U.S. fails to follow terror money trail

Dec. 22, 2003: Over two years after the 9/11 attacks, a Government Accounting Report said U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies trying to track the funding sources of international terrorists haven’t done such a good job.

Terrorists, said the report, use the illicit drug trade, interstate cigarette dealing and charities as principal sources of money-raising in the U.S. According to officials from the ATF, Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaida have earned assets through trafficking in contraband cigarettes or counterfeit cigarette stamps.

Rooting out terrorist money in U.S. banks proved every bit as difficult as finding Osama bin Laden. Two years after Congress rushed to pass the USA Patriot Act, terrorists, drug lords and other criminals continued to launder funds through U.S. financial institutions. Hundreds of billions more in illicit cash gushed through banks, brokerage firms and the like last year even though they spent more than $11 billion to bolster their internal controls.

A lack of cooperation among several competing agencies was also criticized by the report.

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