Asset Freezers, Money Followers Split Over Tactics


Nearly three years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, U.S. law enforcement has no idea who exactly paid for the terrorist attacks. One reason, says the Baltimore Sun, is that launching a terrorist attack is dirt cheap. The Sun reports a growing split among law enforcement officials over how to best prevent the financing of a terrorist attack. Some urge U.S. agencies to freeze more assets and attempt to plug the terrorists’ funding pipelines. Others want to spot suspicious money and follow its movement in hopes that it leads to terrorists or offers clues to a potential plot. “There is a big ideological divide right now between the asset freezers and the people who want to follow the money as it changes hands,” said Jonathan M. Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement in the Clinton administration. “There’s no easy answer one way or the other.”

Last week the commission investigating the terrorist attacks argued in favor of watching the money, saying that “trying to starve the terrorists of money is like trying to catch one kind of fish by draining the ocean.” The report found that asset freezing has had “little effect” when faced with legal challenges, international politics, and concerns about revealing intelligence gathering secrets. 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean told NBC’s Meet the Press that following the money would be “more productive.” “Right now we have been spending a lot of energy in the government to dry up sources of funding,” Kean said. “When it only costs $400,000 to $500,000 to pull off an operation like [9/11], we’ll never dry up the money. But by using the money trail, we may be able to catch some of these things and break them up.”


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