Updated 11:50 p.m. est
Declaring it "a national emergency," President Obama issued an executive order tonight, freezing assets of Moammar Gadhafi, his sons, senior Libyan government officials and anyone found to be complicit in the violent crackdown on Libyan protesters.
In a letter to the leaders of Congress, Obama wrote, "I have determined that the actions of Col. Muammar Qadhafi, his government, and close associates, including extreme measures against the people of Libya, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. The order declares a national emergency to deal with this threat."
The unilateral action comes as the U.S. prepares to join allies in other coordinated sanctions expected to be imposed on the Libyan despot.
"Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations," Obama said in a separate statement issued along with the executive order. "We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied."
Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced the sanctions would be forthcoming, using the strongest language to date to slam Gadhafi, apparently having waited for Americans to be evacuated from Libya before lashing out.
"It's clear that Colonel Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people. He is overseeing the brutal treatment of his people, the fatal violence against his own people, and his legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes of his people," Carney said.
The Obama administration spent the day working out the details of the sanctions, including ending limited coordinated military activities between the U.S. and Libya.
"Consistent with the President's tasking to the government to prepare options to hold the Libyan government accountable for its violation of human rights, we have decided to move forward with unilateral sanctions which we are in the process of finalizing, coordinated sanctions with our European allies, and multilateral efforts to hold the Libyan government accountable through the United Nations," Carney said.