Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post outlines what the Treasury Department should do about Saudi terror financing. I’m not holding my breath here.
Saudi Arabia, as everyone knows, promotes domestic intolerance of Christians, Jews and Shia Muslims. That would be mostly a Saudi problem “” if the Saudis didn’t have so much money. But their oil riches “” and well-documented largesse “” allow the kingdom to export a distilled version of Islamofascist hatred.
Saudi money funds Islamist schools and mosques all over the Middle East and in Europe. Of more immediate concern for Americans, rich Saudis likely underwrote the 9/11 attacks “” by giving money to known terrorist charities, which then piped millions of dollars to al Qaeda.
“Al Qaeda appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors . . . particularly in Saudi Arabia,” the 9/11 Commission reported. “Some individual donors surely knew, and others did not, the ultimate destination of their donations.”
This easy money makes Saudi intolerance our problem. To fund the 9/11 hijackings, those Saudis “” and al Qaeda “” had to get some of that money from there to here. This is where the Treasury Department comes in.
Treasury Secretary John Snow (under the direction of President Bush) is responsible for damming terrorist dollars before they flow into U.S. bank accounts “” so that more Saudi money won’t fund more attacks on America.
After 9/11, Congress gave the department the powers to execute this urgent mandate. The Patriot Act granted Treasury officials vast new authority to review suspicious banking transactions in the United States. The new law also directed American banks to report suspicious activities to the government “” like large cash withdrawals or wire transfers, or unverifiable customer identities….
Treasury has invoked its new powers nine times “” but not against Saudi Arabia, or against any other major Mideast financial hub. Last month, Treasury identified banks in Cyprus and Belarus as suspected money-launderers; last year, it took action against Burma, Nauru and Ukraine.
But some common-sense financial profiling is in order here:
* Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers weren’t from Nauru “” they were from Saudi Arabia.
* Several prominent Saudi princes and subjects, and more than a dozen prominent Saudi banks and charities, have been fingered in civil lawsuits filed in connection with the 9/11 attacks as alleged al Qaeda donors or money-launderers.
* Earlier this year, Treasury shut down the Saudi-based Al Haramain Islamic Foundation branch in Oregon. AHIF was “directly linked” to Osama bin Laden, Treasury officials said “” and laundered money across borders over its seven-year history here to fund the work of al Qaeda.
* It’s not just Saudi Arabia. Two of the 9/11 hijackers received $114,500 via five wire transfers to America from an al Qaeda operative in the United Arab Emirates.
But Treasury has yet to designate Saudi Arabia (or the UAE) as a swamp of terrorist financing.