The Washington Institute for Near East Policy posted today a summary of the excellent address of our esteemed colleague Matthew Levitt on February 23 on “Challenges and Opportunities in the Campaign to Combat Terrorism Financing”. From November 2005 to January 2007, Matthew Levitt served as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department.
His analysis focuses on the little-understood effort to combat terrorism financing as well as the challenges and opportunities to stop the funds.
Clearly, the US designation of terrorists is the only most visible part of the USG effort to combat terrorism financing. It also includes diplomacy, law enforcement, covert activity, and intelligence collection.
If designation is the most visible part of the US action against terrorism financing, then I believe it should be the most relevant and trusted one. But it is not. The reasons are many: from the persistent weakness of international monitoring systems, to the reliance of this process on political grounds, its classified nature and the absence of legal sanctions, other than a preventive freezing of assets, against individuals and entities for which there is evidence regarding their involvement in financing a terrorist organization.
If we assume that fighting terrorism financing is another avenue to combat terrorism, then, there is no theoretical and legal difference between someone who planed a terrorist attack and someone who provided funds to a terrorist organization for the very same attack to take place. Both of them have provided material support and they are both accomplices of the same act. Practice reflects the fact that the first will generally be arrested and prosecuted, while the other would remain free and even resume his activities to fund terrorism. This is what clearly and fundamentally impedes our efforts to stop terrorism financing.