As decreed in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the U.S. government cannot provide aid to foreign governments that consistently engage in human rights abuses. Abuses specifically mentioned include torture, arbitrary detention without charges and abduction.
Legally, the United States must also cut aid to any country where a democratically elected leader is toppled by coup or decree. However, the United States historically has a spotty and inconsistent record when it comes to enforcing this condition. Over the years, Mali, Honduras, Thailand and Algeria have continued to receive aid in spite of coups. In some cases, the U.S. government simply refuses to admit that a coup has occurred in order to continue making payments deemed crucial for U.S. security .
Conditions for receiving aid can change depending on world events and the evolving attitudes of U.S. lawmakers. Although the Presidential Administration makes specific foreign aid decisions, foreign aid policy is also influenced by the laws Congress passes. The President can seek a specific waiver from congress allowing aid to continue, even when the legal conditions for aid are not met. For example, President Clinton cut aid to Pakistan after a 1999 military coup. In 2001, President George W. Bush asked for and received Congressional permission to resume aid payments to Pakistan.