Saturday, 27 June 2009

A Clear and Unambiguous Statement

The American coin sellers' lobby group, the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild is not known for issuing clear and unambiguous statements. In the long long post ('Questions and Truth') by its executive director last night complaining about something my colleague Dr David Gill wrote, we have a number. The one that caught my eye concerned the (Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC):

The truth is that CPAC did NOT restrict the import of ancient coins minted in Cyprus. CPAC voted against adding coins to the extension of the existing MOU. The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs added coins on its own volition, disregarding the advice of its own advisory committee.
Now wait a second, that is a committee that advises the coin trade or is that a committee that advises the President or his designee? How does Mr Sayles know what they recommended? Previously the ACCG has been very ambiguous about what it believes to be the case, now we have a clear statement, the ACCG knows what the Committee advised the President. Mr Sayles is not a member of the CPAC, and even if he was, would he be authorised to reveal the results of the voting and the contents of its report? After all, according to the State Department,

Given the confidential nature of the government-to-government communications to which they are privy, members of the Committee are special employees of the Department of State, receive a security clearance, and are bound by the laws and ethical guidelines by which all Department employees abide.[my emphasis]
Let's also take a look at the The Federal Advisory Committee Act . That raises some "questions", I guess the upcoming trial resulting from the illegal coin import stunt will reveal more than one "truth" about the coin trade in the United States.

ADDENDUM 29.06.09
Mr Sayles has challenged my account, stating "Making such claims without a credible basis would certainly be enough to submarine [sic] the integrity of any genuine [sic] academic" and "As usual, Mr. Barford is way out of his league and is just shooting wildly from the hip with no concern for, or concept whatever of, truth". Apparently in the USA they don't do irony, so Mr Sayles perhaps failed to recognise it. He might have looked a bit deeper in my blog, for example at the post "leaky old CPC - mystery solved" before accusing: "Mr. Barford obviously did not read the filings in the current law suit that ACCG provided " since there was a post (blog readership in Foggy Bottom) discussing them after I did indeed read them.

Let us note however the subtle difference which obviously escaped Mr Sayles. Mr Sayles does not in the post to which I refer give the source of his unambiguous statement - which is what I was querying. In the discussed statement, Mr Kislak says he"believed" that there was a discrepancy between what his committee determined and what the State Department decreed. In his statement, Kislak urges that the documents be made available in full and compared, Sayles jumps the gun and tells us what (in his opinion) such a comparison will show. My question again, how does Mr Sayles know? Question two, under what circumstances was Mr Kislak asked to make his statement, by whom, when and on what basis? In other words, had Mr Kislak been in touch with the dealers' lobby earlier (when?) about this matter, and in what capacity?

As for Sayles' statement "the State Department took the rare and unusual step of publicly proclaiming, apologetically in a way, that it has a right to override CPAC recommendations". TheACCG's legal advisors will confirm that this is precisely what the Federal Advisory Committee Act says at the beginning, I do not think there is anything "apologetic" about that, neither does it need any of Mr Tompa's conspiracy theories to explain why. Coins are archaeological artefacts whatever the CPAC may "recommend" to the President.

As I said earlier, I too would like to see the whole report as if the differentiation of the treatment of ancient coins from any other ancient "dugup" metal artefacts is recommended to the US President, then it would seem to me that the CPAC were not doing their job properly. If this is for some reason what they decided, that in itself would be a biased ("arbitrary and capricious") opinion, and I think we have every right to ask on what basis it would have been taken, and make them answerable for it.

Photo: the CPAC in session. Manuscript collector Jay Kislak in the chair.

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