Attorney General Transcript
Department of Justice Shuts Down Several Financial Networks Exploited by Terrorist Groups November 7, 2001
PRESIDENT BUSH: Please be seated. The United States is pressing the war against terror on every front, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the bank accounts of terrorist organizations. The first strike in the war against terror targeted the terrorists' financial support. We put the world's financial institutions on notice: If you do business with terrorists, if you support them or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America. Today we are taking another step in our fight against evil. We are shutting down two major elements of the terrorists' international financial network, both at home and abroad.
Ours is not a war just of soldiers and aircraft; it is a war fought with diplomacy, by the investigations of law enforcement, by gathering intelligence, and by cutting off the terrorists' money. I want to thank Secretary Paul O'Neill for being here today and for being the leader of this fine organization. I want to thank the director Jim Sloan as well. We do some imaginative work here at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and I want to thank all the fine Americans who are on the front line of our war; the people who work here.
I want to thank Secretary Colin Powell for being here as well. He's doing a magnificent job of stitching together one of the greatest coalitions ever, a coalition of nations that stands for freedom.
And I want to thank our attorney general for coming; a man whose job it is to make sure that anytime we find anybody inside our country who will threaten an American or threaten our institutions, they will be brought to justice. And that's exactly what our nation is doing.
Acting on solid and credible evidence, the Treasury Department of the United States today blocked the U.S. assets of 62 individuals and organizations connected with two terrorist-supporting financial networks, the Al Taqua and the Al-Barakaat. Their offices have been shut down in four U.S. states, and our G-8 partners and other friends, including the United Arab Emirates, have joined us in blocking assets and coordinating enforcement action.
Al Taqua is an association of off-shore banks and financial management firms that have helped al Qaeda shift money around the world. Al-Barakaat is a group of money-wiring and communication companies owned by a friend and supporter of Osama bin Laden.
Al Taqua and Al-Barakaat raise funds for al Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds. They provide terrorist supporters with Internet service, secure telephone communications and other ways of sending messages and sharing information. They even arrange for the shipment of weapons. They present themselves as legitimate businesses, but they skim money from every transaction for the benefit of terrorist organizations. They enable the proceeds of crime in one country to be transferred to pay for terrorist acts in another.
The entry point for these networks may be a small storefront operation; but follow the network to its center and you discover wealthy banks and sophisticated technology, all at the service of mass murderers.
By shutting these networks down, we disrupt the murderers' work.
Today's action interrupts al Qaeda's communications. It blocks an important source of funds. It provides us with valuable information and sends a clear message to global financial institutions: you are with us, or you're with the terrorists. And if you're with the terrorists, you will face the consequences.
We fight an enemy who hides in caves in Afghanistan and in the shadows within our own society. It's an enemy who can only survive in darkness. Today we've taken another important action to expose the enemy to the light and to disrupt its ability to threaten America and innocent life. I'm proud of the actions of our agencies. We're making a difference. We're slowly but surely tightening the noose, and we will be victorious.
Now it's my honor to welcome the secretary of Treasury, Paul O'Neill. (Applause.)
SEC. O'NEILL: Thank you.
Mr. President, Secretary Powell, Attorney General Ashcroft, I'm pleased you're here at one of the key nerve centers in the campaign against global terrorism, the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. It's here that we marshal the combined assets of law enforcement, intelligence, and public databases to identify, track, and disrupt the flow of money to terrorists. This ongoing task requires patience and sophisticated means because the financial supporters of terror hide in off-shore havens of secrecy, disguise their true identities, and masquerade as legitimate businesses while directing their profits to underwrite enterprises of hate and violence.
They also know that we are watching, and for that reason, they try to funnel their money through undocumented, unregulated financial networks constructed to bypass the civilized world's detection. But their system is imperfect. Somewhere it must always interface with modern banking and finance. When that connection is made, we have the wherewithal to intervene, and thanks to the cooperation of allies and coalition partners, cemented by the good work of Secretary Powell, we have begun to act, to block assets, to seize books, records and evidence, and to follow audit trails to track terrorist cells poised to do violence to our common interest.
With the president's leadership, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Treasury Department have eliminated barriers that have hampered past efforts. This new joint effort has borne fruit. In the United States we've blocked $24 million in assets of the Taliban and al Qaeda. We have an additional 962 counts under review. We've built an international coalition to deny terrorists access to the world financial system. A hundred and twelve nations have blocking orders in force, and nations around the world have blocked at least $43 million in assets.
The announcement the president just made is a significant milestone in this effort. But we will not be finished until we have dismantled the financial network of the terrorists. And let me also thank you all for the effort that you're making in this war against terrorism.
Thank you very much. And now it's my pleasure to introduce Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Applause.)
SEC. POWELL: Well, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be out here this afternoon. And Mr. President, Secretary O'Neill, Attorney General Ashcroft and Mr. Sloan, I also add my congratulations to the earlier speakers for the wonderful work that is being done here.
It's a pleasure to be here, really, because with this event we build on success: success in starving terrorists of their money. For money is the oxygen of terrorism. Without the means to raise and move money around the world, terrorists cannot function.
Mr. President, your executive order on terrorist financing has been a critical part of our efforts worldwide to deny the terrorists their financial oxygen. We have moved aggressively against the individuals and organizations covered by your executive order. And with your announcement today, we have taken our efforts to a new level. We are now going after the hawala organizations, the shadowy financial networks that underpin the terrorists' underworld.
Cutting off their financial flows that feed terrorism requires international cooperation on the broadest scale. And I am pleased by the strong support and cooperation that our efforts are receiving. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 requires member states to prevent the financing of terrorist acts, to criminalize the provision of funds to terrorists, and to freeze funds and other assets of terrorists and of their supporters. This is a binding obligation under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.
In the past few weeks alone over 130 countries have committed to implement this crucial element of the campaign against terrorism. But that is not good enough. We are working hard to get 100 percent adherence to Resolution 1373. And to that end we have named an experienced diplomat, Ambassador Ted McNamara (sp), to lead our efforts around the world to bring the remaining countries on board, bring them in support of the U.N. resolution.
So far, we and our international partners have frozen millions of dollars in terrorist assets, as you just heard. Saudi Arabia has been prominent among the countries acting against the accounts of terrorist organizations. We and our partners have millions more in suspect accounts under review.
But this is only a beginning. There is more to do, and we are doing it. For example, we are pressing all countries to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, a treaty which removes legal obstacles to more effective international cooperation against terrorism. And I am delighted that Saudi Arabia once again has just ratified this convention. We are now working with our United States Senate to gain its consent to our ratification of that treaty.
Mr. President, the coalition against terrorism is strong and we are making real progress against the terrorists, under your leadership. And I can tell you, you can count on your State Department and our many dedicated employees around the world to do their very best in making sure that we will prevail in this campaign.
Thank you, sir, very much.
And now it is my pleasure to present my colleague and friend, the attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft. (Applause.)
MR. ASHCROFT: It is an honor to be here today with the president and with my colleagues from the Department of State and from the Department of the Treasury to announce an important new effort in the fight against terrorism.
When the president declared war on terrorism, he promised we would fight the war on many fronts. One of the most important, one of the most crucial fronts is the choking off of the money supply that fuels terrorist organizations. Today we have shut down several financial networks exploited by terrorist groups. Piece by piece, we are dismantling the infrastructure of the terrorist network.
The Department of Justice is bringing the full weight of the criminal law against those who fund or launder money for terrorists. This morning the United States Attorney in Boston charged two individuals with operating an illegal foreign money transmittal business. They are alleged to be officers of Al-Barakaat-related businesses in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
In addition, in locations across the country, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other federal law enforcement agencies are interviewing individuals and taking other investigative steps in the ongoing criminal investigations of Al-Barakaat entities. These steps include executing search warrants on Al-Barakaat-related facilities in Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia. Our criminal investigation of Al- Barakaat-related activities and entities is national in scope and it is ongoing.
As today's actions demonstration, we will use all tools available to us -- administrative tools, civil tools, and criminal prosecutions -- to find and uproot terrorist financial networks. We will not stop until the war on terrorism is won.
Thank you very much. This concludes today's event. (Applause.)