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Interview with Jonathan Winer - 2002-01-11

Jan. 9, 2002

MR. BORGIDA: United States authorities are winding down their investigation into how the September 11th terrorists financed the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. It has been a painstaking process analyzing all this information about this global financial network.

And joining us now in our Washington studio, Jonathan Winer, a money-laundering expert and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. Jonathan Winer, thanks so much for joining us today on the program.

MR. WINER: Happy to be here.

MR. BORGIDA: This is obviously a huge issue, and we're learning more and more as we go, now months after the 9/11 attack. What kinds of lessons are we learning, and how helpful can it be to us in the weeks and months ahead?

MR. WINER: Well, I think the first lesson is that there is a dark side to globalization. And when you have money moving across borders a zillion times a day instantaneously, and governments stop at borders, you wind up with a situation where there is nobody minding the store and you have an awful lot of things happening in ways that nobody can figure out what's behind it. You can't have dirty money hiding in the global financial system. You've got to find ways of making that transparent so people can see.

MR. BORGIDA: Just today, Mr. Winer, the United States announced it has frozen the assets of four more groups and individuals that it suspects are linked to the al Qaeda network. It's going to be a continuing effort here and a challenge to find these pockets of money and the links and the network, isn't it? This is going to take some time?

MR. WINER: It's going to take cooperation of banks all over the world and governments all over the world and law enforcement agencies all over the world and intelligence agencies all over the world, sharing information and working together. That's going to be new for a lot of different people.

MR. BORGIDA: Let's talk about the importance of money, though. If you have the people, you have the human resources to carry out acts of terrorism, they can't do it without financial support, right?

MR. WINER: That's right. And in this case the money came from a lot of people in the Islamic world, in particular, who were supporting a variety of causes. And some of that money was diverted from proper causes to terrorist causes. I'm absolutely certain that money that was supposed to go to freedom fighters in Chechnya or Kosovo was diverted to support terrorism, for example.

MR. BORGIDA: Can this effort to investigate and to continue to probe into the financing dry up some of these sources beyond these efforts by the United States and other governments to do this? Will the people that are doing this, the bad guys if you will, understand that they might not be able to do it any more because they're under a microscope?

MR. WINER: Well, a lot of the money that was coming to al Qaeda and to bin Laden was coming from charities, from people who thought they were supporting good Islamic activities. And that's clearly not going to be happening in the same way now. There are people who now see that their funds that were provided for legitimate purposes were diverted to improper purposes, and they're going to be a lot more careful. I think the Islamic charities that have been a huge, unwitting source of funds for terrorism are going to be much more careful, and that's going to be tremendously important.

MR. BORGIDA: About 30 seconds or so left in the segment. What do you tell these people who, for example in the United States, were told this is going to a good cause, and they find out that it was diverted in some way that led to a terrorist attack? What can we do with those people?

MR. WINER: Organizations that are doing humanitarian work on behalf of people in the Middle East are going to have to do a much better job keeping track of the money and making it transparent and clear where the money is going. And that's going to be very important.

MR. BORGIDA: Jonathan Winer, thanks so much for your time and insight on this issue. We'll be staying in touch with you hopefully in the weeks and months ahead to follow this story. Thanks.

MR. WINER: Thank you, David.