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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Terrorists' funding: How can we stop the money supply?
President Bush has signed an executive order freezing the US assets of individuals and organisations he believes are behind the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Bush described the order as a "strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network" and the opening shot of a war against terrorism.

Regulators are planning to upgrade their systems for uncovering the laundering of dirty money. However experts believe that tracing the flow of this funding will be a complicated, time-consuming business.

And many banks believe that they don't have the staff and resources to police accounts.

Will the investigators be successful in preventing the terrorists access to funds? Is it possible to track down so many different suspicious accounts anyway?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

One can only hope that at last there is the motivation to seize all these assets

Dave Pearce, Manchester, England
I have never understood why 'numbered' or anonymous accounts are allowed. They can only be for illegal purposes, mainly tax avoidance or drugs. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but the fact that they have not been tightly controlled in the past illustrates how corrupt our political and financial leaders must be. One can only hope that at last there is the motivation to seize all these assets and divert them to alleviating the poverty on which terrorism breeds.
Dave Pearce, Manchester, England

I think the USA will find it difficult to cut off the flow of money to terrorist organisations. For many years they were unable to control the flow of funds from USA to the IRA..
Geoff, Australia

It is a well-known fact that the Taleban get $m's from the sale of heroin every year. Can we therefore expect heroin dealers in the UK (and elsewhere) to be convicted of supporting terrorism and given a minimum 30-year term?
Mark Serlin, UK

No money or arms from this country should end up in their bloody hands

Bob, UK
Companies within the US, UK and most other developed countries have trade relationships with many countries that terrorise their own people. Is it only when a country's people are subjected to terrorism by foreigners that it becomes their problem? I'm not saying that we should go to war with dictators everywhere, but no money or arms from this country should end up in their bloody hands.
Bob, UK

As a British citizen currently living in the US, I am pleased to see that the US is finally trying to stop the flow of money to terrorist organisations, but it all seems to be very selective. Will the US government now outlaw fundraising for the IRA via NORAID? After all it has made a declaration of war against terrorists. Does that mean all terrorists or just the ones who attack the US?
John Hodges, UK/USA

You can't put the IRA and these Islamic extremist terrorists in the same category. At least we have some idea what the IRA want. Freedom, I guess they call it. But what do the Islamic terrorists want?
Kieron, Ireland

To Michael, USA - So, America should be thanked for going round the world interfering where it's neither wanted nor invited, should it? Has it not occurred to you that maybe it's this attitude of being the "bully in the school playground" that has led to so much hatred worldwide for the American nation?

As for helping everyone else out, in WW1 you came in right at the end, and in WW2 you were quite happy to let Britain cope almost single-handedly until Pearl Harbour was bombed. Only then did you participate. The only war you've ever attempted to undertake on your own - Vietnam - you lost humiliatingly. Maybe that's why you're so reluctant to embark on another without a "world coalition" to back you up. It's the conceit and misplaced sense of superiority of the American nation that antagonises and instils resentment in a vast proportion of the rest of the world. Remember, the clock that ticks the loudest doesn't always work the best.

Any new laws must be applied to all terrorist groups

Julian, England
Removing the source of funding wherever possible, whether it be by donation or crime, is the obvious starting point. As an Englishman I have had to accept the knowledge that Irish terrorist groups are funded from within a number of nations, including America. Any new laws must be applied to all terrorist groups. Or will the Americans and UN, currently so adamant, soon be allowing double standards?
Julian, England

Hilde from the USA says that the IRA doesn't exist to exterminate Americans. Quite true; it exists to terrorise the UK, which, unless you've forgotten, is the nation that has currently supported you in this event above all others. We're not asking for you to do much: just acknowledge the fact that the IRA are terrorists, but your government won't even do that.
David, UK

I note so many people calling on Bush to deal with NI terrorism. Surely it is the responsibility of the British government first. We know how they handle it so maybe they are right, get Bush to sort it out.
Maurice, England (I think)

Maybe the USA should be looking at cause rather than act. The USA uses these nations for a time then leaves them high and dry after all it happened with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and now most likely Pakistan. When the 'war' end does any one really think that the West will embrace them as allies? Within 10 years America will be at war with them.
Michael, United kingdom

Several people here have mentioned the IRA and funding by Americans, and I think there is a point here that gets missed. Until Americans find themselves forbidden to contribute to the IRA and similar groups, they simply won't understand what cutting off funding really means. If Americans are allowed to go on sending money to the IRA, they will continue to view support for terrorism as they always have - as an abstraction in the world outside the US.
Jon Livesey, USA

This once again exposes the double standards that exist and are promoted by the western world

Tope Olukemi, Nigeria
For years fledgling democracies in Africa have called upon western governments to freeze the accounts of corrupt dictators, all to no avail. While I support the call to halt the cash flow of people who engage in terrorist acts, I feel that this once again exposes the double standards that exist and are promoted by the western world.
Tope Olukemi, Nigeria

This is completely pointless as the attack on the WTC was done with a few airline tickets and knives, hardly a high cost operation.
Rob, UK

Stopping the money supply will not stop them from carrying out terrorist acts. They are not motivated by money but by what they believe in.
Henry Tan, Singapore

The most important methods of combating terrorism are to block funding and the supply of arms and ammunition to suspected organisations throughout the world. Democratic countries where freedom is taken for granted must enforce stricter laws to control terrorism taking root. Nipping it at the bud is the only solution.
Prabhakaran, India

The financing of terrorism and drug trafficking will be better monitored and limited only when the global community is governed by the same strict regulations, with particular emphasis placed on scrutinising cash transactions.
Ashraf Moftah, Egypt

The only way forward is to eliminate terrorism

Naveed, Pakistan
The reality is that no-one can stop the money supply to terrorist organisations in the long run. Any steps will only bring temporary relief. The only way forward is to eliminate terrorism and this can be accomplished by a creating an economic and political environment which is perceived by the downtrodden and deprived as just and balanced.
Naveed, Pakistan

Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi dissident. If we stop buying Saudi Arabian oil - we can bring an end to his terrorism. The explored territories of Russia hold all the natural resources we will ever need. We should bomb Russia and Afghanistan with food, aid and plenty of infrastructure!
Tom Williams, UK

Does that include the CIA as well?
Manos Theocharopoulos, UK

I'm sure that all these new measures that are now being taken will have some, albeit probably small, effect. But in my view the oxygen that terrorism needs is really provided by the media. No media coverage - no terrorism.
Roland Marslin, UK

To stop terrorism you have to stop the drugs trade

Lamaan Ball, UK
Terrorism and drugs go hand in hand. The terrorist network that sprung up in Afghanistan was heavily tied in with the huge production of heroin there. To stop terrorism you have to stop the drugs trade. The UN estimates that the production of heroin in Afghanistan has been reduced by 3,000 tons since the Taleban prohibited it last year. This annoyed a lot of very rich criminals who had been funding the terrorists. Bush needs to follow this trail if he is serious about wiping them out.
Lamaan Ball, UK

I am as deeply outraged by the attack on the USA as any person, but after years of Noraid funded-IRA terrorist attacks on the UK, I am deeply sceptical of Bush's claim to rid the world of all forms of terrorism. Why is the IRA not included on the list? I strongly back President Bush's call to rid the world of terrorism but while he's at it he should include all terrorist groups.
Tony, Grenada

I agree that the Bush administration needs to address other terrorist groups, such as the IRA, in the very near future, especially if this is to be a global retaliation against terrorism. I think that right now his mind is set on one task - eliminating the Osama Bin Laden network, which will take a lot more than just freezing the assets of his associates.
Yvonne, USA

The Bush administration should define what a terrorist is and what a terrorist group is. By being biased towards some Islamic groups, the Bush administration seems to have forgotten or ignored other European and Israeli terrorist groups. These so-called terrorists have a huge intelligence network. They know how to get money from their sources. So, it is not easy to freeze these assets.
Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda

Even if Mr Bush is successful in freezing terrorist assets, can he freeze their spirit or determination?
Humaira Khan, UAE

The money supply to these terrorists won't be fully stopped but the bulk of it can. Major donations given to the Taleban regime have come from rich people in Saudi Arabia. Surely the US and the UK have enough influence in that region to lean on those governments to adopt a tougher policy. Funds have been raised within the UK itself for a jihad against Indian forces in Kashmir. There is a tendency in both the UK and USA to regard these activities with a benign eye until the west is personally affected. Now that it has been it is willing to act. Better late then never.
Satish Rao, India

One thing I know for sure as an American is that the only way to really hurt someone is to leave them penniless

V Perez, USA
One thing I know for sure as an American is that the only way to really hurt someone is to leave them penniless. The attacks on this country only cost around $10,000 to carry out. Leave them with nothing so that they cannot function at all. Without money they will not be able to afford to fund training camps or purchase weapons. As a liberal I feel our conservative president is on the right track.
V Perez, USA

Freezing these organisations' assets is just the first step. The US realises it may only harm the terrorists a little but any harm done to terrorists is good. Europeans were so worried that Bush would jump into this conflict with immediate strikes. Give the man some credit. He is approaching the problem with intelligence. He will use forces in small quantities to capture Bin Laden and ensure that the Taleban's days are numbered. Bush is working on helping the Northern Alliance defeat the Taleban and bring Afghanistan and its unfortunate people into the 21st century.
Tom, Chicago, USA

I believe that what Bush is trying to achieve is justified and necessary if not a little ambitious. I agree with earlier comments that every little will help in an all out war against terrorism. Over time all these separate ventures may just make a dent. But I must say that if Bush is committing himself to the eradication of global terrorism then he really needs to lead from the front. He is aware of the fact that America is the largest contributor of funds, arms and training tools to terrorist groups in Northern Ireland. Yet there is no mention of severing these ties. What America cannot afford to do at the moment is to appear to be judging the differences between terrorists and freedom fighters. We all know where that attitude could lead us if the situation escalates in areas with large Muslim communities.
Chris Thompson, Malaysia

The concept of freezing terrorists' assets should be extended to include government access to the accounts of all criminals. I do not mind in the least if the government looks at my bank account. I have nothing to hide. Swiss bank accounts are the best thing that ever happened to criminals.
Edward J. Adams, Canada

I would have to agree that the freezing of assets would have little or no effect on future terrorist operations. In terms of an appropriate response, I believe that a specific, targeted military reply is absolutely required. However, while a widespread assault on Afghanistan may provide a media spectacle that may temporarily appease a grieving American public, it is likely to only exacerbate the situation. This is exactly what the perpetrators of this incident want to see happening. As a global fugitive, it is likely that Bin Laden has transformed his entire identity and appearance and is in hiding where we least expect -perhaps even in the US.

While mapping out a response to these horrific events, the fundamental issues should be analysed. It is clear that this is a major wake-up call for the US government regarding its foreign policy and dependence on foreign oil. At the end of the day, this is the root of the problem that has led to the widespread resentment of the US and the subsequent attacks on the symbols of American prosperity and power. Environmentalists and economists have urged the development of alternative energy sources for decades. I pray that the recent tragic events will provide the impetus for the accelerated development of alternative energy sources, a re-examination of America's foreign policy, and a co-ordinated international covert response that will strike at the heart of this elusive network of terror.
Tom, Hong Kong

I want these groups eliminated no matter how painful it is on my wallet or lifestyle

Egen Frow, New York, USA
There is about as much of a chance of slowing down terrorist money as there is of stopping the flow of drugs. Cash always rules. I'm sure there will be an impact from this new policy but it's effect won't last very long. This method alone will be ineffective unless it is combined with other tactics. The US government knows this. I believe that every possible resource should be used. I want these groups eliminated, no matter how painful it is on my wallet or lifestyle.
Egen Frow, New York, USA

When the United States itself is constantly pouring in money to fund different terrorist-harbouring nations, why should we even pay heed to a policy like "freezing all terrorist assets". I wonder why Mr Bush does not come out and say that we actually indirectly fed and funded the Mujahadeen and Osama Bin Laden.
Dee, USA

So, have all Islamic-sounding groups' assets been frozen? Mr Bush is failing in his attempts to convince the world that this is not a war against Islam.
Ayesha Hussain, London, UK

Neither the ETA nor the IRA exists to exterminate Americans. Right now, the greatest threats to US citizens and those of other western nations are supporters of the September 11 murderers. Freezing their assets is a non-violent defensive measure that is absolutely necessary.
Hilde, USA

It would be ridiculous and unwise to spread ourselves thin by going after every terrorist organisation right now

Denise, USA
To those of you who are expressing concerns regarding how this move falls short of fighting all forms of terrorism, let me remind you that the US is working on one focused goal at a time. It would be ridiculous and unwise to spread ourselves thin by going after every terrorist organisation right now. Today, the focus is on the international terrorist groups and their supporters who are responsible for the September 11 atrocities and attacks on US ships and embassies. At the same time, the US is looking at the larger perspective. Terrorism in all forms is evil and the US is fed up with it. Every country in the world has its own internal terrorists, including the US. The WTC disaster has had a major effect on American citizens in terms of how they perceive such atrocities. This war against terrorism is going to go on for a long time. We are currently only seeing the first steps. Be patient.
Denise, USA

Freezing terrorist funding will not completely eradicate the problem. The USA is a great country but their foreign policy has been on the wrong side for years. The US must exert pressure on Israel to leave the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. This move will certainly bring a wider peaceful solution.
Suren, Australia

Terrorists do not require millions of dollars to conduct their activities. As proven, the means are readily available among ordinary commercial products that are taken for granted. In the wrong hands they can be deadly weapons.
Robert Morpheal, Canada

Maybe they should consider where these people get their arms and weapons from

Patricia Khisa, UK
I personally believe that if the US wanted to wipe out terrorism in the name of Bin Laden they would have done so in 1998 after the bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. Maybe they should consider where these people get their arms and weapons from. Secondly terrorists' bank accounts will not bear their names.
Patricia Khisa, UK

If the world's wealth was more equally shared these concerns would not arise. Many nations throughout the world including the Middle East have a surplus while nations nearby struggle. People throughout the world need to look at their own governments and religions and ask if their rules are in place simply to keep them in power or to assist the people. All terrorists are one and the same and the IRA or similar groups in Europe belong on the list. After thousands of years of recorded history we should understand that killing others does not solve the problem.
Jeffrey Booth, Japan

Freezing assets is not the solution but every little bit helps. This step shows that Bush is willing to take a number of different approaches to combating this problem, and is not just going with a knee-jerk all out military response.
Grant, USA

I think we're mostly after terrorists who target America. We are finally asking for the support of the world in this cause after decades of assisting dozens of other countries with their problems, whether they were humanitarian or military. This may be the reason we are not going after, say, the IRA. We ask all other countries to look at what America has done to help everybody else in their time of need. Now is the time to return the favour.
Michael, USA

It's a good idea to freeze these organisations' assets, but what about the arms trade? Afghanistan doesn't manufacture its own weapons. By stopping or significantly reducing arms trading we can stop fuelling the terrorist ideology.
Celia Smith, New Zealand

What about the many dictators in the world with their numbered Swiss accounts? Will Dubya target them ?
John Bowen, Sussex, England

Well, even if we wanted to stop the money flow and freeze successful can we be when the media is publishing it three days before it is actually implemented? Wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out to move the money now would it?
P Filkins, USA

President Bush didn't even thank Canada for helping them out. This makes me so mad. I'm Canadian and I think that we should get recognised. We're usually the first ones there to help out in a crisis.
Michelle , Canada

If the United States can stop arms laundering the world will be a much safer place to live in. Please note that most of the weapons used by terrorists are made in the United States.
Jose, India

The sort of terrorism that has emerged does not require much money

Natassia Khan, UK

It's ridiculous to assume that terrorists are dependent upon significant financial resources. The WTC attack was low-budget in the extreme yet caused absolute devastation. The sort of terrorism that has emerged does not require much money. We must recognise Islamic extremism as the fascist movement it is and refuse its adherents entry to Western countries.
Natassia Khan, UK

It is not possible to trace terrorists' assets without assuming that everyone on planet earth is a terrorist, with or without a bank account. Some people do not observe the Highway Code and kill innocent people - terrorism is another method with a different cause and scale.
Ali Sanjarani, UK

Not all criminals use banks and many contributors do not wire their funds. Freezing US assets and military actions are a must to ameliorate or delay other terrorist actions. But only acknowledging and reacting to the causes of terrorism would end it.
A. Attallah, USA

In response to Thierry, please keep in mind that the US only has the authority to freeze US assets. The EU must act to protect its own interests, including local terrorism. The US will surely follow your lead and support any such actions. This country can't do everything.

Personally, I find it insulting that there isn't a single European terrorist group named on this list

Thierry, Amsterdam

Personally, I find it insulting that there isn't a single European terrorist group named on this list. The US Administration has once again demonstrated how hypocritical it is, saying on the one hand it would go after all terrorist groups, while it does nothing to fight ETA, IRA and others as they see it as a "European" problem. Well, frankly, I'm beginning to understand why some people hate them so much.
Thierry, Amsterdam

We have to work on this issue on all fronts and with all of our allies and resources. There may be banks that hide the accounts of these organisations and people but they reside in countries that are members of the UN and someone insures these banks.
Jerome, Ohio, USA

Though preventing terrorist access to funding is an extremely daunting task I believe it is an important step that President Bush has considered. Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Benjamin, Kenya

This may slow the terrorists down a little but what about stopping the arms trade?

Jenni, Bristol, England

Presumably this action is being taken on the premise that money is the root of all evil. This may slow the terrorists down a little but what about stopping the arms trade? Perhaps the US should look at revoking its citizens' "right to bear arms" as another way of reducing the number of innocent Americans killed on home soil.
Jenni, Bristol, England

I wonder if President Bush is going to freeze investment in viral and other massive weapons...
Felipe Valencia, Chile

Conflict, war and crime generates large sums of money for some people. It's good for business. It's always been that way and will always be. After 30 years of Angola, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and Suharto in Indonesia it's clear to me that one person's terrorist is another person's best mate.
Hilton Grayson, UK

Opening up Swiss bank accounts is relatively easy compared to other countries

Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland

Opening up Swiss bank accounts is relatively easy compared to other countries. Liechtenstein has much stricter laws than even Switzerland and it may prove too much for the US to gain access to those accounts despite threat of financial isolation.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland

This policy sounds remarkably similar to the freezing of drug barons' assets - and we all know how successful that was. Have you ever heard of a poor or underfunded drugs cartel? Why are we so convinced that the same policy will work this time?
Dave, UK

One of the best ways to trace terrorists is to "follow the money". A blanket freezing of assets may be counter-productive if it prevents the FBI from finding the real beneficiaries.
Philip Lewis, England

Governments have tried for years to stamp out such accounts with little success

Rob, UK

A banking system that can take 40 years to find accounts and pay out money to the Jewish people who suffered under the Nazis is both unlikely and unable to find accounts used by terrorist organisations. I have no doubt that many wealthy people hide monies from their government to avoid paying tax, these will mask the terrorist accounts. Organised crime already launders money. Governments have tried for years to stamp out such accounts with little success.
Rob, UK

Does this mean that every multi-millionaire with money in offshore accounts will be treated as a possible terrorist? There are probably thousands of such accounts here on the Isle of Man alone, never mind the Channel Islands, Bermuda, Caymans etc where there are undoubtedly many more. I cannot see how it can be policed - no matter what barriers you put up, someone will find a way over them.
Paul, Isle of Man

Talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted...
Martin, England

We are not only dealing with a radical terrorist, we are also dealing with an incredibly intelligent man

AH, Scotland

I am glad to see that the US is taking mild steps at this early stage of its war against terrorism. It is rather encouraging to see that the gung-ho attitude that many thought President Bush would adopt has been left at the very least, on the back burner. However, speculating on how effective the move will be is another matter. Only time will tell. I fear that Bin Laden has money scattered in every conceivable location yet it remains outside the reach of everyone, bar the man himself. And let us not forget, in the case of Bin Laden, we are not only dealing with a radical terrorist, we are also dealing with an incredibly intelligent man.
AH, Scotland

I definitely believe that no matter how time consuming tracking down these bank accounts is, it MUST be done. I also believe that this is a moment where the US should also be reflecting on how they have helped the actual situation so it won't happen again. Terrorism must be eradicated.
Silvia Garcia, Venezuela

This is blood money and should be stopped

Pete, UK

This is blood money and should be stopped. Banks are making huge profits and they should take it upon themselves to take care where they get their money. As with the ID card debate, a little inconvenience could be a huge benefit to law-abiding society. Isn't it about time the burden of proof rested with the depositor as to the legality of the funds rather than the system to prove that it is 'dirty money'
Pete, UK

I hope this new legislation includes stopping funding to the IRA by East coast Irish Americans - somehow I doubt that it will be implemented against the USA's own citizens. But it would be a great step towards uniting the UK and USA if President Bush showed that ALL terrorism must be wiped out and not just terrorism that affects the USA.
Sharon B, UK

If President Bush says that they have bank account details on groups associated with the attacks then the big question is: If they believe they can freeze the accounts now, why didn't they do this a long time ago? These groups have been suspect for a long time. It sounds like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted to me!
Andy, Notts, UK

Even if they only stop one source of funding, it will be a help and will be worth it!
Andy Stratt, UK

Mark [Belgium] suggests destroying the Taliban's poppy fields. This sounded like a good idea until I realised that it would cause a supply problem in the West. This in turn would drive prices up and crime figures would surely follow suit as addicts committed more crime to meet the higher prices demanded by dealers.
Russ, UK

Rather than hit them in their pockets let's attack the poppy fields and wipe out the heroin trade they are so reliant on. We could do this with a viral agent or literally fire bomb the field. We ought to be looking at other areas such as the diamond and precious stones trade. Attack and regulate the commodities they deal and that will stop the flow of cash to the terrorists.
Mark, Belgium

They are ignoring the point that money can come from other organisations

Gagan, UK

Well the only way to stop funding is to do it globally as the terrorist network is global as well. The USA is more focussed on organisations that are related directly or indirectly to Osama Bin Laden only. They are ignoring the point that money can come from other organisations, e.g. the fundamentalist organisations that are active in Kashmir in India or Pakistan.
Gagan, UK

Surely the terrorists have a lot of money stashed away in Swiss and Austrian banks that are beyond the reach of even the Swiss/Austrian authorities. Freezing their assets in America or elsewhere will do little to prevent the terrorists accessing funds.
Dan Weinberg, UK

One thing that should be considered is pressure on countries that hide dirty money under a cloak of refined respectability. Switzerland, Liechtenstein and many others should face condemnation for their actions as passive bystanders, profiting from and providing despots and terrorists alike with the opportunity to fund and continue their deeds without fear of economic loss.
Andrew Cover, UK

I wonder if President Bush will be freezing the assets of Noraid which provides the IRA terrorists with their funds. Or are they classed as "freedom fighters"?
Renny, UK


Political uncertainty






See also:

24 Sep 01 | Americas
24 Sep 01 | Business
19 Sep 01 | Business
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