Terrorism and the American Financial System

Jun 24, 2015 Issues: Anti-Terrorist Financing
Terrorism and the American Financial System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Ranking Member Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) together held the third hearing of the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, focusing on the threats posed by terror organizations acting within or against the United States’ financial sector.

“With terror’s global scope, it is vital the U.S. works with the international community to address today’s international terrorism financing challenges. However, it is equally important we look inward to assess the security of our own financial sector,” said Chairman Fitzpatrick. “The U.S. financial sector is too important for this task force to overlook when seeking to address the nexus of terrorism and finance. The continued innovation and evolution by our enemies highlights the importance of this body’s role in the fight against terror.”

“As terrorists update their financing operations, we must reevaluate the strength of our countermeasures and also maintain a robust framework to detect and prevent cybersecurity intrusions,” said Ranking Member Lynch. “While law enforcement follows the money trail to identify terrorist threats abroad, we must also prevent the United States from being a destination for money laundering by criminals and terrorist groups.”

Terrorist groups and actors are constantly seeking to exploit the U.S. financial system to fund their operations and launder their revenue. The growth and complexity of the international financial system has also enabled illicit actors to place and move money, hide assets, and conduct transactions anywhere in the world, exposing financial centers to exploitation and abuse. These actors seek to circumvent anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures by, among other things, taking advantage of the unsettled area of beneficial ownership to form shell corporations. The U.S. financial services sector has also been recognized as a prime target for sophisticated and coordinated cyber-attacks.

The hearing included testimony from a panel of expert witnesses who focused their testimony and questions responses on areas of U.S. strengthen and weakness in combatting terror threats to the U.S. banking system. Testifying was:

·         The Honorable Cyrus Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York County District Attorney’s Office

·         Mr. Chip Poncy, Founding Partner, Financial Integrity Network; Senior Counselor, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

·         Mr. John W. Carlson, Chief of Staff, Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center

  • Professor Celina B. Realuyo, Professor of Practice, William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University

Over the next six months, the task force will hold further hearings with U.S. terror financing officials and global counterterrorism experts to identify weaknesses in current authority and work to ensure terror groups are unable to finance their operations, especially through the American financial system. In September, the task force will present a report of its findings as well as recommendations for additional legislation if needed.