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Saudi Arabia is prime source of terror funds, U.S. says

Trea­sury offi­cial express­es frus­tra­tions with the admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts to force action by the king­dom. A Sen­ate pan­el orders a review.

by Josh Mey­er


WASHINGTON — Sau­di Ara­bia remains the world’s lead­ing source of mon­ey for Al Qae­da and oth­er extrem­ist net­works and has failed to take key steps request­ed by U.S. offi­cials to stem the flow, the Bush admin­is­tra­tion’s top finan­cial counter-ter­ror­ism offi­cial said Tues­day.

Stu­art A. Lev­ey, a Trea­sury under­sec­re­tary, told a Sen­ate com­mit­tee that the Sau­di gov­ern­ment had not tak­en impor­tant steps to go after those who finance ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions or to pre­vent wealthy donors from bankrolling extrem­ism through char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions, some­times unwit­ting­ly.

“Sau­di Ara­bia today remains the loca­tion where more mon­ey is going to ter­ror­ism, to Sun­ni ter­ror groups and to the Tal­iban than any oth­er place in the world,” Lev­ey said under ques­tion­ing.

U.S. offi­cials have pre­vi­ous­ly iden­ti­fied Sau­di Ara­bia as a major source of fund­ing for extrem­ism. But Lev­ey’s com­ments were notable because, although reluc­tant to direct­ly crit­i­cize a close U.S. ally, he acknowl­edged frus­tra­tion with admin­is­tra­tion efforts to per­suade the Saud­is and oth­ers to act.

“We con­tin­ue to face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges as we move for­ward with these efforts, includ­ing fos­ter­ing and main­tain­ing the polit­i­cal will among oth­er gov­ern­ments to take effec­tive and con­sis­tent action,” Lev­ey said, lat­er adding: “Our work is not near­ly com­plete.”

Lev­ey was the sole wit­ness before the Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee, which Tues­day ordered an inde­pen­dent review of the efforts to choke off financ­ing used by Al Qae­da and oth­er extrem­ist groups.

Sen. Max Bau­cus (D‑Mont.), the com­mit­tee chair­man, announced the review at the end of the hear­ing held to assess the mon­ey-track­ing cam­paign by Trea­sury’s Office of Ter­ror­ism and Finan­cial Intel­li­gence, head­ed by Lev­ey.

The Bush admin­is­tra­tion cre­at­ed the office in 2004 to spear­head efforts to dis­rupt the flow of mon­ey to extrem­ist caus­es, pri­mar­i­ly from wealthy donors in Sau­di Ara­bia and else­where in the Per­sian Gulf.

How­ev­er, U.S. offi­cials and counter-ter­ror­ism experts have said that inter­na­tion­al sup­port for the effort has waned while ter­ror­ist groups have found ways around the finan­cial restric­tions. At the same time, there have been turf bat­tles among the 19 fed­er­al agen­cies that work on the prob­lem.

Sen­a­tors praised work done by Lev­ey but expressed con­cerns about the over­all U.S. effort. The com­mit­tee’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can lead­ers cit­ed a Los Ange­les Times report last week detail­ing prob­lems under­min­ing the effort.

Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley of Iowa, the rank­ing Repub­li­can, said extrem­ist groups had adapt­ed to chang­ing U.S. inves­tiga­tive meth­ods: “We are sim­ply not pre­pared right now to keep up with them and put them out of busi­ness once and for all.”

Lev­ey said the cam­paign has suc­ceed­ed in dis­rupt­ing ter­ror­ist financ­ing by freez­ing sus­pi­cious assets and in gath­er­ing intel­li­gence that could be used to iden­ti­fy extrem­ists and dis­rupt their activ­i­ties.

But under ques­tion­ing by sen­a­tors, Lev­ey also spoke of dif­fi­cul­ty in get­ting Sau­di Ara­bia to take the steps U.S. offi­cials con­sid­er nec­es­sary.

Lev­ey said the Saud­is had been aggres­sive in going after ter­ror­ist cells. But he said they had not lived up to promis­es to estab­lish the kind of finan­cial intel­li­gence unit need­ed to trace the mon­ey trails of ter­ror­ists. Anoth­er prob­lem is that the Sau­di gov­ern­ment has not set up a char­i­ty over­sight com­mis­sion to track whether dona­tions end up in the hands of extrem­ists.

Lev­ey said the Sau­di gov­ern­ment has not moved to pub­licly hold account­able those with­in the king­dom who have been the sub­ject of enforce­ment actions by the U.S. and oth­er author­i­ties.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D‑Ore.) said the Sau­di fail­ures mean that Amer­i­cans who pay more than $100 a bar­rel for oil are in effect bankrolling extrem­ism because wealthy Saud­is “back-door” their prof­its into char­i­ties that fund extrem­ist caus­es.

Nail Jubeir, press attache for the Sau­di embassy in Wash­ing­ton, dis­missed those con­cerns, say­ing the Bush admin­is­tra­tion has repeat­ed­ly praised Sau­di Ara­bia for its efforts to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

“We have been very vig­i­lant in our cam­paign against ter­ror­ism financ­ing,” Jubeir said. “We have come a long way since 9/11 on this issue.”

Jubeir con­firmed that Sau­di Ara­bia has not set up the finan­cial intel­li­gence unit or char­i­ty com­mis­sion, but said it was crack­ing down on the financiers of ter­ror­ism in oth­er ways, such as mak­ing it ille­gal for any­one to send mon­ey out­side the king­dom “with­out going through offi­cial gov­ern­ment chan­nels.”

Alleged financiers of ter­ror­ism iden­ti­fied by the Unit­ed States are being inves­ti­gat­ed, and their assets have been frozen, Jubeir said. “But unless we have evi­dence to try them . . . we don’t parade them in pub­lic,” he said. “What if it turns out they are inno­cent?”

At the hear­ing, sen­a­tors also expressed con­cern about dis­putes among U.S. agen­cies and oth­er admin­is­tra­tive and inves­tiga­tive func­tions of Lev­ey’s office. Bau­cus and Grass­ley asked that the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office review its inter­nal effi­cien­cy and effec­tive­ness as well as its coop­er­a­tion with for­eign gov­ern­ments.

Lev­ey said he had not seen the request from Bau­cus and Grass­ley, but added: “We wel­come any source of advice as to how we can improve.”


One comment for “Saudi Arabia is prime source of terror funds, U.S. says”

  1. Had a lit­tle trou­ble find­ing a spot for this recent event:

    Sau­di Con­nec­tion to Col­orado Prison Chief Mur­der?

    Tom Clements, head of Col­orado Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions Was shot dead on Tues­day evening. The intrigue in this mur­der is rem­i­nis­cent of the Killing of Michael Francke, head of Ore­gon pris­ons in 1989.
    Huff­in­g­ton Post reports:

    “MONUMENT, Colo. — The exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Col­orado Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house, and police are search­ing for the gun­man and try­ing to fig­ure out if the attack had any­thing to do with his posi­tion.
    Author­i­ties are also look­ing for a dark-col­ored “boxy” car seen near the house of Tom Clements, 58, when he was shot around 8:30 p.m. Tues­day in Mon­u­ment, north of Col­orado Springs. The vehicle’s engine was run­ning and a wit­ness report­ed see­ing one per­son dri­ving away in the car.
    Lt. Jeff Kramer, of the El Paso Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office, said inves­ti­ga­tors have not ruled any­thing out, but the shoot­ing could have been relat­ed to Clements’ job.
    “As the direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions or any sim­i­lar type posi­tion, it could in fact open some­one up to be a tar­get of a crime such as this. Although we remain sen­si­tive to that, we also want to make sure that we remain open-mind­ed to oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties as well,” Kramer said.”

    It would take extreme moti­va­tion to kill the head of the Col­orado prison sys­tem. This is clear­ly not an attempt­ed rob­bery, Clements was shot when he first opened the door. No, this was a “hit”.
    Look­ing at Clements’ his­to­ry, he spent three decades in the Mis­souri prison sys­tem before mov­ing to Col­orado. The only high pro­file case that crossed his desk recent­ly was that of Homaid­an Ali Al-Tur­ki.
    Al-Tur­ki, a Sau­di immi­grint who had attend­ed col­lege in Col­orado was a trans­la­tor, pub­lish­er and pop­u­lar fig­ure in the Auro­ra, Col­orado Musilm com­mu­ni­ty.
    In Novem­ber of 2004, Al-Tur­ki and his wife were arrest­ed for keep­ing a young Indone­sian woman as a slave. Along with dawn-to-dusk chores and babysit­ting, the woman was repeat­ed­ly sex­u­al­ly assault­ed by Al-Tur­ki.
    The case took an inter­set­ing turn when the Gov­er­nor of Col­orado asked the State Attor­ney Gen­er­al to trav­el to Sau­di Ara­bia and explain the sit­u­a­tion to the Roy­al Fam­i­ly. From Wikipedia:

    “The Homaid­an Al-Tur­ki case sparked con­tro­ver­sy and high-pro­file atten­tion from Mus­lims world­wide, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the King­dom of Sau­di Ara­bia, where local media por­trayed him as a vic­tim of bias against Mus­lims and said he would not have been con­vict­ed of these crimes had he been tried in his native coun­try. For exam­ple, in a show of sup­port, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ed Al-Tur­ki with $400,000 to post bond. In Novem­ber 2006, Col­orado Attor­ney Gen­er­al John Suthers trav­elled to Sau­di Ara­bia where he vis­it­ed King Abdul­lah, Crown Prince Sul­tan, and Al-Turki’s fam­i­ly in an attempt to clear up “mis­per­cep­tions” about the U.S. judi­cial sys­tem and ease the Sau­di roy­al family’s con­cerns over whether Homaid­an Al-Tur­ki was treat­ed fairly.[19] Suthers went there at the request of the U.S. ambas­sador in Sau­di Ara­bia, who had the State Depart­ment con­tact Col­orado Gov­er­nor Bill Owens. The trip was spon­sored and paid for by the U.S. State Depart­ment.
    Even years after the case was closed, the issue con­tin­ues to arouse pow­er­ful emo­tions in Sau­di Ara­bia and affect the del­i­cate bal­ance of Sau­di-US for­eign rela­tions. Saleh Bin-Humaid, chair­man of the Con­sul­ta­tive Assem­bly of Sau­di Ara­bia (Shoura Coun­cil), brought up Al-Turki’s case dur­ing an offi­cial meet­ing with the US Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Michael Chertoff in Riyadh on March 26, 2009, when he urged Amer­i­cans to review the top­ic. Accord­ing to a pub­lic state­ment from Bin-Humaid, “The Sau­di peo­ple sym­pa­thize with Homaid­an Al-Tur­ki and they close­ly fol­low up his case.”

    Now here’s the kick­er: Al-Tur­ki had been under ter­ror­ism inves­ti­ga­tions since 1995 – again, from Wikipedia:

    “Defense attor­ney John Richi­lano argued the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment only filed fraud­u­lent sex-slave charges after fail­ing to make a ter­ror­ism case against Al-Tur­ki. They claimed Mr. Al-Tur­ki was under FBI-inves­ti­ga­tion on pos­si­ble ter­ror­ism links before his arrest. Fed­er­al court doc­u­ments filed by the defense show that the Den­ver Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force had Al-Tur­ki under a “full fledge inves­ti­ga­tion” sus­pect­ing “he is close­ly aligned to ter­ror­ists and may be pro­vid­ing mate­r­i­al sup­port to ter­ror­ism.” Evi­dence also indi­cat­ed a fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion of pro­ceeds from Al-Basheer Pub­li­ca­tions. They high­light­ed an inci­dent from April 2005 in Illi­nois, when state police stopped Al-Tur­ki on Inter­state 80 near LaSalle. A mes­sage on the nation­al crime infor­ma­tion com­put­er warned the offi­cers “ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion mem­ber – cau­tion, do not alert this indi­vid­ual to this notice.” His lawyers claim school doc­u­ments in his car were removed, copied and faxed by the Illi­nois State Police to the Den­ver FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s Office respond­ed by main­tain­ing that the ter­ror­ism inves­ti­ga­tion was total­ly unre­lat­ed to the vic­tims allegations.[6]

    Al-Turki’s defend­ers have con­sis­tent­ly main­tained the charges are polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, and that the FBI has inves­ti­gat­ed him for sus­pect­ed ter­ror­ism since 1995. They argued that pros­e­cu­tors per­suad­ed the house­keep­er to false­ly accuse Al-Tur­ki after a failed bid to con­struct a ter­ror­ism case. In exchange for tes­ti­fy­ing, she received res­i­den­cy papers and a visa to con­tin­ue work­ing in the Unit­ed States.[7] Accord­ing to fam­i­ly inter­views by Arab News, FBI agents threat­ened and inter­ro­gat­ed Al-Tur­ki numer­ous times fol­low­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks. Fahd Al-Nas­er, Al-Turki’s nephew, indi­cat­ed FBI harass­ment start­ed after his 2004 arrest.
    “While incar­cer­at­ed, Mr. Al-Tur­ki claims he was offered a bar­gain-deal by U.S. author­i­ties which includ­ed depor­ta­tion to Sau­di Ara­bia and employ­ment as an under­cov­er FBI oper­a­tive.”

    So why Clements, and why now?
    Accord­ing to The Huff­in­g­ton Post arti­cle:

    “While Clements gen­er­al­ly kept a low pro­file, his killing comes a week after he denied a Sau­di nation­al prisoner’s request to be sent to his home coun­try to serve out his sen­tence. Homaid­an al-Tur­ki was con­vict­ed of sex­u­al­ly assault­ing a house­keep­er and keep­ing her as a vir­tu­al slave. Clements said state law requires sex offend­ers to under­go treat­ment while in prison and that al-Tur­ki had declined to par­tic­i­pate.”
    Mul­ti­ple links for this sto­ry appear to have been scrubbed from the inter­net, includ­ing a CBS report on ter­ror­ism inves­ti­ga­tions of Al-Tur­ki, as well as a YouTube video which sug­gest­ed the FBI infor­mant con­nec­tion and his treat­ment in prison.

    (orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on my Blog)

    Wiki link:


    Posted by Swamp | March 20, 2013, 11:34 am

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