Last Friday, we had accrued enough donated funds (thank you everyone that helped) in our Paypal account to transfer a little over $1100 to Mathieu in France to help with the construction of the shielding for the gamma detector (which will be used on the Celani cells and powder experiments) and to help support the construction of the mass flow calorimeter which will help settle debate on Celani wires and also be useable for powder testing (more to come on that soon). This is the kind of transfer we have done many times over the history of the project with no issues.
Then we received this from Paypal -
|As part of our security measures, we regularly screen activity in the PayPal system. During a recent screening, we noticed an issue regarding your account.
PayPal's Compliance Department has reviewed your account and identified activity that may be in violation of United States regulations administered by the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
PayPal is committed to complying with and meeting its regulatory obligations. One obligation is to ensure that our customers, merchants, and partners are also in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including those set forth by OFAC, in their use of PayPal.
1. Purpose of the payment 5G43699646665170K including a complete and detailed explanation of the goods or services you intended to purchase.
If we don't hear from you by March 8, 2014, we will limit what you can do with your account until the issue is resolved.
We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience.
PayPal Compliance Department
So we replied
I have been requested to say what this transaction is for.
I am not sure what all the garbage gobbledygook was that you wrote in your nonsense email - however, I shall attempt to answer your question.
We are a international social collective of friends and interested persons donating our personal free time and resources to perform experiments and research we are interested in. We are doing this in the public interest as part of our commitments to the not-for-profit QuantumHeat C.I.C., the website for which is at quantumheat.org. This is a necessarily international effort for which we chose paypal to allow people to contribute to the costs of the work, it is regulated by the UK authorities and will publish its accounts in the UK. In the meantime, we keep a log of costs publicly on our website showing a significant net loss (contributions from our members).
This transaction is to cover costs relating to the research that Mathieu Valat is carrying out, there is no commercial aspect to our groups endeavour and neither can there be by law.
So to summarise, we are a group of friends carrying out research for a non-profit with FULL disclosure of our operations and activities on-line. We are doing this in the public interest.
We look forward to your removing this draconian restriction on our community interest effort.
And then Paypal said this
Thank you for contacting PayPal.
We are still reviewing your account and appreciate your patience during this time. Once the review is complete, you’ll receive an email with an updated account status. Thank you.
Please let me know if you need further assistance.
By this time we were getting a little freaked, we had never had an issue sending funds and the vagueness of their emails was causing concern, the only thing that was different this time was that we had in the previous week announced that we were moving forward with a powder research effort, supported by a prominent scientist, so we decided to look up what the OFAC was. This is the address we found
and here is the text from their front page
|The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.
OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction.
Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments.
Really, as we are not a country or regime it would appear that an automated bot tracking Paypal transaction thought that the MFMP might be "terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States"
As we are aware we are none of those things it begged the question why had we been identified, everyone knows what happens to those accused of having or trying to have WMD - more importantly were we ever going to see those funds again? Ok, so we might have mentioned the word nuclear once or twice on the site, so we thought we would lay it on a little thick.
I have just read this site
which details the remit and legislation under which your "review" is being undertaken.
I would like to know what exactly our non-profit effort is being accused of EXACTLY.
Edward Snowden is right, we are at risk of an authoritarian world where data is abused for purposes of oppression - paypal has unequivocally demonstrated itself to be part of this system of unwarranted control by this illegitimate act - As you make no indication of what has been contravened it is deeply disturbing that you can summarily take this action. At least a bank will give an indication of what they claim is being done wrong.
I am very concerned about what you think is being done by our group that falls under you "review", I want a detailed report regardless of the outcome of that review.
to which they replied
|Thank you for the explanation, and I have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate department to review the matter.
It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.
But... it did not explain anything! By this time we actually had a hunch of what might have happenned, So we asked again...
It is great to know that you will be forwarding my "concerns" to a department so that they can review their review.
I am disturbed that you cannot simply pull up an explanation from the transaction record history - which leads me to believe that this is more likely action being controlled by a third party.
To which they replied
|Thanks for sharing your concerns with us. We value what you have to say, and we know situations like this can be difficult.
I have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate department to review the matter.
It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.
Now you may be wondering, given the exact same wording, if we are talking to a computer asking it to ask a bot to answer a simple question...
|Dear Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project,
Our review is complete and we have returned your account to regular standing.
We appreciate your patience and thank you for your help in making PayPal the safest and most trusted online payment solution.
And then the payment went through...
Notice, there was absolutely no explanation of why they blocked the transfer... but the following day we got a request...
|As part of PayPal's commitment to excellence, we invite you to share your thoughts about about PayPal's information request process.
We appreciate your participation and look forward to hearing from you.
Like we were going to waste more time!
Was it because we were likely to get too close to the truth about LENR having announced a new powder research drive?
Well, probably not. The fact is, in the transfer note we said words to the effect of "funds to help with the lead shielding for the gamma detector". So no surprises as to why the payment was blocked, but seriously... if we were developing WMD, would we really recording that on money transfers between named individuals?
The scary point is that "During recent screening" (pretty much instant) they [Paypal] 'noticed' "an issue regarding your [our] account"... like there is a human doing this. This was very obviously a program, installed by someone that is likely surveying every transaction made on Paypal - if we had not been able to address the challenge adequately, we would have lost access to those funds.
Thankfully we didn't, so onward and upward.