Financing Terrorism America's Unique Position Research Paper

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Simply put, the September 11th attacks would never have occurred without the prior development of the group's worldwide infrastructure, which consists of truly billions of dollars to establish and maintain (Ehrenfeld, 2003). Enormous amounts of money have been spent on recruitment, training camps, purchasing weapons, training on weapons, creating unconventional weapons, gathering intelligence, promoting Islamist propaganda and other activities (Ehrenfeld, 2003).

The Last Five Years

One of the things that the United States government has learned to do with a greater level of dexterity has been to adapt to the changing technologies which allow terrorist organizations to fund their operations. For instance, with the advancing technologies, vulnerabilities still persist in arenas such as digital currencies and alternative transfer network, also causing even more bitter battles over bureaucratic turf. As the technogical methodologies for moving money around the world improve and become more streamlined, or just more distinct, the U.S. government as an even more aggravated obligation to keep up with all these different ways (Reuters, 2011). Thus, with the increased screening of transactions within financial institutions, and the even stricter monitoring of suspicious activity, the American government has demonstrated that it's gotten better and better at pinpointing the funding of terrorist organizations. As a result of this improved skill, terrorists thus turned to alternative funding methods in order to support their criminal acts of terror. For example, kidnappings were a new tactic in terrorism financing. Ultimately, terrorists found that committing more crimes was a way to financially support the ultimate crime. "The nexus of crime, terror, and corruption is extremely worrisome, particularly for its capacity to generate new and substantial sources of funding that could fuel terrorist operations against the United States and our partners,' said John O. Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism" (Wolf, 2011).

To review, right after 9/11, the federal government did the following: it targeted financial networks that engaged with militant groups (allowing these groups to funnel their money around the globe to green-light operations (Wolf, 2011). Congress greenlit the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 to block clandestine flows of money, new law-enforcement and intelligence units were allowed greater agency and freedom (Wolf, 2011). In the past, the government seldom engaged in consistent actions to stop terrorism by targeting financing; it was generally a shoddy effort. "Dennis Lormel, who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Terrorist Financing Operations Section after 9/11 and is now a consultant, said that prior to the attacks…'it was kind of a one-off process and agencies didn't have a dedicated group to combat it. They dealt with it on a case-by-case basis and a lot depended on the comfort level the investigating agents had with financial investigations,'" (Wolf, 2011). While it's good that regulatory actions have become more streamlined and more regimented, this means that terrorist groups will also begin to find them more predictable, and will use them as a guide -- knowing what to avoid and what not to avoid.

Improvement of General Homeland Security

Making the entire department of Homeland Security more streamlined and more prepared has been a fundamental aspect of the post-9/11 society. Once faction of this which directly relates to monitoring the bankroll of terrorist groups connects to the countrywide movement to monitor and report suspicious activity. For instance, this movement is referred to as the "nationwide suspicious activity reporting initiative." This is a truly comprehensive effort to train and educate "state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism, crime and other threats; standardize how those observations are documented and analyzed; and enhance the sharing of those reports with law enforcement across the country" ( This is so essential, since combating the financing of terrorist groups is a nationwide effort that requires everyone's cooperation; it is not simply something that just occurs in Washington. Thus, all law enforcement groups require particular training on how to do this better as well as education on what suspicious behavior looks like and how it manifests in a variety of ways. Without this training, most law enforcement officers simply won't know what to look for. Furthermore, this movement creates action and awareness with law enforcement, and the knowledge that they are required to engage in this type surveillance and regulation.

Terrorist Travel

Sometimes for a terrorist operative to be bankrolled, the funds aren't reliant on a wire transfer between financial institutions. Sometimes terrorist organizations can receive funding through the presence or connection with another individual. This is why advanced passenger information and finding accurate passenger record data is so vital when it comes to keeping the skies and airlines safe. Most civilians think of "safe air travel" as preventing another 9/11. However, sometimes keeping air travel safe means not allowing passengers who intend to support terrorist organizations reach their destination. "To identify high-risk travelers and facilitate legitimate travel, DHS requires airlines flying to the United States to provide Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data prior to departure. During 2008 and 2009, PNR helped the United States identify individuals with potential ties to terrorism in more than 3,000 cases, and in fiscal year 2010, approximately one quarter of those individuals denied entry to the United States for having ties to terrorism were initially identified through the analysis of PNR" (, 2013). This is indeed so significant because more often than not, the ties to terrorism that these individuals end up having are financial ones, in some way or another. Sometimes these individuals arrive to just mastermind the terrorist initiatives, to help organize or recruit them, or to otherwise provide some sort of support.

Comparable programs which prevent terrorist financing via means of preventing terrorists from reaching their destinations is one known as the visa security program (VSP). This program works in conjunction with the department of state, training and deploying special agents to high-risk visa activity posts in order to identify potential terrorist and criminal threats before the American nation even encounters them (, 2013). One aspect of the work that VSP does is in finding ways to interrupt the financing of these organizations (, 2013). More than anything, a very real way of interrupting the financing of terrorist groups and intricate terrorist plots is still via pre-departure vetting. "DHS has strengthened its in-bound targeting operations to identify high-risk travelers who are likely to be inadmissible to the United States and to recommend to commercial carriers that those individuals not be permitted to board a commercial aircraft through its Pre-Departure program. Since 2010, CBP has identified over 2,800 passengers who would likely have been found inadmissible upon arrival to the United States" (, 2013). So much of the fiscal solvency of terrorist plans can regularly often depend on them having a cohesive unit and financed group. This endeavor goes hand in hand with the secure flight movement. Satisfying a key 9/11 commission, the DHS fully implemented "secure flight" in 2010, where the TSA was able to prescreen 100% of passengers on flights which flew anywhere starting or ending in America (, 2013). This is a clear example of how the government has been able to evolve, advancing their technology and making better decisions about how to screen passengers before they receive their boarding passes. Before Secure Flight, airlines had the involved and tedious (though necessary) task of checking passengers against watchlists. This was definitely an involved task and one which was also liable for mistakes and other inefficiencies. Secure Flight can vet 14 million passengers weekly (, 2013). However, with all these advances, it also just means that terrorist groups are finding new loopholes and new ways to finance their plans and attacks in ways that don't rely on banks or travel.

Several Sources of Funding

Realistically speaking, most terrorist groups stay afloat through the help of varied sources of income. For example, a few years after 9/11, the Saudi government reluctantly admitted to giving around $87 Billions dollars as a means of spreading Wahhabism (Ehrenfeld, 2003). "This money has been spent on the creation of Mosques, schools, and other institutions that have constituted the breeding grounds for the foot soldiers of the global Islamic terrorist movement. Political considerations, and oil, have prevented Washington from holding the Saudis accountable for their role in promoting terrorism" (Ehrenfeld, 2003). However, the fact remains, that when it comes to the fiscal support of terrorists, simply blaming the Saudi Arabian government, or really any government is just unacceptable. While many Arab states have had their hand in financing terrorists, chartiable organizations (as established) have played a big part as well. These are organizations like the Arab League and the International Islamic Relief Organization; 'legitimate' business fronts, such as travel agencies and cell phone distributors; the exploitation of the unregulated commodities market and other financial markets; and various forms of international trade that convert cash into diamonds and gold" (Ehrenfeld, 2003). These facts demonstrate how tough and challenging it…

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