New Treasury office to fight terrorist financing

By creating a new Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the Bush administration today combined the Treasury Department high-tech units that track finances to identify and stem funds supporting terrorists.

The office will merge the Executive Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The new group will not only focus on the financial war on terror, but also protect the integrity of the nation's financial system, fight financial crime, enforce economic sanctions against rogue nations and assist in the ongoing hunt for Iraqi assets, Treasury officials said.

'Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will enhance the precision of our relentless fight to dismantle the terrorists' network of financial and logistical support and disrupt their plans to harm America and all other nations that value liberty and freedom,' Treasury secretary John Snow said in a statement.

Treasury expects the new office to enhance intelligence and analysis by coordinating the three offices' functions and technological capabilities. The passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001 gave Treasury expanded authority to detect and prevent abuse of financial systems by terrorists and other criminals.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Treasury has worked to create a worldwide network of laws, institutions and information sharing to help prevent the use of legitimate financial systems by terrorists and money launderers. Treasury has led the efforts to block assets of persons and organizations worldwide funneling money to terrorists, including those affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Hamas.

Stopping the flow of terrorist funding had been a job shared among several offices at Treasury and other government agencies, including the FBI and IRS. The General Accounting Office last fall recommended the government needed to better coordinate the collection and analysis of data tracking likely terrorist funds.

Between February and December of last year, an information-sharing program among financial institutions that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network administers has provided data for federal law enforcement for 64 terrorism and terrorist financing cases and 124 money laundering cases. The leads resulted in three indictments, 21 subpoenas, 11 search warrants and 407 grand jury subpoenas (Click for Dec. 18, 2003, GCN.com story).

To lead the new office, President Bush will nominate people to fill a Treasury undersecretary and two assistant secretary posts. The Senate must confirm the White House's nominees.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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