November 30, 2004

Terror Financing: Some Views

In the Los Angeles Times today, Dirk Laabs calls the al Qaeda threat "hugely overblown", judging from new research on their financial resources:
Al Qaeda never had a "macro-financing" structure, said Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the dean of Europe's anti-terrorism investigators. In fact, analyzing the clusters of activists, he found that there were never large flows of external money financing any attack. In nearly a decade of searching, all Bruguiere was able to find was "micro-financing" activists raising the little money they needed to survive and commit their crimes through credit card or debit card fraud. They turned out to be petty thieves, not grand gangsters...

There is, according to [Northeastern Professor Nikos] Passas, no evidence that Al Qaeda ever invested in the gold market or in African diamonds. It never moved money around the world through the traditional and untraceable informal money transfer systems known as hawalas. It used Western Union.
That's one view. Douglas Farah, meanwhile, writes today about his lunch with Michael Scheuer and notes that Al Qaeda's financing system is still not very well understood. According to Schuerer, the halawa system is alive and well, and al Qaeda tends to rely on small businesses -- pomengranates, sunflower seeds -- to raise money. So, um, who's right?

Nosing around on Farah's site, it seems we should also be learning a good deal more about the Muslim Brotherhood, which appears to be the big financier of Islamic terrorism. (The Brotherhood's Egyptian branch, by the way, may or may not have ties to the Iraqi Islamic Party.) And if Mallory Factor's recent Senate testimony is any indication, the US government still has a lot of intelligence/enforcement hurdles to clear on this front. Oh what a tangled web, &tc.
-- Brad Plumer 7:08 PM || ||