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Profile: US Department of the Treasury

US Department of the Treasury was a participant or observer in the following events:

Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi is said to be the chief investor in the Muwafaq (or Blessed Relief) Foundation charity, which he founded in 1992. He has donated about $15 to $20 million for the charity from his fortune and wealthy colleagues who he persuaded to help. Some of these colleagues are members of very rich and powerful Saudi families. Many of the locations where the foundation is supposed to do charitable work are in battle zones like Bosnia and Chechnya, where al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups operate. In 1995, media reports claim that Muwafaq is being used to fund mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia. Also in 1995, Pakistani police raid the foundation’s Pakistan branch in the wake of the arrest of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995). The head of the branch is held for several months, and then the branch is closed down. [Chicago Tribune, 29 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] In 1996, bin Laden says in an interview that he supports the Muwafaq branch in Zagreb, Croatia (which is close to the fighting in neighboring Bosnia). [Guardian, 16 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Guardian, 10/16/2001] A senior US official will later claim that in 1998, the National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia, runs an audit and determines that the Muwafaq Foundation gave $3 million to al-Qaeda. Both al-Qadi and the bank later claim that the audit never existed. Al-Qadi asserts he has no ties to any terrorist group. [Chicago Tribune, 29 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] Al-Qadi will also claim that he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but it is referred to in UN and German charity documents as doing work in Sudan and Bosnia through 1998. [Guardian, 16 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Guardian, 10/16/2001; BBC, “Bin Laden \'Received UN Cash\',” 20 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">BBC, 10/20/2001] Shortly after 9/11, the Treasury Department will claim that Muwafaq funded Makhtab al-Khidamat (MAK) (the predecessor of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Abu Sayyaf (a Philippines militant group with ties to al-Qaeda), and other militant Islamic groups. [FrontPage Magazine, 17 June 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005] In 2004, the Swiss government will investigate an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of Muwafaq. Swiss investigators will say he is suspected of transferring tens of millions of dollars to “close al-Qaeda associates” from Swiss bank accounts. The Swiss will freeze $20 million of his bank accounts. This businessman denies any connection with terrorism (see September 19, 2005). [New York Times, 25 June 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 6/25/2004] However, despite all of these alleged connections, and the fact that the US will officially label al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), the Muwafaq Foundation has never been officially declared a terrorist supporting entity. An October 2001 New York Times article will say that the reason, “administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.” But the same article will also quote a news editor, who calls Muwafaq’s board of directors “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” [New York Times, 13 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 10/13/2001]

As President Clinton issues an executive order making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations (see January 1995), counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and a Treasury official named Rick Newcomb look for opportunities to use the new power. They review files to see if there are any clear cut cases to use it on. They decide that the Holy Land Foundation is in violation of the new order. Customs officials prepare to raid Holy Land’s headquarters in Arlington, Texas, and seize all their assets. However, FBI Director Louis Freeh and Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin object. Both claim the executive order might not hold up to legal challenges. Freeh additionally says he is concerned with alienating Arabs in the US, and Rubin is afraid the raid might discourage investment in the US. The raid is cancelled. [New York Times, 26 January 1995.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 1/26/1995; Against All Enemies: Inside America\'s War on Terror (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004)., 98.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Clarke, 2004, pp. 98] The FBI is also aware of a public event held in January where the leader of Hamas’ political wing is the keynote speaker. He urges the crowd, “I am going to speak the truth to you. It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!” Holy Land raises over $200,000 for Hamas from the event. The same speaker helps Holy Land raise money with many other events in the US. [Los Angeles Times, “FBI Document Links US Charity to Hamas,” 6 December 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 12/6/2001; Associated Press, “FBI Zeroes in on Hamas Fund Raising,” 15 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 3/15/2002] After Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk is arrested trying to enter the US in July 1995 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997), agents who search his belongings find financial records showing that he invested $250,000 in Holy Land in 1992. Holy Land continues to pay him monthly profits on his investment even after Hamas was declared a terrorist organization and news of his arrest made the front pages of US newspapers (in fact, Holy Land will continue to pay him through 2001). Although Holy Land is in clear violation of the law, the raid still does not occur. [Dallas Morning News, 19 December 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Dallas Morning News, 12/19/2002] In 1996, Congress will pass a law that confirms it is illegal to financially support officially designated terrorism groups such as Hamas. (see April 25, 1996). Clarke has never explained why Holy Land is not raided after the passage of this law, or in subsequent years when yet more evidence of terrorist ties are uncovered (see 1997; September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001). Holy Land will finally be raided after 9/11 (see December 4, 2001), largely on the basis of evidence collected in 1993 (see October 1993). In 2004, the US government will claim that Holy Land raised over $12 million for Hamas between January 1995, when funding Hamas became illegal in the US, and December 2001, when Holy Land was shut down. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 7/27/2004]

President Clinton signs a classified presidential order “directing the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury, the National Security Council, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies to increase and integrate their efforts against international money laundering by terrorists and criminals.” The New York Times will later call this the first serious effort by the US government to track bin Laden’s businesses. However, according to the Times, “They failed.” William Wechsler, a National Security Council staff member during the Clinton administration, will say that the government agencies given the task suffered from “a lack of institutional knowledge, a lack of expertise… We could have been doing much more earlier. It didn’t happen.” [New York Times, 20 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 9/20/2001]

1997: Action Against Holy Land Blocked Again

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The US government once again considers going after the Holy Land Foundation for its ties to Hamas. Israel freezes the foundation’s assets this year, and the Treasury Department proposes making a similar asset freeze in the US as well. [Wall Street Journal, 27 February 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2002] In 2000, the New York Times will report, “Some government officials recommended that the group be prosecuted in 1997 for supporting Hamas, the militant Islamic group. But others opposed the effort, fearing that it would expose intelligence sources and spur public criticism of the administration as anti-Muslim.” [New York Times, 19 February 2000.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 2/19/2000] Those pushing to prosecute the group would certainly include Vulgar Betrayal investigation FBI agents like Robert Wright. Wright had been aware of Holy Land’s ties to Hamas since 1993 (see After January 1993 and October 1993). However, Attorney General Janet Reno blocks the proposal and no action is taken. [Wall Street Journal, 27 February 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims that in 1995 he pushed for something to be done to Holy Land, but higher-ups overruled him (see January 1995-April 1996).

The Al Taqwa Bank had offices in this building in Lugano, Italy, on the border with Switzerland.The Al Taqwa Bank had offices in this building in Lugano, Italy, on the border with Switzerland. [Source: Keystone]Newsweek will later claim that US investigators “on bin Laden’s trail” had known about the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland and its support for al-Qaeda “for years. But the group’s mazelike structure made it hard to track, and the Feds considered it a low priority.” A senior Treasury official later will tell Congress that US investigators learned in 1997 that Hamas had transferred $60 million into accounts at the Al Taqwa Bank. Also in 1997, US investigators learn the names of many Al Taqwa shareholders. Many of them turn out to be rich and powerful Arabs, including members of the bin Laden family and members of the Kuwaiti royal family (see 1997-December 1999). Newsweek later will claim that, “The US took a harder look at Al Taqwa after the [1998 US] embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). Sources say US intelligence tracked telephone contacts between Al Taqwa and members of bin Laden’s inner circle. Al-Qaeda operatives would call Al Taqwa representatives in the Bahamas as they moved around the world. Still, the network’s complex structure made it difficult to prove how money changed hands, and the investigation stalled. Under US pressure, the Bahamian government revoked Al Taqwa’s license [in the spring of 2001]. Treasury officials say the network continued to do business anyway.” [Newsweek, 18 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 3/18/2002] The US will declare Al Taqwa a terrorist financier two months after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001).

Shortly after the US embassy bombings in 1998 (see August 7, 1998), the US launches a new interagency effort to track bin Laden’s finances. There had been a previous interagency effort in 1995 but it had fizzled (see October 21, 1995). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke sets up the team. He orders it to find out how much money bin Laden has, where it comes from, how it is distributed, and to stop it. Clarke appoints William Wechsler, a National Security Council staff member, to head the new team. Clarke later writes that he and Wechsler “quickly [come] to the conclusion that the [US government] departments [are] generally doing a lousy job of tracking and disrupting international criminals’ financial networks and had done little or nothing against terrorist financing.” [New York Times, 20 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 9/20/2001; Against All Enemies: Inside America\'s War on Terror (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004)., 190-191.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Clarke, 2004, pp. 190-191] Clarke will later claim there was only limited effort from within the US government to fight bin Laden’s financial network. He will assert that within weeks of setting up the interagency effort, it was determined that only one person in the US government, a lowly Treasury Department official, appeared to have any expertise about the hawala system, an informal and paperless money transfer system used by al-Qaeda that is popular with Muslim populations worldwide (see 1993-September 11, 2001). Clarke will later write that the “CIA knew little about the [hawala] system, but set about learning. FBI knew even less, and set about doing nothing.” The FBI claims there are no hawalas in the US, but Wechsler finds several in New York City using a simple Internet search. Clarke will say, “Despite our repeated requests over the following years, nobody from the FBI ever could answer even our most basic questions about the number, location, and activities of major hawalas in the US—much less taken action.” The efforts of other departments are not much better. The one Treasury official with some expertise about hawalas is eventually let go before 9/11. [Against All Enemies: Inside America\'s War on Terror (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004)., 192-193.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Clarke, 2004, pp. 192-193] Efforts to pressure governments overseas also meet with little success (see August 20, 1998-1999).

The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy.The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1993-1997). [Newsweek, 18 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 18 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 18 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 12 April 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.

In a January 2002 letter to Swiss authorities, a senior Treasury Department official will claim that the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland had set up a highly secretive line of credit for al-Qaeda, and that it is still in use in October 2000. (Apparently its status is unknown after this time.) It states that Al Taqwa “appeared to be providing a clandestine line of credit for a close associate of bin Laden.… This bin Laden lieutenant had a line of credit with a Middle East financial institution that drew on an identical account number at Bank Al Taqwa. Unlike other accounts—even accounts of private banking customers—this account was blocked by the computer system and special privileges were required to access it.” The letter calls the circumstances surrounding the account “highly unusual” and suggests that they were created “to conceal the association of the bin Laden organization with Bank Al Taqwa.” Another document reveals that the account was originally set up for Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, an al-Qaeda leader who was arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 20, 1998). It is believed that other al-Qaeda figures continued to access the account after Salim’s arrest. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002; Newsweek, 12 April 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 4/12/2004] The US will declare Al Taqwa Bank a terrorist financier in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001).

In October 2000, Congress authorizes a new unit within the Treasury Department called the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. Its task is to blend the expertise of the Treasury Department, CIA, FBI, and NSA in tracking and disrupting the finances of US-designated terrorist groups. Similar efforts had been tried twice before and fizzled out (see October 21, 1995; Late 1998). However, the unit is still getting organized at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Spurred by the attacks, the unit gets up and running on September 14, 2001. A Treasury spokesperson cites the logistical difficulties of bringing together representatives from different agencies in explaining the delay. [Los Angeles Times, 15 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001]

According to Time magazine, “The US was all set to join a global crackdown on criminal and terrorist money havens [in early 2001]. Thirty industrial nations were ready to tighten the screws on offshore financial centers like Liechtenstein and Antigua, whose banks have the potential to hide and often help launder billions of dollars for drug cartels, global crime syndicates—and groups like Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. Then the Bush administration took office.” [Time, 15 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Time, 10/15/2001] After pressure from the powerful banking lobby, the Treasury Department under Paul O’Neill halts US cooperation with these international efforts begun in 2000 by the Clinton administration. Clinton had created a Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center in his last budget, but under O’Neill no funding for the center is provided and the tracking of terrorist financing slows down. Spurred by the 9/11, attacks, the center will finally get started three days after 9/11 (see October 2000-September 14, 2001). [Foreign Affairs, July 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Foreign Affairs, 7/2001; Time, 15 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Time, 10/15/2001] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later claim that efforts to track al-Qaeda’s finances began to make significant headway in 2000, after Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin stepped down and was replaced by Larry Summers. But, Clarke will claim, “When the Bush administration came into office, I wanted to raise the profile of our efforts to combat terrorist financing, but found little interest. The new President’s economic advisor, Larry Lindsey, had long argued for weakening US anti-money laundering laws in a way that would undercut international standards. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, was lukewarm at best toward the multilateral effort to ‘name and shame’ foreign money laundering havens, and allowed the process to shut down before the status of Saudi Arabian cooperation was ever assessed.” [Against All Enemies: Inside America\'s War on Terror (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004)., 195-196.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Clarke, 2004, pp. 195-196]

In December 2000, the US and Russia cosponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution requiring member states to “freeze without delay” the funds of those on a list of designated terrorists. The resolution passed, and the UN and European Union (EU) release the list on this day. It contains the names of five alleged al-Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden’s security coordinator, brother-in-law, and financial handler. Yet strangely, the US itself does not freeze the assets of these five leaders, and will only so one month after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [United Nations, 3/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 15 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001] The Guardian will report after 9/11, “Members of Congress want to know why treasury officials charged with disrupting the finances of terrorists did not follow” the UN and EU. [Guardian, 13 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Guardian, 10/13/2001]

A CIA report says that a man named “Khaled” is actively recruiting people to travel to various countries, including the US, to stage attacks. CIA headquarters presume from the details of this report that Khaled is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On July 11, the individual source for this report is shown a series of photographs and identifies Mohammed as the person he called “Khaled.” [USA Today, 12 December 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">USA Today, 12/12/2002; Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 277, 533.')" onmouseout="return nd()">9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533] This report also reveals that:
bullet al-Qaeda operatives heading to the US would be “expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there.”
bullet Mohammed himself had traveled to the US frequently, and as recently as May 2001.
bullet He is a relative of bomber Ramzi Yousef.
bullet He appears to be one of bin Laden’s most trusted leaders.
bullet He routinely tells others that he can arrange their entry into the US as well. However, the CIA doesn’t find this report credible because they think it is unlikely that he would come to the US. Nevertheless, they consider it worth pursuing. One agent replies, “If it is KSM, we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him up.” In July, the source clarifies that the last time he can definitely place Mohammed in the US was in the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998). The CIA disseminates the report to all other US intelligence agencies, military commanders, and parts of the Treasury and Justice Departments. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later request that the CIA inform them how CIA agents and other agencies reacted to this information, but the CIA does not respond to this. [Final Report, Part Three-Topics-The Attacks Of September 11, 2001, 108th Cong., 1st sess.')" onmouseout="return nd()">US Congress, 7/24/2003] On July 23, 2001, the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will give Mohammed a US visa (he uses an alias but his actual photo appears on his application) (see July 23, 2001). Also, during this summer and as late as September 10, 2001, the NSA will intercept phone calls between Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but the NSA will not share this information with any other agencies (see Summer 2001).

The photograph of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on his 2001 US visa application.The photograph of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is granted a visa to enter the US, despite being under a federal terrorism indictment, having a $2 million reward on his head, and being one of only a dozen people in the world on a US domestic no-fly list (see April 24, 2000). There is no evidence that he actually uses his visa to travel to the US. Investigators speculate that he may have considered a trip to shepherd some aspect of the 9/11 plot. He applied for the visa using a Saudi passport and an alias (Abdulrahman al Ghamdi), but the photo he submitted is really of him. He uses the new, controversial Visa Express program that allows Saudis to apply for US visas without having to appear in person at any point during the application process (see May 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 27 January 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2004] Just a month earlier, the CIA passed a warning to all US intelligence agencies, certain military commanders, and parts of the Justice and Treasury Departments saying that Mohammed may be attempting to enter the US (see June 12, 2001). However, either this warning isn’t given to immigration officials or else they fail to notice his application. [Los Angeles Times, 27 January 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2004]

The Treasury Department is evacuated a few minutes before Flight 77 crashes. [Public Hearing.')" onmouseout="return nd()">9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004] Yet, CNN notes that “after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned the military’s air defense command that a hijacked airliner appeared to be headed toward Washington, the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department, or the Pentagon.” [CNN, 16 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">CNN, 9/16/2001] A Pentagon representative says, “The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way.” Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides in the Pentagon remain unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact. [Newsday, 23 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsday, 9/23/2001] Senators and congresspeople are in the Capitol building, which is not evacuated until 9:48 a.m. (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001) Only Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and possibly a few others are evacuated to safety a few minutes after 9:03 a.m. (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet, supposedly, since at least the Flight 11 crash, “military officials in a Command Center [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, “Chief Steps Down at Alex. Brown,” 15 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 9/15/2001] The White House is evacuated at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

The US freezes the bank accounts of 27 individuals and organizations, alleging that they had channeled money to al-Qaeda.
bullet The list includes the names of nine Middle Eastern groups that are members of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders alliance announced in 1998 (see February 22, 1998). Such groups include the Islamic Army of Aden (based in Yemen), the GIA (Algeria), and Abu Sayyaf (the Philippines).
bullet Individuals named include obvious al-Qaeda figures such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, and Muhammad Atef. [New York Times, 25 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 9/25/2001]
bullet The third group of names consists of two charities, the Al-Rashid Trust and the Wafa Humanitarian Organization, and a company belonging to one of the hijackers’ associates, the Mamoun Darkazanli Import-Export Company. The Al-Rashid Trust is primarily a humanitarian organization that aims to eject western charities from Afghanistan by taking over their activities. The trust is also so closely linked to the Kashmiri-focused jihidist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed that the Asia Times will comment, “It is often difficult to distinguish between the two outfits, as they share offices and cadres.” The Jaish-e-Mohammed was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, an associate of 9/11 financier Saeed Sheikh, with the support of the ISI (see December 24-31, 1999). In addition, the trust also provides support to the Taliban, and, occasionally, al-Qaeda. The trust works closely with the Arab-run Wafa Humanitarian Organization. It will continue its social and humanitarian projects, as well as its support for militant Islamic activities, under various names and partnerships despite this ban. [Asia Times, 26 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Asia Times, 10/26/2001; Washington Post, 14 December 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 12/14/2003] It is not clear where the Mamoun Darkazanli Import-Export Company is or was based, as it was never incorporated in Hamburg, where Darkazanli lived and associated with some of the 9/11 hijackers. Darkazanli’s personal assets are frozen in October (see September 24-October 2, 2001). [Chicago Tribune, 17 November 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 11/17/2002] However, according to some reports, some of the money transferred to the hijackers in the US in 2001 came through the Al-Rashid Trust (see Early August 2001) and possibly another account, and some of the money the hijackers received in 2000 may have come through Mamoun Darkazanli’s accounts (see June 2000-August 2001). The move is largely symbolic, since none of the entities have any identifiable assets in the US. [New York Times, 25 September 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 9/25/2001] Reporter Greg Palast will later note that US investigators likely knew much about the finances of those organizations before 9/11, but took no action. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 20 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/2003]

In January 2002, the US Treasury Department will send a letter to Swiss authorities stating that Youssef Nada and Ali bin Mussalim, two leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland, provided “indirect investment services for Al Qaeda, investing funds for bin Laden, and making cash deliveries on request to the al-Qaeda organization.” Furthermore, the letter will claim that such assistance continued until “late September 2001,” and that Mussalim carries a Saudi diplomatic passport. Mussalim had been known for controversial financial dealings since the early 1980s, when US prosecutors accused him of taking part in attempts to corner the world silver market. In 1994 he was an intermediary in a multi-billion dollar deal between the Saudi and French governments. He will die of cancer in June 2004, one month after reports of the US Treasury letter first publicly emerged. The Financial Times will call “Al-Qaeda Will Conquer,” the 2005 book which will be the first to reveal documentation of these claims about Mussalim, “uncomfortable reading for the Saudi government.” [Newsweek, 12 April 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 4/12/2004; Financial Times, 27 April 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Financial Times, 4/27/2005] For many years up to and past 9/11, he held Saudi ministerial status as an “advisor at the Royal Court” and was a close confidant of Saudi King Fahd. The Los Angeles Times will comment, “One is left wondering how the Sept. 11 commission could report that ‘we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded [al-Qaeda].’” [Los Angeles Times, 26 June 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 6/26/2005] The US will declare the Al Taqwa Bank a terrorist financier in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001).

Yassin al-Qadi.Yassin al-Qadi. [Source: Arab News]Yassin al-Qadi is included in a new US list of 39 individuals and organizations designated by the US as connected to terrorism (see October 12, 2001). The US officially declares him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and his US assets are frozen. [Chicago Tribune, 14 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/14/2001; Chicago Tribune, 29 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] Al-Qadi says he is “horrified and shocked” by the allegations. [Chicago Tribune, 16 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/16/2001] There have been several accusations that al-Qadi laundered money to fund Hamas and al-Qaeda. He headed the Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, a Saudi-based charity. Treasury officials allege it has funneled millions of dollars to al-Qaeda (see 1995-1998). [Chicago Tribune, 16 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/16/2001; Chicago Tribune, 29 October 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] An investigation into his al-Qaeda connections was canceled by higher-ups in the FBI in October 1998 (see October 1998). In late 2002, Saudi Arabia will freeze al-Qadi’s accounts, an action the Saudis have taken against only three people. However, he has yet to be charged or arrested by the Saudis or the US. [Washington Post, 7 December 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 12/7/2002]

November 7, 2001: Al Taqwa Bank Shut Down

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Italian police raid Youssef Nada’s villa in Lugano, Italy.Italian police raid Youssef Nada’s villa in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]The US and other countries announce the closure of the Al Taqwa Bank and the Al Barakaat financial network. President Bush says, “Al Taqwa and Al Barakaat raise funds for al-Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds.” US officials claim that both entities skimmed a part of the fees charged on each financial transaction it conducted and paid it to al-Qaeda. This would provide al-Qaeda with tens of millions of dollars annually. Additionally, Al Taqwa would provide investment advice and transfer cash for al-Qaeda. Al Taqwa is based in Switzerland while Al Barakaat is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Over 100 nations are said to be cooperating with efforts to block the funds of these two groups. [New York Times, 8 November 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 11/8/2001] Swiss authorities raid Al Taqwa-related businesses and the homes of bank leaders Youssef Nada, Ali Himmat, and Ahmad Huber, but no arrests are made. In January 2002, Nada will announce that the Al Taqwa Bank is shutting down, due to bad publicity after the raids. He will maintain that he and his organization are completely innocent. [Newsweek, 7 November 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 11/7/2001; Reuters, “Swiss Firm Closes Amid Inquiry,” 10 January 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Reuters, 1/10/2002] Days after 9/11, Huber called the 9/11 attacks “counterterror against American-Israeli terror,” the World Trade Center a “the Twin Towers of the godless,” and the Pentagon “a symbol of Satan,” yet he will claim to have no ties to the attackers. [Playboy, 1 February 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Playboy, 2/1/2002; Newsweek, 18 March 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 3/18/2002] In searching Nada’s house, Swiss authorities discover a document entitled “The Project,” which is a strategic plan for the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982). By late 2002, both the US and UN will declare Al Taqwa Bank, Nada, and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, another founder and director of the bank, supporters of terrorism. All of their accounts will be declared frozen worldwide. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] However, while Al Taqwa itself will be shut down, later reports will indicate that other financial entities operated by the directors will continue to operate freely (see June-October 2005).

The Holy Land Foundation is shut down and its assets are seized. Holy Land claimed to be the largest Muslim charity in the US. It claimed to raise millions for Palestinian refugees and denied any support for terrorism. In justifying the move, the US government presents evidence of ties between the Holy Land and Hamas. Much of this evidence dates back to 1993; the Associated Press titles a story on the closure, “Money Freeze A Long Time Coming.” [Associated Press, “Money Freeze A Long Time Coming,” 5 December 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 12/5/2001] Holy Land offices in San Diego, California; Paterson, New Jersey; and Bridgeview, Illinois, are also raided. [CNN, “US targets assets of suspected Hamas financiers,” 4 December 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">CNN, 12/4/2001] The indictment says Holy Land has been “deeply involved with a network of Muslim Brotherhood organizations dedicated to furthering the Islamic fundamentalist agenda espoused by Hamas.” [Washington Post, 11 September 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 9/11/2004] Holy Land is represented by the powerful law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Three partners at Akin, Gump are very close to President Bush: George Salem chaired Bush’s 2000 campaign outreach to Arab-Americans; Barnett “Sandy” Kress was appointed by Bush as an “unpaid consultant” on education reform and has an office in the White House; and James Langdon is one of Bush’s closest Texas friends. [Boston Herald, 11 December 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Boston Herald, 12/11/2001; Washington Post, 17 December 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 12/17/2001] The leaders of Holy Land will be charged with a variety of crimes in 2002 and 2004 (see December 18, 2002-April 2005).

Appearing on NBC’s Dateline, former CIA agent Robert Baer says the US collects virtually no intelligence about Saudi Arabia nor are they given any intelligence collected by the Saudis. He says this is because there are implicit orders from the White House that say: “Do not collect information on Saudi Arabia because we’re going to risk annoying the royal family.” On the same television program, despite being on a US list of suspected terrorist financiers since October 2001, Saudi millionaire Yassin al-Qadi says, “I’m living my life here in Saudi Arabia without any problem” because he is being protected by the Saudi government. Al-Qadi admits to giving bin Laden money for his “humanitarian” work, but says this is different from bin Laden’s militant activities. Presented with this information, the US Treasury Department only says that the US “is pleased with and appreciates the actions taken by the Saudis” in the war on terror. The Saudi government still has not given US intelligence permission to talk to any family members of the hijackers, even though some US journalists have had limited contact with a few. [MSNBC Dateline.')" onmouseout="return nd()">MSNBC, 8/25/2002]

In early 2003, the Treasury Department draws up a list of 300 individuals, charities, and corporations in Southeast Asia believed to be funding al-Qaeda and its suspected Indonesian affiliate Jemaah Islamiya. “Due to inter-agency politics, the list [is] winnowed down to 18 individuals and 10 companies.” [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 1 August 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Contemporary Southeast Asia, 8/1/2003] Later, the number of suspected financiers is narrowed down even further, and on September 5, 2003, only 10 individuals, all connected to Jemaah Islamiya, have their assets frozen. [Associated Press, 5 September 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 9/5/2003] The assets of Jemaah Islamiya itself were frozen shortly after the October 2002 Bali bombing was blamed on the group (see October 12, 2002), though ties between the group and al-Qaeda were first publicly reported in January 2002. [Associated Press, 18 January 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 1/18/2002; United Press International, 25 January 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">United Press International, 1/25/2003] Hambali, a notorious leader of both al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia operations and Jemaah Islamiya, only had his assets frozen in January 2003, even though he was publicly mentioned as a major figure as far back as January 2001. [New Straits Times, “Police: No Info on Whereabouts of Indon Fugitive,” 25 January 2001.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Straits Times, 1/25/2001; Associated Press, 18 January 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 1/18/2002]

An article in the New Republic claims that “President Bush has repeatedly stifled efforts to strengthen domestic safeguards against further terrorist attacks. As a consequence, homeland security remains perilously deficient.” The article cites numerous examples to support this contention, and comments: “Bush’s record on homeland security ought to be considered a scandal. Yet, not only is it not a scandal, it’s not even a story, having largely failed to register with the public, the media, or even the political elite.” It points out numerous examples where the administration has opposed the spending of more money to protect against an attack and argues: “The White House appears to grasp that Bush’s standing on national security issues, especially after September 11, is so unassailable that he does not need to shore it up. Instead, the administration seems to view his wartime popularity as a massive bank of political capital from which they can withdraw and spend on other, unrelated causes. In the short run, this strategy is a political boon for Bush and his party. But, in the long run, it divides and weakens the nation against its external threats.” [New Republic, 3 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Republic, 3/3/2003] Here are some of the examples of evidence supporting this article’s arguments pointed out in this and subsequent articles:
bullet Airports are said to be unacceptably vulnerable to terrorism. [Associated Press, 8 June 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 6/8/2004]
bullet Terrorist watch lists remain unconsolidated. [United Press International, 30 April 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">United Press International, 4/30/2003]
bullet Basic background checks on air security personnel remain undone. [Time, 8 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Time, 7/8/2003]
bullet The Treasury Department has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track al-Qaeda’s finances. [Associated Press, 30 April 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 4/30/2004]
bullet The White House has spurned a request for 80 more investigators to track and disrupt the global financial networks of US-designated terrorist groups. [New York Times, “Tracking Terrorist Bankrolls,” 4 April 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 4/4/2004]
bullet Cases involving “international terrorism” have been fizzling out in US courts. [Los Angeles Times, 9 December 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Los Angeles Times, 12/9/2003]
bullet Experts have concluded that the Iraq War has diverted resources from the war on terrorism and made the US less secure. [MSNBC, 29 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">MSNBC, 7/29/2003; Salon, 31 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Salon, 7/31/2003]
bullet Investigations have shown that most chemical plants across the US remain dangerously vulnerable to a guerilla-style attack. Some plants have virtually no security at all, often not even locked gates. Explosions at some of these plants could kill more than a million people. Yet the Bush administration has so far successfully opposed strengthening security regulations, apparently at the behest of chemical industry lobbyists. [New Republic, 3 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Republic, 3/3/2003; New Jersey Star-Ledger, 28 January 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Jersey Star-Ledger, 1/28/2005]
bullet There has been a huge increase in government spending to train and respond to terrorist attacks, but Time magazine reports that the geographical spread of “funding appears to be almost inversely proportional to risk.” [Time, 21 March 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Time, 3/21/2004]
bullet Several high-profile studies have concluded that despite its frequent “bear any burden” rhetoric, the Bush administration has grossly underfunded domestic security. [New Republic, 3 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Republic, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 7/25/2003]
bullet Community-based “first responders” lack basic equipment, including protective clothing and radios. [New Republic, 3 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Republic, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 7/25/2003]
bullet Spending on computer upgrades, airport security, more customs agents, port security, border controls, chemical plant security, bioweapon vaccinations, and much more, is far below needed levels and often below Promised levels. [New Republic, 3 March 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New Republic, 3/3/2003]

Senator Bob Graham and Representative Porter Goss co-chair  the Congressional Inquiry.Senator Bob Graham and Representative Porter Goss co-chair the Congressional Inquiry. [Source: Ken Lambert/ Associated Press]The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report comes out. [Report Of The Joint Inquiry Into The Terrorist Attacks Of September 11, 2001, 108th Cong., 1st sess.')" onmouseout="return nd()">US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Final Report, Part Three-Topics-The Attacks Of September 11, 2001, 108th Cong., 1st sess.')" onmouseout="return nd()">US Congress, 7/24/2003] Officially, the report was written by the 37 members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, but in practice, co-chairmen Bob Graham (D) and Porter Goss (R) exercised “near total control over the panel, forbidding the inquiry’s staff to speak to other lawmakers.” [St. Petersburg Times, 29 September 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">St. Petersburg Times, 9/29/2002] Both Republican and Democrats in the panel complained how the two co-chairmen withheld information and controlled the process. [Palm Beach Post, 21 September 2002.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Palm Beach Post, 9/21/2002] The report was finished in December 2002 and some findings were released then, but the next seven months were spent in negotiation with the Bush administration over what material had to remain censored. The Inquiry had a very limited mandate, focusing just on the handling of intelligence before 9/11. It also completely ignores or censors out all mentions of intelligence from foreign governments. Thomas Kean, the chairman of 9/11 Commission says the Inquiry’s mandate covered only “one-seventh or one-eighth” of what his newer investigation will hopefully cover. [Washington Post, 27 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/27/2003] The report blames virtually every government agency for failures:
bullet Newsweek’s main conclusion is: “The investigation turned up no damning single piece of evidence that would have led agents directly to the impending attacks. Still, the report makes it chillingly clear that law-enforcement and intelligence agencies might very well have uncovered the plot had it not been for blown signals, sheer bungling—and a general failure to understand the nature of the threat.” [Newsweek, 28 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
bullet According to the New York Times, the report also concludes, “the FBI and CIA had known for years that al-Qaeda sought to strike inside the United States, but focused their attention on the possibility of attacks overseas.” [New York Times, 26 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 7/26/2003]
bullet CIA Director Tenet was “either unwilling or unable to marshal the full range of Intelligence Community resources necessary to combat the growing threat.” [Washington Post, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/25/2003]
bullet US military leaders were “reluctant to use… assets to conduct offensive counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan” or to “support or participate in CIA operations directed against al-Qaeda.” [Washington Post, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/25/2003]
bullet “There was no coordinated… strategy to track terrorist funding and close down their financial support networks” and the Treasury Department even showed “reluctance” to do so. [Washington Post, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/25/2003]
bullet According to the Washington Post, the NSA took “an overly cautious approach to collecting intelligence in the United States and offered ‘insufficient collaboration’ with the FBI’s efforts.” [Washington Post, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/25/2003] Many sections remain censored, especially an entire chapter detailing possible Saudi support for 9/11. The Bush administration insisted on censoring even information that was already in the public domain. [Newsweek, 25 May 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsweek, 5/25/2003] The Inquiry attempted to determine “to what extent the president received threat-specific warnings” but received very little information. There was a focus on learning what was in Bush’s briefing on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001), but the White House refused to release this information, citing “executive privilege.” [Washington Post, 25 July 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 7/25/2003; Newsday, 7 August 2003.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Newsday, 8/7/2003]

January 26, 2004

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The US Treasury Department freezes the assets of the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia after the organization holds a fundraising event (see January 24, 2004), the stated purpose of which was to provide support to earthquake victims. The FBI believes that some of the money raised was also meant to fund the Mujahedeen -e Khalq (MEK), a US-designated terrorist organization whose mission is to overthrow the government of Iran. [Washington Post, 29 January 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Washington Post, 1/29/2004]

The US freezes the assets of Abdul Latif Saleh, who is a citizen of both Jordan and Albania. Bin Laden allegedly gave Saleh $600,000 to create “extremist groups” in Albania, and Saleh is also said to be tied to the Islamic Jihad (which merged into al-Qaeda before 9/11). Saleh is also said to be associated with Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001). The Treasury Department claims, “Saleh and Qadi had entered into several business partnerships with one another, including a sugar importing business, a medical enterprise and a construction business. Saleh served as the general manager of all of Qadi’s businesses in Albania and reportedly holds 10 percent of the Qadi Group’s investments in Albania.” [Associated Press, “Alleged Bin Laden Cohort Assets Frozen,” 19 September 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 9/19/2005; US Department of the Treasury, 9/19/2005] In the middle of 2004, the Swiss government also froze bank accounts worth $20 million of an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of Muwafaq. Al-Qadi was the founder and main investor of Muwafaq (see 1995-1998). Swiss investigators will say this man is suspected of transferring tens of millions of dollars to “close al-Qaeda associates” from Swiss bank accounts. [New York Times, 25 June 2004.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 6/25/2004]

A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an impartial investigative arm of Congress, claims the US effort to help foreign nations cut off terrorism funding has been frustrated by infighting among US agencies, a lack of funding, and leadership problems. The report says “the U.S. government lacks an integrated strategy” to train foreign countries and give them technical assistance. Officials at the State and Treasury Departments cannot even agree on who is supposed to be in charge of the effort. In at least one case, the State Department refused to even allow a Treasury official to enter a certain foreign country. “Investigators found clear tensions between officials at State, Treasury, Justice, and other US government departments.” Remarkably, private contractors have sometimes been allowed to draft proposed laws for foreign countries to curb terrorist financing. The contractors’ work at times resulted in proposals with “substantial deficiencies.” Generally speaking, the New York Times notes that experts say that the Bush administration’s efforts with terrorist financing has been “spotty, with few clear dents in al-Qaeda’s ability to move money and finance terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 29 November 2005.')" onmouseout="return nd()">New York Times, 11/29/2005]

The US and UN finally officially designates the Philippines and Indonesian branches of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IRRO) as a financier of terrorism. Abdul Al-Hamid Sulaiman Al-Mujil, executive director of the IRRO’s far east division, is similarly designated as well. The IRRO is a major charity connected to the Saudi government that has long been suspected of financing Islamic militant groups (see 1996). It was reported shortly after 9/11 that the US left the IIRO off a list of designated terrorism financiers so as to not embarrass the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001). The Philippine IIRO branch in particular has been publicly accused of funding al-Qaeda since the mid-1990s, due to the activities of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law who headed that branch when he funded the Bojinka plot in the early 1990s (see 1987-1991). [Associated Press, “US to Freeze Saudi Charity\'s Assets,” 3 August 2006.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Associated Press, 8/3/2006; Manila Times, 12 December 2006.')" onmouseout="return nd()">Manila Times, 12/12/2006] A US Treasury Department press release says Al-Mujil has been nicknamed the “million dollar man” for his “long history of providing support to terrorist organizations.” He is accused of funding the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia. He is said to have had relationships with bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The press release also calls “a senior al-Qaeda member” and accuses the current director of the IIRO’s Philippine branch, Abd al-Hadi Daguit, “a trusted associate of Khalifa.” But curiously, Khalifa himself is still not officially listed, nor is Daguit. He will die in mysterious circumstances several months later. [Treasury Department, 8/3/2006]


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