Federal efforts to help foreign nations cut off the supply of money to terrorists have been stymied by infighting among agencies, leadership problems, and insufficient financing, says a Government Accountability Office study reported by the New York Times. More than four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “the U.S. government lacks an integrated strategy” to train foreign countries and provide them with technical assistance to shore up their financial and law enforcement systems against terrorist financing, says the report by Congress’ investigative arm.
The findings produced dissent from government officials, who said GAO overstated the bureaucratic problems in curbing terrorist financing overseas and the level of dissension between agencies. The government has identified 26 “priority” countries that it considered particularly vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist financiers, who may take advantage of lax financial controls and loosely regulated or nonexistent laws to launder money in support of terrorist attacks. Officials at the State and Treasury Departments cannot even agree on who is supposed to be in charge of the effort to shore up defenses in vulnerable countries, said GAO. The Bush administration has seized tens of millions of dollars in accounts and assets linked to terrorist groups. Experts say the results have been spotty, with few clear dents in Al Qaeda’s ability to move money and finance terrorist attacks. The new report, a follow-up to a 2003 sudy that offered a similarly bleak assessment, buttresses those concerns.