Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), the Democratic Chair of the Task Force on Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, today urged his colleagues to increase funding for efforts aimed at preventing terrorist financing and money laundering. Congressman Lynch, the author of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2440), spoke during the floor debate over the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. His remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives follow.
CONGRESSMAN STEPHEN F. LYNCH (D-MA): First of all, Madame Chairwoman (Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)), I would like to thank you for your efforts to increase funding for Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs.
But my amendment would have targeted a specific increase for the counterterrorism program within this account. This vital program was only funded at the President's requested level of $6.4 million which is a reduction from the $7.4 million in last year's budget.
As the Co-Chair of the Task Force on Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, I've joined many of my colleagues in meetings and hearings exploring the challenges faced by the U.S. government in battling terrorist financing. Since the attacks of 9/11, Congress has taken significant steps towards utilizing investigations and data collection regarding terrorist financing as viable intelligence tools for disrupting the financing of terrorist activities.
Nevertheless, terrorists' proven ability to move money through innovative means necessitates continued progress in this critical counterterrorism area. Al Qaeda's strength rests in its ability to continually adapt to U.S. tactics, thus more funds are necessary in order to develop new counterterrorism financing strategies to match their changing methods.
In April, I organized a trip to the Middle East where I met with high ranking banking officials to discuss the issue of anti-terrorism financing in Jordan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey. I believe that through international, financial pressure we can effect real change in the policies of other countries towards terrorist groups.
In the parts of the world where financial restrictions would have the most impact, U.S. influence is usually the lowest. On the other hand, however, these countries do want to participate in the global economy, thus we have seen they are more likely to adopt transparency in their finance laws for the purpose of gaining legitimacy in the eyes of global investors - rather than in response to U.S. pressure.
By allocating more resources to inducing anti-money laundering compliance and transparency, we can make significant gains in tracking terrorists and cutting off their funding.
While we've made some progress, considerable effort still needs to be invested in regulating the Hawala system because anytime you have a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability regarding the movement of funds, there is the likelihood that terrorists and criminals can harness the system for their gain.
By closing off legitimate financial markets for terrorists, we force them to change to tactics that are less secure and oftentimes easier to track. A prime example is the December 14th arrest of Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh at the border crossing into Gaza from Egypt carrying an estimated $30 million in cash in suitcases for the Palestinian National Authority. The reason that Hamas has to operate this way is because the financial markets are not available to them. Instances like these highlight the importance, and indeed the benefit, of focusing on counterterrorism financing efforts.
In essence, I am greatly concerned that the President is not doing enough - and that by meeting the President's request, we are not doing enough to stop the financing of terrorist operations.
Again, I thank the Chairwoman for her attention to these pressing issues and hope that we can work together to continue these important counterterrorism efforts.