- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow is on a 10-day trip to Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, to discuss strategies for blocking terrorist financing and other issues. His tour isn’t quite a victory lap. The administration’s record on staunching terrorist financing has been marked with notable successes and bewildering omissions.

Shortly before Mr. Snow met with Saudi officials on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia agreed to permanently host a U.S. task force of FBI and IRS officials to help the Saudis better prevent terrorist financing and other activities. Also, the Saudi government has banned the once widely used donation boxes at malls and mosques, and charity groups are forbidden to send money abroad until regulations are put in place to track donations. In July, Saudi police found donation boxes filled with cash during a counter-terror raid, along with rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and detonators.

Back on U.S. soil, action on suspicious Saudi charities has been mixed. While some charities have been closed, the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, located in Ashland, Ore., continues to operate and receive tax-exempt status. Al-Haramain has been banned in Kenya, after being connected to the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy there, and has been forced to close its branches in Croatia, Albania and Ethiopia. Even the Saudis don’t justify the functioning of the U.S. affiliate. The U.S. affiliate says it has no ties to the Saudi-based charity and has no connection to terrorist organizations.

The Treasury Department noted in a recent report that it has frozen $36.6 million in terrorist-related assets in the United States and listed 315 individuals and organizations as terrorists. About $136.7 million have been seized worldwide. Also, 173 countries have frozen the assets of terrorists. Not detailed in the report are the changes the administration has been able to push forward in foreign countries’ financial-reporting regulations. The international cooperation that the administration has been able to rally is positive, but there have been some worrisome oversights at home.



According to Charles Intriago, president of moneylaundering.com, the Treasury Department continues to outsource the data entry of its Suspicious Activity Reports, gathered from financial institutions, to a native American tribe in the Midwest. Congress had mandated the administration in the U.S. Patriot Act of October 2001 to establish a “highly secure” network to rapidly transmit these forms. The deadline set for this goal was July 2002. The administration has clearly failed to reach it.

Other priorities set out for the administration in our editorial last July have been reached, such as the creation of suspicious-activity report forms for money transmitters, which were used by September 11 hijackers. Also, federal regulators have improved information sharing. Two years after the September 11 attacks, the administration has some substantive progress to point to. The points of weakness, however, remain mystifying.

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