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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs