Grading U.S. Performance Against Terrorism Financing

[Washington Institute for Near East Policy] Michael Jacobson - Washington has used an aggressive, multifaceted strategy to tackle terrorism financing. Since September 11, the Treasury Department has frozen the assets of financiers and support networks and publicly designated approximately four hundred individuals and entities as terrorists, including designees from Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has used the "material support" statute to prosecute numerous individuals and entities for funding terrorist organizations. According to the FBI, four different terrorist attacks have been disrupted based in part on investigations into the financial activities of terrorism supporters in the U.S. In a letter intercepted in late 2005, al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri asked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for $100,000, noting that "many of the lines [of support] have been cut off." Iran, which has been described by U.S. officials as the "central banker of terrorism," remains the most serious problem. According to Treasury officials, Tehran has a "nine digit line item" in its budget to support terrorism, sending hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorist groups, including Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As the U.S. and its allies have cracked down on the formal financial system, terrorists have found other, less formal ways to raise and transfer funds. Terrorists are increasingly using cash couriers and bulk cash smuggling to transfer funds. Although less efficient, this method is more difficult for law enforcement to track. Washington must closely monitor evolving trends in terrorism financing and develop effective strategies to respond quickly. The writer, a senior fellow in the Washington Institute's Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence, and Policy, previously served as a senior advisor in the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

2007-09-06 01:00:00

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