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9/11 Commission: Funding Sources for Attacks Remain Unidentified by US - 2004-08-23

The commission that probed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks says the U.S. government still does not know where the al-Qaida terrorist network gets its funding or how much money it is raising. A congressional hearing on the matter was held Monday.

Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton told the House Financial Services Committee that intelligence agencies, prior to the September 11th attacks, devoted few resources to collecting information about al-Qaida's financial dealings.

"The U.S. intelligence community largely failed to comprehend al-Qaida's methods of raising, moving and storing money," he said.

Mr. Hamilton said prior to September 11, al-Qaida raised about $30 million a year, mostly by diverting money from Islamic charities.

"Al-Qaida relied on well-placed financial facilitators who gathered money from both witting and unwitting donors, primarily in the Gulf region," he said.

Mr. Hamilton said al-Qaida's attacks in Saudi Arabia last year curbed its ability to raise money from Saudi sources.

But he said there is still not much known about the terrorist network's financial situation.

"The U.S. government still has not determined with any precision how much al-Qaida raises or from whom or how it spends its money," he said.

The commission is not recommending any new legislation to deal with the terror financing issue.

But Mr. Hamilton warned that the Treasury Department's power to freeze suspected terrorist groups' assets in the United States raises civil liberties concerns. He noted that under the so-called Patriot Act law, passed by Congress after the September 11th attacks, freezing such assets can be done on the basis of classified intelligence and is not subject to prior judicial review.

The Treasury Department says civil liberties protections have been built into the program that deals with blocking terrorists' assets.