Tuesday, July 11, 2006

TREASURY OFFICIAL DEFENDS FIN DATA MONITORING PROGRAM --
As this Committee knows well, tracking and combating terrorist financing are critical facets of our overall efforts to protect our citizens and other innocents around the world from terrorist attacks. This is true for two main reasons. First, when we block the assets of a terrorist front company, arrest a donor, or shut down a corrupt charity, we deter other donors, restrict the flow of funds to terrorist groups and shift their focus from planning attacks to worrying about their own needs. While any single terrorist attack may be relatively inexpensive to carry out, terrorist groups continue to need real money. They depend on a regular cash flow to pay operatives and their families, arrange for travel, train new members, forge documents, pay bribes, acquire weapons, and stage attacks. Disrupting money flows stresses terrorist networks and undermines their operations. In recent months, we have seen at least one instance of what we look for most - a terrorist organization indicating that it cannot pursue sophisticated attacks because it lacks adequate funding.

Second, "following the money" is one of the most valuable sources of information that we have to identify and locate the networks of terrorists and their supporters. If a terrorist associate whom we are watching sends or receives money from another person, we know that there's a link between the two individuals. And, while terrorist supporters may use code names on the phone, when they send or receive money through the banking system, they often provide information that yields the kind of concrete leads that can advance an investigation. For these reasons, counter-terrorism officials place a heavy premium on financial intelligence. As the 9/11 Commission staff pointed out - and as Chairman Hamilton testified before this Committee - "following the money to identify terrorist operatives and sympathizers provides a particularly powerful tool in the fight against terrorist groups. Use of this tool almost always remains invisible to the general public, but it is a critical part of the overall campaign against al Qaeda." The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was just such an invisible tool. Its exposure represents a grave loss to our overall efforts to combat al Qaida and other terrorist groups.