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US Official: Crackdown on al-Qaida's Financing Has Impact - 2002-09-13

Top U.S. officials say they have been successful in efforts to block financial assets used to support international terrorism. They dispute suggestions in a report to the United Nations Security Council that such efforts have stalled.

A critical component in the fight against terrorism is cutting off the flow of money to fund attacks such as those that occurred in the United States on September 11 last year.

In the year since those attacks, the United States and other nations have frozen more than $112 million in assets, and identified 236 individuals and organizations suspected of supplying money to fund terrorism.

The under-secretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, Jimmy Gurule, pointed out the effort to stop the financing of terrorism is still in its early stages.

"The U.S. government's strategy against terrorist financing is a long-term effort," he said. "Certainly, no one in the U.S. government is prepared to declare victory against terrorism, or to suggest that we have dried up all sources of funds for terrorist financing. But, certainly, our efforts have been significant. They have been successful. They have been on target. They have had a disrupting effect, and, clearly, al-Qaida is having difficulty. It is more difficult for them to raise money today than, let's say, a year ago, prior to 9-11."

A recent report to the U.N. Security Council on sanctions against al-Qaida says more needs to be done to halt the financing of terrorism. According to news reports, a draft of the study, which has not been made public, expresses concern that efforts to block funds have stalled, and that al-Qaida still has tens-of-millions of dollars to finance future terrorist attacks.

Mr. Gurule emphasized that the U.S. Treasury Department disagrees with that conclusion, saying the investigators did not have access to highly classified information regarding al-Qaida's finances.

He did say another finding of the draft report, that al-Qaida is shifting its assets from traditional investments to avoid detection, shows that efforts to crackdown on the group are having an impact.

"If it is true that al-Qaida is moving money into gold and diamonds and other gems, that suggests to me, what I would interpret from that, is that our efforts with respect to financial institutions in shutting down the ability of al-Qaida to use financial institutions to move money is being successful, has been successful, is successful," said Mr. Gurule. "Therefore, I think, it is taking them out of their comfort zone. It is requiring them to use other means and methods to move money, and it is our view, that, therefore, it is having a disruptive effect on their ability to raise and move money."

Mr. Gurule says, if al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are blocked from moving money and raising new funds, it will result in the prevention of future terrorist attacks, and save innocent lives, which he says is the ultimate objective of the U.S. strategy in the war on terror.