanese.
The decision harked back to a 2003 controversy in which the Treasury Department said it was illegal for American research journals to edit papers from scientists in countries under U.S. trade sanctions -- a policy that was latter rescinded. Since then, the chemical society appears to have been the only scientific group to drop members in those countries, Ms. Jacobs said. But another group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, cut off nearly all services to its Iranian members to comply with the trade embargo in 2002, leading all but a few hundred of its 1,700 Iranian members to quit (The Chronicle, October 17, 2003). Acting under guidance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the institute was later able to reinstate most of those services.
Ms. Jacobs said it was understandable that staff members at the society would be concerned about compliance with the law because her group offers a wider range of services than do most scientific societies.
Still, when the chemical society's senior officials and board members learned about the decision, at the end of March, Ms. Jacobs said, they immediately arranged to meet with representatives of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. From those contacts, they concluded that the Iranians and Sudanese could be members if they were denied the two membership benefits from which they are now excluded.
The society has now applied to the Treasury Department office for a license to extend full membership to scientists in countries under trade sanctions. "We want to obey U.S. law while promoting scientific cooperation," said Ms. Jacobs.
The society said it had joined other scientific associations in working with the National Academy of Sciences to try to get clarification from the U.S. government about "what is and what isn't allowed" in terms of academic cooperation with scientists in embargoed countries, said Ms. Jacobs.
As for the Iranians, 22 had simply not been sent membership-renewal notices this spring. But the other 14 Iranians, whose memberships were not up for renewal, had received notices of expulsion. As a gesture to make up for the "personal distress and hardship" that step may have caused, Ms. Jacobs said, the $136 annual membership fee and the $58 annual postage fee for the society's magazine were being paid by an anonymous donor for one year.
Ms. Jacobs said the Iranians and Sudanese were all invited to rejoin in an e-mail message sent on Friday.
Open Letter: American Chemical Society Should Repeal Unjust Expulsions and Reinstate Iranian MembersSat, 05/05/2007 - 7:58pm | by Khosrow-Allaf-Akbari
May 1, 2007
Dear Members of the American Chemical Society:
On behalf of the Iranian academic community and the Iranian American Professional Associations we are writing you to ask your assistance in reversing the unilateral decision of the Board of ACS to terminate the membership of chemists living in select countries, mainly in Iran, and mostly university professors.
We are Iranian Americans adhering to moral and ethical values. We would like to offer our strong support to our colleagues in Iran who need our help, not punishment motivated by irrelevant and unjustified intentions.
We believe that this decision is ill-conceived and misguided, without justification, and is gravely undermining the integrity of ACS as a prestigious scientific organization that we have collectively worked very hard to achieve. In this regard please note the following:
ACS decided to not renewthe membership of its Iranian members starting January 2007 without disclosing it to the public. ACS Members heard of this decision only when it was reported in the March 30, 2007, issue of the Science Magazine (1).
On April 9, ACS decided to go public, and at the same time file for an Exemption License with the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) (2). In its News Release of April 16, 2007, ACS actually makes reinstatement of these members conditional to the approval of its application by OFAC (3).
We believe that termination of Iranian membership was against the ACS Bylaws (4) that provides dismissal of members only for:
Sec. 3- Article 4:
â€œA member may be dropped from membership for nonpayment of dues or for conduct which in anywise tends to injure the SOCIETY or to affect adversely its reputation or which is contrary to or destructive of its objects. No member shall be dropped except after opportunity to be heard as provided in the Bylaws. (1/1/63)â€
None of the reasons stated above apply to this mass termination case, and due process was most certainly violated by this ACS decision.
ACS asserts that the dismissal was according to the advice of lawyers, both in-house and external, and intended to follow the rules governing the Sanction Law and Iran Trade Restrictions. ACS further claims that this decision was at the advice of OFAC (5).
Berman Amendment to the Sanction Law excluded Information Exchange from this law, and OFAC actually recognized this in its November 3, 2003 ruling (6), in which it makes a statement in favor of professional membership:
â€œThe prohibition in ITR Â§ 560.204 on exports to Iran or the Government of Iran does not apply to the exportation to any country of information and informational materials. ITR, Â§ 560.210(c)...
The extension of membership to and acceptance of annual dues from Iran in connection with receipt by Iran of the U.S. Entityâ€™s association publications and information would not be prohibited by the ITR.â€
If ACS has a ruling by OFAC that explicitly prohibits the membership of Iranian nationals in US professional organizations, then it has the duty to disclose such document to its members.
Paradoxically, no other professional organization has terminated its Iranian members.
ACS Executive Director and CEO, Ms. Madeleine Jacobs, even in this weekâ€™s C&EN (7), emphasizes that she was made aware by the lawyers that not dropping Iranian members would result in heavy fines of $500,000, up to 20 years jail sentence for key officers, and the danger that ACS would lose its tax-exempt status. This advice that was also given to IEEE in 2001 appears to us more like â€˜scare tacticâ€™ and is unfounded.
OFAC does not prohibit Information Exchange and Membership of nationals from Embargoed Countries in U. S. Professional Organizations, and to our knowledge it has never prosecuted or penalized any US professional organization, or its Board members, for violating US Laws by having Iranian members.
After having Iranian members for many years since passing of the Sanction Law, if ACS was still concerned about legality of having Iranian members, it could have applied for Exemption and exclude its Iranian members if its application was rejected by OFAC, and not use the â€˜Shoot first, ask later!â€™ strategy. This sort of action is not expected from a scientific Organization that believes in its own Constitution and the â€˜Universality of Science.â€™
Many US professional organizations have not even applied for Exemption license with OFAC to have Iranian members, because they believe that Sanction Law does not require them to do so.
Since the disclosure of the ACS decision many members of ACS and concerned members of other professional organizations have written to ACS and have expressed their dismay about the exclusion of Iranian members.
Please contact the President and Board members of ACS via firstname.lastname@example.org ask them to repeal this unjust decision and reinstate the Iranian members. Comments
With best regards,
Professor of Chemistry & former Academic Vice-President of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology,
Professor of Chemistry, Pace University
Adjunct Professor of Dermatology, New York Medical College
Former Chair of the ACS New York,
Prof. Fazlollah Reza
President and Founder of Iranian Academic Association of North America
Fariba Aria, Ph. D. in Chemistry
President, Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA)
Mohammad Behforouz, Professor of Chemistry
President, Shiraz University Association (SUA)
Ali Banijamali, Ph. D. in Chemistry
Chair, Iranian Chemists' Association of the American Chemical Society (ICA-ACS),
Ali Akbari, Professor of Economics, California Lutheran University
President, Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage (ASPIH)
Hamid Javadi, Ph. D., Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Iranian-American Physicists (IrAP) Network Group
(c/o Hamid Javadi, IrAP Network Group President)
Science, Vol. 315, 30 March 2007, page 1777
Chemical & Engineering News, April 9, 2007, page 11
Flint H. Lewis, ACS Secretary and General Counsel, Letter to Prof. D. Rahni
Chemical & Engineering News, April 23, page 9
I thank you WAYS members from Uganda for responding to the call to join this wonderful network. I also thank you for embracing the ideas of this group. I am sure that we have a lot to contribute and also benefit from this network. I encourage you to regularly visit the WAYS website for upcoming events, fellowship opportunities, science news and comments from all over the globe. I encourage you post useful articles and links which you deem beneficial to the science community. It is this way that active members are identified in case an opportunity, such as fellowships, readerships e.t.c, arises. Points are awarded for every entry you make.
Next month (May), we shall meet at Makerere University so that we can share more about WAYS, WAYS-Africa and chat a way forward.
As soon as the Date is set, I will let you know it plus the venue. Please, try as much as possible to inform and interest more people to join this network.
I look forward to your active participation as WAYS members.
WAYS-Africa, EC Member.
Deep regrets and strong dissatisfaction with the recent decision of the American Chemical Society to cancel the membership of several of its members living in Iran
April 21, 2007
Dear University Friends:
You have heard that the American Chemical Society (ACS) has adopted a new policy to expel its members from the Embargoed Countries including Iran, and to restrict their access to its publications. ACS is giving for this new policy exactly the same reasons that we have heard from IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers) 6 years ago, namely the possibility of heavy fines if they continue to have members in Iran.
It is very disturbing, because the Congress has not passed any new Sanction Law, and OFAC has not issued any new rulings since September 2003, when it revised its ruling and declared a general license to all organizations regarding activities such as information exchange.
Other US professional organizations like American Physical Society (APS), have not accepted to exclude their members in Iran, and until now no US organization has been fined for disobeying the law!
For the last few weeks, Dr. Rahni and several other senior Iranian members of ACS have been trying to resolve this issue by talking to ACS, but ACS is not willing to change its position.
Last Friday I wrote the following letter to ACS to update them of what was achieved in the last 6 years. I have also accepted to work with a committee of several senior Iranian chemists and representatives of other Iranian organizations to coordinate the campaign for restoring membership to excluded Iranian members of ACS. You will hear about this later.
But the experience with IEEE and AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) has showed that only a massive engagement of members, together with other professionals and university community can have any chance for success. It is an issue of Academic Freedom & Free Information Exchange, and it is not limited to chemists or members of ACS.
Please let us know if you are willing to write a letter to ACS officials and voice your opposition to their new policy. The number of E-mails they will receive on this issue is crucial!
E-mail addresses of ACS are:
****** ****** ******
Catherine T. Hunt, President
American Chemical Society
April 13, 2007
Dear Dr. Catherine Hunt:
As former Academic Vice-president & Chemistry professor at Sharif University, and Ex- President of SUTA (Sharif University of Technology Association), I am writing you to express my deep regrets and strong dissatisfaction with the recent decision of ACS to cancel the membership of several of its members living in Iran, and to limit services that you provide to your members, such as access to scientific information.
In 2001 the decision of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) to refuse editing of the scientific papers submitted by its members living in Iran, caused uproar of international scientific community. The decision was based on wrong interpretation of the Sanction Law by the lawyers, and a ruling of OFAC.
SUTA, in cooperation with scientists all over the world, worked hard to show that this decision was wrong, because information exchange was excluded from the Sanction Law.
At that time we were pleased that ACS, like many other US organizations, decided to adhere to their Bylaws, uphold the academic freedom of information exchange, and not follow the OFACâ€™s ruling. OFAC finally revised its ruling in September 2003 and issued a general license, and declared that many activities, such as scientific information exchange, are entirely "exempt" from the Iranian embargo rules.
Since that time there has been no new Sanction Laws by the Congress, or any new ruling by OFAC that would require you to implement your new policy towards your members living in Iran.
In the last 3 years two other US organizations tried again to restrict membership of their Iranian members, but they had to change their policies under the pressure of their own members.
Another irony is that ACS is the same organization that when an Iranian professor of chemistry was arrested few years ago in Iran, wrote a letter in defense of Academic Freedom and asked the Iranian Government for just treatment of him, but now you are implementing this policy and restricting the membership of Iranian chemists that could include the same professor!
As a long time member of ACS in the past, I urge you to repeal your new policy ASAP, before you further antagonize your members and the scientific community, and damaging the reputation of this fine organization. Comment
San Diego, California
I received this letter yeasterday from a concerned young scientist. It is asking us to email ACS officials and urge them to immediately reinstate their expelled members from sanctioned countries. The email addressed appear at the end of the letter.
The letter goes into details of the ruling and proves that what ACS has done is wrong according to the laws and also based on scientific agenda of free scientific collaboration.
I would recommend circulating this email in your academic / professional communities and among your friends who might be sympathetic to the cause.
Dear Academic Friends,
I hope you have heard about the incident in which the American Chemical Society dropped all its Iran-based (thirty-six) members in January (Science Magazine, Vol. 315, 30 March 2007). After a two-month delay, C&EN published two pieces of news on the matter, the latter of which misleadingly talks about ACS â€œmoveâ€ of having filed for a special license in April (ACS moves to reinstate its Iranian members, C&EN, April 16, 2007).
In light of the ongoing crisis between the United States and Iran, in a time when the new government of Iran is hampering social rights and liberties, the incident has gained more importance since it further isolates Iran's civilian science from the international scientific community.
The sort of measure taken by ACS is a troubling event for a learned society for a few reasons:
1. ACS took the measure voluntarily, without ever being asked by the Treasury Department.
2. ACS's measure was adopted *unilaterally*, without letting the affected members be heard. The ACS constitution does not allow its board of directors to take such a course of action:
â€œA member may be dropped from membership for nonpayment of dues or for conduct which in anywise tends to injure the SOCIETY or to affect adversely its reputation or which is contrary to or destructive of its objects. No member shall be dropped except after opportunity to be heard as provided in the Bylaws.â€ Article IV, Section 3, ACS Constitution.
3. ACS has been extremely coy in informing the scientific community of its decisions and measures as shown by the fact that its official newsletter published the news *after* Science Magazine wrote about it.
The reason given by ACS for its expelling the Iranian members was that American sanction laws do not allow ACS's subsidization of informational material and â€œservicesâ€ (knowing that Iranian chemists donâ€™t use such services). This practice, subsidizing scientific material for the members, is more than common among learned societies where every society subsidizes / facilitates its members' access to the journals and books published even by other publishers. In the past, APS had inquired from the Treasury Department about the possibility of having members in Iran and collecting fund from them. The reply by the Department was affirmative (Professional Membership Association Guidance):
â€œThe extension of membership to and acceptance of annual dues from Iran in connection with receipt by Iran of the U.S. Entityâ€™s association publications and information would not be prohibited by the ITR.â€
It is understandable that ACS's board of directors would try to protect the society against the fines predicted by the sanction laws (as stated by the ACS assistant general counsel), but the way ACS has managed the issue is not what other societies have done in the past. The common procedure among scientific associations has been that upon emergence of a doubt of non-compliance with sanction laws, the Society would continue its services to its members and apply for a special license in the meanwhile. ACS has decided to apply for the license after dropping its Iranian members, without ever being signaled by the Treasury Department that a license was needed. The academic community in general and APS in particular have been troubled by this stance of the ACS.
I understand that every one of us has come to the field he / she is working in for many different reasons. I also believe, that despite these differences, we share a common interest through the practice of our profession, which strives on two principles: free flow of scientific knowledge and open scientific collaboration. For this reason, I, as a member of an ad hoc group of concerned scientists, encourage you to email the board of directors of ACS and urge them to reinstate their Iranian members. You can also inform the officials of the scientific associations and academic communities that you belong to, and ask them to take a stance against the way ACS has been handling the issue.
The emails are:
email@example.com :Board of Directors
firstname.lastname@example.org :Anne Oâ€™Brian, Director of District I
email@example.com :Madeline Jacobs, CEO
firstname.lastname@example.org :Rudy Baum, Editor in Chief of C&EN official newsletter of ACS
Click here to send an email to all of the addresses above.
Click here to see the webpage of ACS board of directors
Read Test Tube Zealots by Professor David N. Rahni, a distinguished member of ACS, who has served as the chair of William H. Nichols Medal, the oldest ACS award in the nation.
Science 30 March 2007:
Vol. 315. no. 5820, p. 1777
Prev | Table of Contents | Next
News of the Week
ACS Drops Iranian Members, Citing Embargo
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has reluctantly rescinded the membership of some 36 Iranian scientists after the society determined that having members in Iran violates U.S. law. The society hopes to reinstate them after obtaining a government license, a step that could set a precedent for other U.S. societies with Iranian members.
U.S. organizations are prohibited from doing business with individuals in Iran, Cuba, and North Korea, but an exemption permits the trade of informational materials. That provision allows U.S. scholarly societies, whose journals are a major benefit to its overseas members, to retain ties to members in those countries.
But ACS's stance changed after Assistant General Counsel David Smorodin reread the embargo rules and concluded that selling publications to members at discount rates, a common practice, represents a service above and beyond the trade of informational materials. He also believes that membership benefits such as "insurance, career counseling, invitation to meetings, and educational opportunities" are not exempt under the rules, although he acknowledges that overseas members typically do not use those privileges. "We had no choice as a federally chartered organization but to comply with the law," says Smorodin, adding that his interpretation of the regulations did not "win [me] any friends within the ACS."
In January, ACS's membership off ice informed the society's 36 Iranian members that their memberships were being discontinued, although they could still purchase materials from the society at the full rate. The move angered David Rahni, an Iranian-American chemist at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York, and an ACS member, who says ACS should "refrain from allowing politics" to get in the way of scientific openness. Smorodin says the society will soon apply for a license from the Department of Commerce's Office of Foreign Assets Control allowing it to serve its Iranian members.
Other associations are troubled by ACS's proposed solution. "We have no plans to do anything similar," says Judy Franz of the American Physical Society in College Park, Maryland, which also has members in Iran. "We would resist having to obtain a license to the extent we can."