Archive for July, 2013

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Qatar gives Libyan arms to Syrian rebels

July 7, 2013

Weapons used during the rebellion against Qaddafi have been spirited out of Libya by agents of Qatar.  The arms are smuggled through Turkey across the Syrian border.  The guns transferred by Qatar are said to be going to fighters who are more extreme and Islamist than the rebels being supported by the Obama administration.

Take a listen to NPR’s four-minute interview with one of the New York Times journalists who reported on the story:

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Mosques and “orphans project” help finance Hezbollah from Germany

July 5, 2013

Hundreds of Hezbollah agents in Berlin are using Germany to raise money for their cause according to a new report from the interior ministry.  Since the EU does not officially consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, law enforcement can’t do much to put a stop to Hezbollah’s financial activities there.

Take special note of the Orphans Project Lebanon, which is described in the report as a channel for Hezbollah’s money.  Exploiting sympathies about orphans is a frequent fundraising tactic used by Islamist terrorist groups.

From the Jerusalem Post (h/t Jihad Watch):

German mosque groups raising funds for Hezbollah

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT

06/23/2013

BERLIN – The head of Germany’s federal agency for domestic intelligence and the country’s Interior Ministry have recently presented a report showing Hezbollah’s use of German based mosques and their affiliated organizations to raise funds for the terrorist group’s activities in Lebanon.

According to the 2012 report published this month by the domestic intelligence agency, known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the terrorist organization finances its activities through “Hezbollah-affiliated mosque associations” and raises funds within the framework of “religious ceremonies” as well as membership contributions.

Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the head of Germany’s Interior Ministry, and Dr. Hans-Georg Maaßen, the relatively new director of the intelligence agency introduced the report several weeks ago in Berlin.

It is unclear from the report if the Hezbollah funds in Germany are funneled to aid the terrorist group’s efforts in Syria to support the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The report showed a steady presence of Hezbollah members in the Federal Republic, 950 members, the same figure for 2011. The intelligence agency’s 2010 report showed the number of Hezbollah members to be 900.

The 381-page 2012 intelligence report lists the Hezbollah attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, under the category of Islamic terrorism.

Although the Bulgarian Interior Minister blamed Hezbollah for the attack, which resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, the German report stated that “Hezbollah was brought into connection with the attack” but that the link was not yet definitively proven. The report was published before the Bulgarian government submitted new evidence, according to a JTA article last week, showing a Hezbollah operative used a printer in Lebanon to aid the terrorists with fake documents as part of their planning for the attack.

The German report also contained information about the July 7, 2012, arrest of a Hezbollah member in Cyprus who plotted to kill Israelis and Jews on the Island. Germany’s report, however, does not contain the March conviction of Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who admitted he was a Hezbollah operative and part of the terrorist organization’s global mission to monitor Jews.

Young German Hezbollah members are strongly connected and active on the Internet, including social media and various web forums, the report noted. Growing street demonstrations involving Hezbollah supporters and members were documented, including an event attended by 1,100 Hezbollah supporters last year at the Al-Quds Day march in Berlin. At 600, the 2012 number of young members almost doubled from 2011.

According to the report, as many as 3,000 Hezbollah supporters participated in the Iranian-sponsored Al- Quds Day march in the 1990s. The event calls for the destruction of Israel and stokes anti-Western hate.

Though not cited in the agency’s report, The Jerusalem Post reported in 2012 that the Imam Ali Mosque in Hamburg, widely considered by experts in Germany and abroad to be part of the long arm of Iran’s regime in the Federal Republic, chartered buses and sent Hezbollah supporters to an anti-Israel and anti-Western demonstration. Hamburg’s local intelligence agency stated that “two buses with roughly 90 people traveled to Berlin this year. The costs for the travel were paid for by the IZH,” an organization that operates the Shi’ite mosque.

According to the report, Berlin has 250 active Hezbollah members. It revealed that in Berlin there is an annual “victory celebration of the liberation” celebrating the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. On May 26, 2012, roughly 700 Hezbollah participants took part in the event.

The report noted that in September 2012, Hezbollah members in many German cities protested against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for worldwide demonstrations against the film.

The most recent intelligence report cited the Hezbollah-controlled Orphans Project Lebanon in Germany as a way to send money to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has long used German territory to raise funds for the families of suicide bombers involved in killing Israelis. A 2009 report from the European Foundation for Democracy titled “Hezbollah’s Fund-raising Organization in Germany” revealed that the Orphans Project Lebanon, based in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, is “the German branch of a Hezbollah suborganization” that “promotes suicide bombings” and aims to destroy Israel.

Germany still allows the Orphans Project Lebanon to operate but eliminated its tax subsidy several years ago…

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Barclays severs ties with Somali wire service over terror finance, money laundering concerns

July 4, 2013

The international company in question is Dahabshiil—the same money transfer service that has exhibited worrisome shortcomings in its anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance compliance programs.  It is also the same company that has been subjected to alleged extortion demands from the terrorist group al-Shabaab in exchange for remaining in business in Somalia.

Thank goodness Barclays has acknowledged the warning signs.  Thanks to El Grillo for sending over this Jun. 25 article from the AP:

Terror financing fears stop transfers to Somalia

By ABDI GULED and JASON STRAZIUSO

Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — When a bank transfers money to Somalia, can it be sure it’s not sending money to terrorists? That question is forcing one of Britain’s largest banks to cut ties with the largest cash transfer bank in Somalia, a company that brings in the majority of the country’s $1.2 billion in yearly remittances.

Many in Somalia are in desperate need of money. Payments from family and friends overseas are how many get by, and that’s why more than 100 aid workers and Somalia experts signed a letter this week pleading with the British government to find a solution.

Barclays bank will no longer allow customers to send money to Somalia via the Somali bank Dahabshil. A financial power-house in Somalia, Dahabshil describes itself as “the most trusted money transfer company for many immigrants willing to support their families and friends.” But anti-terror laws hold banks – like Barclays – responsible if they transfer money to criminal or terror elements. As a result, fewer are willing to send money into Somalia.

Such transactions for Somalis in the United States became more difficult in late 2011, when a bank in Minnesota closed accounts that facilitated such transfers. Sunrise Community Banks decided to halt the transactions after two women were convicted of sending money to the terrorist group al-Shabab.

“It is recognized that some money service businesses don’t have the proper checks in place to spot criminal activity and could therefore unwittingly be facilitating money laundering and terrorist financing,” Barclays said in a statement. “We want to be confident that our customers can filter out those transactions, because abuse of their services can have significant negative consequences for society and for us as their bank.”

Abdirashid Duale, chief executive of Dahabshiil, noted that his company is one of a number of transfer businesses affected by of Barclays’ decision.

“Naturally, Dahabshiil is appealing this decision and would like to emphasize that to date Barclays’ has acknowledged that our Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing policies are fully compliant with industry regulations,” he said.

Dahabshiil, he said, remains operational while it explores alternative banking arrangements.

The group of aid workers and researchers said the decision at stake here “is a lifeline that provides essential support to an estimated 40 percent of the population of Somalia.” The group said it has seen firsthand the impact remittances have on families in the Horn of Africa.

“My son is in the U.K. He sent us money every month for our sustenance and school fees for the children. Where are we going to get the money to pay our bills?” said Dahabo Afrah, a longtime customer of Dahabshil in Mogadishu. “This is unfair to us and will affect hundreds of thousands of Somali people.”

Many big banks in the U.S. have already stopped handling transfers to Somalia, saying the federal requirements designed to crack down on terrorism financing were too complex and not worth the risk. Last April, U.S. Bank confirmed it is working with Dahabshil to allow Somalis in Minnesota to send money back home. U.S. Bank spokeswoman Teri Charest said Monday that the bank is working closely with Dahabshil but the transactions have not yet started.

Barclays said it remains happy to maintain a relationship with businesses that have anti-financial crime controls…

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Carter seeks waiver so charities can deal with terrorists

July 3, 2013

Jimmy Carter has signed a petition developed by the Charity & Security Network to “exempt peacebuilding activities” from the U.S. prohibition against providing material support to terrorist organizations.

The problem with the proposal is that it would open up too much wiggle room for charities to interact with terrorist groups.  Which charities would be eligible for such an exemption?  Islamic Relief USA?  Under the exemption, charities like IR-USA could partner with Hamas charities or even directly with Hamas, and justify the joint venture on the grounds that they are pursuing peace-building efforts.

The limits on engagement with terrorist groups have been a longstanding grievance among left-leaning philanthropic and charitable organizations.  While many of those seeking a relaxation of the rules have their hearts in the right place with a genuine desire to seek world peace, the harsh reality is that some charitable entities (or some of their employees) would exploit the exemption to support, rather than to pacify, terrorist groups.  Even financial aid toward projects such as schools, orphanages, or food aid while working with a group such as Hamas or al-Shabaab would be problematic because aid is fungible, and such aid would generally serve to strengthen the terrorist group and its reputation among the populations they “serve.”

The Hill ran this article with a striking but misleading headline “Ex-President Carter wants sanctions weakened on terrorist groups.”  Not exactly—but what’s being proposed is equally alarming.  Read it all:

By Julian Pecquet – 06/20/13

Former President Jimmy Carter is spearheading an effort to convince the U.S. to weaken sanctions on terrorist groups so peace organizations can legally work with them.

In a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry delivered Thursday, Carter and other foreign policy experts ask Kerry to exempt peace groups from policies that make it a crime to offer negotiation training and humanitarian law classes to terror groups.

“The Secretary of State can, and should, exempt peacebuilding activities from this counterproductive application of the law,” says the petition. “Doing so would open the door for professional peacebuilders to fully engage in helping to end armed conflicts and suffering around the world, while making the U.S. safer.”

The Charity and Security Network, which is spearheading the petition, declined for legal reasons to provide examples of current programs impacted by anti-terrorism sanctions. The organization told The Hill that in the past, efforts to build bridges with the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and leftist guerillas in Colombia have all been stymied.

A 2011 report by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute said anti-terrorism laws passed in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have created bureaucratic red tape and fostered an atmosphere of “fear” and “confusion” that has endangered the lives of aid workers and made it impossible for them to work in many of the world’s hot spots.

“Rigid and over-zealous application of counter-terrorism laws to humanitarian action in conflict not only limits its reach in that context,” the report concluded, “but undermines the independence and neutrality of humanitarian organisations in general, and could become an additional factor in the unravelling of the legitimacy and acceptance of humanitarian response in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”

The roadblocks have only gotten worse since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that such aid fit the Patriot Act’s definition of “material support” for terrorism. The high court in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project determined that such aid could free up terror groups’ resources for terrorist activities and legitimize them…

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Former spooks question financial surveillance

July 2, 2013

Sanctions, asset freezes, and financial surveillance have produced the opposite result from what policy makers intended by driving Al Qaeda deeper underground and creating a more diffuse system of financial transactions by the terrorist group.  This is the analysis from LIGNET, a group of ex-CIA and intelligence officials.

There is a lot of truth to what these analysts are saying.  The regulatory regime has cost banks and our overall economy billions of dollars in compliance costs while producing thousands of meaningless currency transaction reports and foiling few plots.  This analysis is also consistent with what Jean Charles Brisard has written about counterterror finance bureaucracy, which he considers “basically useless.”  And recent revelations about the federal government’s domestic monitoring policies only cast financial data mining programs such as SWIFT in further doubt.

An excerpt from LIGNET’s analysis follows.  Reading their full piece requires registration.

With New Ways to Fund Attacks, Al-Qaeda Now a Bigger Threat

Posted on June 18, 2013

The overreliance by the United States on sanctions and surveillance in the war on terror has allowed al-Qaeda to adapt its methods of financing to avoid detection, and resulted in a decentralized al-Qaeda structure — and a much greater threat.

Al-Qaeda has transitioned from a hierarchical cell structure to a franchise organization that is now responsible for four times as many terrorist attacks a year as it was before 9/11. Al-Qaeda training camps are now being established on the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, countries of the former Soviet Union, and Southeast Asia.

Background

The current counterterrorism strategy is to rely on economic sanctions and financial surveillance to identify and then stop terrorist financing. Examples of this are the U.S. PATRIOT Act, UN Resolution 1617, and the EU’s Third Money Laundering Directive.

The success of counterterrorism efforts in freezing the assets of terrorists has diminished over time. The UN found that while $112 million was seized in the three months after 9/11, only $24 million was seized in the two years that followed.

The continued targeting of al-Qaeda’s financial assets has had the unintended consequence of transforming al-Qaeda into a loose coalition of localized, autonomous, and self-sufficient terrorist “franchise” cells. These cells, held together by a world view rather than by a hierarchical structure, have been enormously effective. The number of terrorist attacks quadrupled in five years from 208 in 2003 to 864 in 2008.

In terms of financing, al-Qaeda’s shuria or high command council, no longer plays a central role in allocating expenditures or soliciting funds. Instead, terrorist financing has moved further into the ‘grey’ economy. Cells raise funds from a combination of charities, independent criminal ventures, and licit businesses. In fact, crime is now regarded as the main source of funds for al-Qaeda. Criminal ventures generally include extortion, hijacking, theft, blackmail, the drug trade, and kidnapping for ransom (KFR). LIGNET has previously covered al-Qaeda’s use of KFR on the Arabian Peninsula.

Even the transferring of funds between franchise cells has evolved to get around U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Originally, al-Qaeda moved funds through the financial sector, using banks such as France’s Credit Lyonnais, Germany’s Commerzbank, and the Standard Bank of South Africa. However, counterterrorism measures have driven al-Qaeda’s transferring of funds under ground, forcing it to rely on hawaladars and couriers. These provide untraceable methods of securely moving funds. Al-Qaeda recently used Pakistani-based hawaladars to move $1 million from the UAE into Pakistan, at which point the money was couriered to Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda’s pushing of its finances into illicit activities and localized funds have made it difficult for counterterrorism strategies that rely on economic sanctions to be effective. The results can be seen in Table 1, which shows the trend of cheaper – yet more frequent – terrorist attacks.

Operational expenses of jihadist attacks over timeExperts previously believed that the financial war had been a success. This presumption was based, in large part, on the success the United States had in closing down al-Qaeda’s traditional source of funding. But al-Qaeda has evolved and adapted. New al-Qaeda cells, recruiting centers and finance operations have appeared in remote areas of the world, with key affiliates on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa.

Analysis

The measures that have been taken in the war on terror since 9/11 to intercept al-Qaeda’s funding have seen diminishing returns. And while financial sanctions certainly weakened al-Qaeda’s ability to launch attacks, at least for a few years, they undercut the ability of intelligence agencies to “follow the money.” The importance of money trails is highlighted by the fact that al-Qaeda spends around 10 percent of its income on operational costs: The other 90 percent goes toward maintaining an international network of cells…

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Islamic Relief’s financial rating tumbles

July 1, 2013

The financial health of the largest Islamic charity in the U.S. has been downgraded by Charity Navigator from four to two stars.  The financial rating lowered Islamic Relief USA’s overall rating down to three stars—IR-USA’s lowest rating since fiscal year 2001.  The following chart is a portion of Charity Navigator’s ratings from the present going back to 2008:

Charity Navigator gives IR-USA low marks

The rating was published in May and reflects data from 2011.  Charity Navigator is widely regarded as the nation’s top evaluator of nonprofits.

A decline in IR-USA’s stated revenues and soaring administrative costs contributed to the downgrade.  IR-USA reported $160 million in donations in 2010 but only $63 million in 2011.  At face value, the plummeting revenues suggest fewer donations, but a more accurate valuation and decrease of in-kind donations of medicine has more to do with the apparent financial nosedive.

In 2011, Forbes reported that Diana Sufian, an independent contractor, was terminated by IR-USA after hyper-inflating the charity’s assets over a five year period.  Sufian used grossly inaccurate valuations of deworming drugs.  The overstatement was no minor bookkeeping technicality—IR-USA’s drug stockpiles represented 75 percent of their stated assets.

Sufian was paid $510,000 for the year in which she was fired for services she performed.  One wonders why Ms. Sufian has never been charged with financial statement fraud.

Rather than being fired by the board of IR-USA over the Sufian drug value catastrophe, the charity’s CEO Adeb Ayoub is paid $168K a year, and has been reappointed by the Obama administration as an adviser to the State Department for the next two years.

IR-USA donates millions of dollars each year to Islamic Relief Worldwide, a UK-based organization that has aided Hamas and whose leadership is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.  A Department of Justice official has implicated IR-USA for being a conduit for the flow of money from America to terrorist groups abroad.  Russian intelligence indicates that IR-USA funds militants in the North Caucasus—the region where the family of the Boston marathon bombers originate.