Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pulling the Curtain Back on Counterthreat Finance Initiative... Finally by Andrew Cochran

Today, in a hearing room before (maybe) 50 people and with no "media elite" reporters present, a Congressional subcommittee finally pulled the curtain back on the single most effective counterfinancing measure in this decade, the joint Defense-Treasury counterthreat financing initiative. After covering this issue for 18 months, I was beginning to think that the success of the Iraq Threat Finance Cell, and the close coordination between Defense, Treasury, financial institutions, and payment system experts would never receive the attention and funding they deserve. Hopefully this hearing and the December 2 memorandum institutionalizing the concept at DoD are just a beginning to more funding, more personnel, and more success at stopping the financing of the most dangerous terrorists.

The testimony from Lt. Gen. Fridovich, the director of the SOCOM Center for Special Operations, includes illuminating details of the coordination mechanism, some of which I have not seen before in public statements. For instance, the testimony indicates that Threat Finance cell concept is being developed and/or deployed widely against a number of asymmetric threats. Gen. Fridovich also discussed some of the meetings with the private and nonprofit sector, in which a number of Contributing Experts here have been involved, and touched on the emerging technologies which are a focus of discussion in these meetings. Key excerpts from that testimony:

"(S)emi-annually, in April and October, we convene a Threat Finance Working Group as part of our Global Synchronization Conference. This brings together roughly 100 Counterthreat Finance analysts, investigators, and case agents from all the Geographic Combatant Commands, Functional Commands like Strategic Command and Joint Forces Command, the Combat Support Agencies, the InterAgency, most notably Treasury, State, FBI, DEA, and DHS/ICE, our British, Australian and Canadian colleagues, and various representatives of the private sector. This has become the premier forum for US Government Threat Finance exchange. Exchange with the coalition, and the private sector has been especially informative as we learn how better to deal with the rapidly developing cutting edge financial technologies like internet and cellphone money transfers.

I have studied testimony on this subject presented in 2005, and can see that this Threat Finance working group has become what was then envisioned by bringing community together and operationalizing each agency’s unique knowledge, skills and authorities to maximize impact on financial facilitators. (Editor's Note: here is the 2005 testimony.)
We are posting Threat Finance analysts, very carefully selected threat finance analysts, at several of the Combatant Commands, and we are working hard within the DoD community to develop Threat Finance analyst training. This highlights a simple key to fostering interagency success, which is to add value to other’s efforts.
We then share our expertise on these target sets with any and all InterAgency members, most especially Treasury and law enforcement, looking to operationalize results on targets DoD cannot currently reach via kinetic means. Right now these target sets include Al Qaida’s External Facilitation Network, by which we mean those gentlemen operating in places like Kuwait and Pakistan, Europe and Asia to move money for IEDs, suicide-bombers and the like into Iraq and Afghanistan. We are also working against Al Shabaab, Lebanese Hezbollah and certain Iranian elements as they continue to develop a global financial facilitation infrastructure to rival that of Hezbollah and sometimes linked thereto."

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