Treasury aims at terrorists' pocketbooks

Treasury aims at terrorists' pocketbooks

The Federal Reserve for decades has operated one of the world's most secure networks'the real-time Fedwire funds transfer service used by more than 10,000 banks. But to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is relying on a toll-free telephone number and faxes, not computer networks.

'I don't have a computer angle for you,' a Treasury spokeswoman said. 'I can't speak about the methods or means we're using.'

Under a presidential order, OFAC has expanded its Specially Designated Nationals list of persons whose accounts are to be blocked by all banks, state banking authorities, brokers and comptrollers. In addition to existing sanctions against assets of narcotics dealers and Afghani, Balkan, Cuban, Iranian, Iraqi and other nationals, there are new sanctions against 27 named terrorists and terrorist organizations.

The tracking relies on hotline calls and faxed reports of blockable transactions. OFAC anticipates adding more sanctions against terrorists and has advised banks and other organizations to check its Web site, at www.treas.gov/ofac, daily for updates. Some banks do not have Internet access, OFAC noted, so the information is also available by hotline or a fax-on-demand service.

The Fed's financial transactions rely on point-to-point communications over dedicated frame relay and Integrated Services Digital Network lines using a downloadable directory of bank routing numbers that is updated daily.

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