President Bush is freezing the U.S. assets of 27 individuals and organizations with links to terrorist groups. He is calling on foreign banks and governments to do the same.
The President says this is the first strike in the financial war on terrorism. "I have signed an executive order that immediately freezes United States financial assets of and prohibits United States transactions with 27 different entities," announced Mr. Bush.
The list includes one corporation and three non-governmental, non-profit organizations that Mr. Bush says act as fronts for terrorist groups. In making the announcement, the president acknowledged they have few assets in the United States, and so he issued an ultimatum to financial institutions abroad. "If they fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts," said President Bush, "the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their bank's assets and transactions in the United States."
Mr. Bush took the action nearly two weeks after the worst terrorist attacks in American history. Standing in the White House rose garden with his treasury secretary and secretary of state, the president reaffirmed his determination to combat terrorism using all the resources at his disposal: financial, diplomatic and military. "Make no mistake about it. We intend to, and we will, disrupt terrorist networks," stressed Mr. Bush.
The President noted that he will make many decisions based on classified informatio, and he stressed the American people have to understand that much of this evidence must remain secret.
His comments followed remarks Sunday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said the United States would share evidence with its allies. Secretary Powell said the Bush administration was gathering information and would prepare a document laying out the case against reputed terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization.
As he stood by the president's side in the Rose Garden, Secretary Powell stressed no secret information would be made public. "Most of it is classified. And as we look through it and we can find areas that are unclassified and will allow us to share it with the public, we will do so. That would be our intent," he said.
Mr. Powell said there is no question Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network is to blame for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Using business terms, he referred to Osama Bin Laden as the chairman of a holding company of terrorism.