Federal authorities lack a clear understanding of how terrorists move financial assets and are still struggling to prevent the flow of money to terror groups, says Congress’s General Accounting Office. The New York Times says the GAO also reports that the Internal Revenue Service has not developed a plan for sharing financial data with state authorities about charities under investigation. And the Treasury and Justice Departments are nearly a year behind in developing a plan for attacking money laundering and issues like terrorist use of black-market gems and gold. It says some agencies have failed to make terrorism financing a high priority.
Law enforcement officials point to recent successes in investigating people in the U.S. and overseas suspected as major financiers of terrorism. But they acknowledge that the money-moving analysis has proved far more difficult than many anticipated and that recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and elsewhere point to terror groups with access to significant resources.
The investigation “is a real eye opener,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who requested the study along with Senator Charles E. Grassley, (R-Iowa). “This is an indication that we were naïve to believe that all of our attention had this problem under control,” Durbin said.
“Right now there is a lack of understanding of what the problem really is,” a Justice Department official who works on terror financing issues told the Times. “Tracing money in the best of circumstances is very, very difficult, and when you’re talking about terrorist operations that can be carried out for $50,000 or $75,000, it’s almost impossible.”