WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations assessing current efforts to combat terrorism financing, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today said the governments of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other nations have made considerable progress in combating terrorism, but much more work remains to be done.
The report, “An Update on the Global Campaign against Terrorist Financing,” was released by the Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, and released during a Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today. It includes an analysis of ongoing U.S. and Saudi efforts to address terrorist financing and offers recommendations to improve those efforts.
“The Saudi government deserves credit for undertaking considerable legislative and regulatory reforms. Questions remain, however, about whether these reforms are being effectively, consistently, and vigorously implemented,” said Senator Collins.
“For example, the Kingdom recently announced the dissolution of the notorious Al Haramain charity, and it has created a new organization to coordinate and oversee private Saudi charitable giving abroad. This is a very positive step that should significantly diminish the ability of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to raise and to move funds using charities as conduits.
“There remain, however, serious questions. Most important, what are the Saudis doing to crack down on the International Islamic Relief Organization, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the Muslim World League, three of the charities alleged to have the most troubling terrorism connections?” asked Senator Collins.
The report also details significant progress by the U.S. government in combating terrorism financing. In particular, the United States has taken steps to centralize the coordination of its efforts to combat terrorism financing, and U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have moved effectively against Muslim charities and organizations in America that finance terrorism.
“The Administration deserves credit for getting the Saudis to begin to undertake serious reforms, and to extend meaningful cooperation to U.S. terrorism investigations,” said Senator Collins. “The progress represented by the enactment of the Saudi legal reforms, the Saudi actions against Al Qaeda cells in the Kingdom, and the creation of the Joint Terrorist Financing Task Force should not be understated.”
Despite the progress that has been made to date, the report points to several shortcomings and offers recommendations for change. Among the report’s recommendations, U.S. policymakers should seek to build a new framework for U.S.-Saudi relations; Saudi Arabia should fully implement its new laws and regulations and take additional steps to further improve its efforts to combat terrorism financing; multilateral initiatives must be better coordinated, appropriately funded, and invested with clear punitive authorities; and Congress should enact a certification regime on terrorist financing.
Senator Collins said she was intrigued by the recommendation to enact a certification regime, which would impose an array of sanctions on non-cooperating nations. “This type of regime has been employed in the war on illegal drugs; the report suggests that it be in place for the fight against terrorist funds as well,” said Senator Collins.
The Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Senator Collins, has been investigating the financing of terrorism. Last year, the Committee held two hearings examining U.S. efforts to cut off funds to terrorist groups as well as Saudi cooperation with those efforts.
In addition, in April 2004, Chairman Collins and Senators Lieberman and Arlen Specter (R-PA) asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to review the U.S. and Saudi governments’ efforts to track and investigate terrorist financing originating in Saudi Arabia. The GAO is working on the request.
The CFR report is available online at http://www.cfr.org. Two of the report’s authors — Lee S. Wolosky, who is Co-Director of the Independent Task Force on Terrorism Financing and Of Counsel at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, and Mallory Factor, who is Vice-Chairman of the Independent Task Force on Terrorism Financing and President of Mallory Factor, Inc. — testified at today’s Committee hearing, along with David D. Aufhauser, Counsel, Williams & Connolly, LLP and former General Counsel, U.S. Department of the Treasury.