CATF Reports Mar. 28, 2017, 2:22pm


The issue of charities financing terrorism has been on the U.S.’ radar for over fifteen years, yet the U.S. crackdown approach on such organizations operating domestically has remained largely unused since 2008, Foundation for Defense of Democracies Vice President for Research and former U.S. Treasury terror finance analyst Jonathan Schanzer wrote last week. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an inter-governmental body established to combat money laundering and terrorist financing – released a report last December stressing that “the U.S. has not designated a domestic U.S.-based charity since […] 2009.” Schanzer underscored that the designation of the Tamil Foundation as the only charity to be designated between 2008 and 2016 is a stark contrast to the U.S.’ heavy-handed approach in the wake of 9/11 to stamp out groups like the Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International Foundation, the Global Relief Foundation and Islamic Africa Relief Agency. Moreover, Schanzer stressed the importance of aligning efforts at home with the U.S.’ assertive international sanctioning that has contributed to deterring terrorism financing. He stated the difficulty in gauging the repercussions of “eight-year lapse” in prosecutions, but cautioned that “it is hard to believe that not one charity has run afoul of our laws”.

Schanzer's call to revamp efforts to counter domestic terror financing comes at a time when the administration has the opportunity to instate a more emboldened policy approach to counter domestic terrorist financing methods. The Treasury Department’s 2015 "National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment" report emphasized U.S. charities' continued risk of abuse simply because of the sector’s diversity, scale and worldwide reach. The Treasury held that despite continued government endeavors, terrorists still have the ability to “exploit several vulnerabilities in the United States […] to raise and move funds”. The responsibility now lies with President Trump and the Department of Justice, whose umbrella domestic designations currently falls under, Schanzer contended.

From The Weekly Standard:

“Busting terrorist charities here in the United States was a low priority for the last eight years under Barack Obama. It's time for the Trump administration to instruct the bureaucracy to get back into this important fight.

“The ball is now in the court of the White House and the Department of Justice. Amidst the many competing demands of the presidential transition, this issue may not be on the administration's radar. But it should be. Indeed, it would be surprising if terrorist groups have not exploited this window of opportunity. It's time to put our national-security professionals back to work on this crucial portfolio.”

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