News / USA

US Succeeding in Efforts to Disrupt Terrorist Financing

The United States continues to fight the war on terror - not with blood, but with zeroes and bytes and bank accounts.  

The attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 launched a new kind of war, one waged with surveillance cameras and computer databases.  

After 9/11, it became clear the terrorists needed more than ideology to launch their attacks.  U.S. intelligence started combing through data - watching travel patterns, electronic communications, and the movement of money.

Fighting financing

State sponsors of terrorism

Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says, it turns out that fighting the financing of transnational threats is an effective way of disrupting the activities of the enemy.

"If you send me money, that means something," Levitt explains. "It might not mean that you're important or I'm important, but that we are middlemen in something that is more  important.”

And Levitt notes that finding the middlemen can lead to finding the major players in terrorist plots.

To do that, the U.S. created a new agency within the Treasury Department.  Stuart Levey of the Council on Foreign Relations says it’s the only finance ministry in the world with a full-fledged intelligence office. “But,” he adds, “it reflects an important insight - which is that financial intelligence is highly reliable."

The agency has learned that about a half-million dollars used to carry out the 9/11 attacks was funneled through banks in Europe and the Middle East to the hijackers waiting in the United States.

Terrorism sponsors

US Succeeding in Efforts to Disrupt Terrorist Financing
US Succeeding in Efforts to Disrupt Terrorist Financing

The 9/11 Commission found that al-Qaida received most of its cash donations from a network of charities, mosques, websites, Islamic banks and from wealthy donors from the Gulf countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Some of that information came from databases owned by a Brussels-based banking consortium.

Using those databases, the U.S. government ordered a freeze on the assets of groups and individuals with known ties to terrorist groups. But the government's ability to tap such financial information provoked concerns about privacy and the potential for abuse.

"People thought we were kind of combing through the information and doing all sorts of just looking at it however we wanted," Levey says. "And in fact, we had put in place very strict controls."

Breakthrough

The biggest breakthrough in the war on terror came this past May, when U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden at a private compound in Pakistan.  U.S. officials say information seized during the raid confirms al-Qaida is under financial stress.

Prior to 9/11, the CIA estimated al Qaida’s annual operating budget to be about $30 million, raised primarily through donations.

Some terror groups are turning to criminal pursuits - drug smuggling and kidnappings - to fund operations.  And as the money dries up, the trend is shifting to smaller, less expensive  attacks.

Regardless of the size, Matt Levitt says it pays to follow the money. Even if it’s not a lot of money. "If you need $5,000, but you can't get $5,000 - we win."

As donations dry up, experts say terror groups are increasingly turning to criminal sources such as smuggling, drugs and kidnapping to fund their operations.

It doesn't mean terror attacks will cease. Experts say a multi-pronged approach that stops the flow of money - while confronting an ideology bent on indiscriminate killing - is going to require continued vigilance, commitment and the world's cooperation for years to come.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs