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
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”.
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:
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.”