- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies told a House panel yesterday that they were doing their best to break up financial networks used by terrorist organizations, but urged lawmakers to give them more power to close major loopholes in current law.
Leading members of the House Financial Services Committee after the hearing introduced a bipartisan bill to give the FBI and the CIA extra legal tools to pursue and punish banks and financial institutions dealing with terrorists.
"The events of September 11 demonstrate that the very safety and security of our citizens depend on effective national and international anti-money-laundering activities," said Rep. John J. LaFalce, New York Democrat and ranking committee member.
The bill, directed at drug traffickers and terrorists, would prohibit knowingly concealing more than $10,000 in cash or knowingly falsifying a customer's identity when making a financial transaction. It also would target money laundering through Internet gambling and underground financial networks in the Middle East and South Asia.
The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is expected to announce a similar measure today.
"This hunt is not about money. It is about money that kills," Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill told lawmakers yesterday. "Our goal is to drain the financial lifeblood that allows terrorists to finance and accomplish their deadly goals, and in doing so, we aim to shackle their ability to strike again."
He said that "scores of countries have followed suit with bank freezes and pledges to take measures to heighten scrutiny of suspicious transactions" after President Bush last week moved to freeze assets of Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi multimillionaire, and 26 other persons and organizations with suspected links to terrorism.
On Monday, the administration reported that some $6 million and 50 accounts linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network had been frozen.
Mr. O'Neill also urged Congress to give the Treasury Department and other enforcement agencies more power to share information in order to streamline the search for the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Currency can be as lethal as a bullet," he said. "If we are to root out terrorist cells that threaten to do violence to our people and our communities, we have to hunt the financial benefactors and the willfully blind financial intermediaries that underwrite murder and mayhem."
Mary Lee Warren, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, urged lawmakers to present legislation that would close loopholes in laws that terrorists use to transfer funds without detection.
She said terrorists are aware that the United States and other countries are "ill-equipped" to fight them because they are using "outdated weapons."
Bin Laden and his al Qaeda network are believed to raise money through a mix of legal and illegal sources ranging from charities, business enterprises and wealthy supporters to opium and weapons trafficking.

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