Friday, April 28, 2006

Do Financial Crimes and Internet Fraud Fund Terrorism

Many of us wonder exactly how terrorism is funded. Here is a story from the AP, which might lead some to believe that financial crimes (fraud) is a source of funding.

"Five relatives of a U.S. citizen suspected of being a senior Al Qaida operative were arrested in California and Utah on charges of defrauding banks of hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"The FBI said Omar's relatives netted $327,000 from fraudulent bank loans and bad mortgages in Utah, and Bretzing said some of the money wound up in Jordan with Omar's relatives.

Omar, a 44-year-old Kuwaiti native with U.S. and Jordanian citizenship, has been indicted in Jordan with Iraq insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an aborted chemical attack on the Jordanian intelligence agency."

Full story by the AP courtesy of MSNBC, here.

Of course, the FBI says the matter is still under investigation and won't speculate. Please note, I can't blame them for not doing so in an ongoing case.

BUT here is evidence that the FBI takes the ties between fraud and terrorism seriously. Here are excerpts from a speech delivered by Grant Ashley, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI to the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators in 2004:

It has often been said that money is the root of all evil. I don't know if that's the case, but I do know that it is the root of terrorism. Terrorists rely on money to fund their training and operations. They disguise their fundraising activities as legitimate charity organizations. They resort to white-collar crime to raise money. Money laundering is no longer exclusive to sophisticated criminals, but is now routine for terrorists.

Money can also be the fruit of terrorism and crime. Today's terrorists and criminals use sophisticated business practices to achieve their goals, not unlike those of legitimate multinational corporations. Criminals today are not just stealing funds, they are stealing credit card information, social security numbers - entire identities - and selling them for profit. Those who traffic in humans, drugs, or weapons are motivated and rewarded by money.

Link to Assistant Director Ashley's speech, here.

Although it rarely makes it in the news, it appears that the FBI sees a connection between financial crimes (fraud) and terrorism.

If there are some of you out there that are leery of government sources, the Washington Post did a story on Imam Samudra, the terrorist behind the Bali Night Club bombings in Indonesia. Samudra published a book with a chapter entitled "Hacking, Why Not?"

There, Samudra urges fellow Muslim radicals to take the holy war into cyberspace by attacking U.S. computers, with the particular aim of committing credit card fraud, called "carding." The chapter then provides an outline on how to get started.

Samudra, 34, is among the most technologically savvy members of Jemaah Islamiah, an underground Islamic radical movement in Southeast Asia that is linked to al Qaida. He sought to fund the Bali attacks in part through online credit card fraud, according to Indonesian police. They said Samudra's laptop computer revealed an attempt at carding, but it was unclear whether he had succeeded.

Samudra was quoted in the article:

"It would not be America if the country were secure. It would not be America if its computer network were impenetrable," he writes at the beginning of the hacking chapter. He continues by urging fellow militants to exploit this opening: "Any man-made product contains weakness because man himself is a weak creature. So it is with the Americans, who boast they are a strong nation."

Here is a link to the story by the Washington Post.

Interestingly enough, we have seen some major hacking activity in the recent past, where large numbers of credit and debit card numbers have been compromised. There have also been a large number of data breaches, most of which seem never to have been solved.

In testimony before Congress, Dennis M. Lormel, Chief, Financial Crimes Section, FBI said:

Because most of these are never solved, we as average people can only speculate as to what the source of this activity is.

After all, (Terrorist 007) Irhabi 007, the so-called Al Qaida hacker, who was spreading terrorist propaganda on the Internet used stolen credit cards to set up his ISP connections.

In testimony before Congress, Dennis M. Lormel, Chief, Financial Crimes Section, FBI stated:

Another pattern of terrorist financing involves funding of terrorist cell activities through various criminal activity. Al Qaida has been known to encourage and instruct terrorist cells in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in ways they can fund their terrorist activities through various criminal activity. For example, Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian extremist convicted in the terrorist plot to place bombs at Los Angeles International Airport among other locations, was instructed in these camps to engage in criminal activity such as bank robberies and fraud schemes to fund his terrorist activities. As another example, investigation has identified a terrorist cell based in Spain with ties to Al Qaida that used stolen credit cards in fictitious sales scams and for numerous other purchases for the cell. They kept purchases below amount where identification would be presented. They also used stolen telephone and credit cards for communications back to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc. Extensive use of false passports and travel documents were used to open bank accounts where money for the mujahadin movement was sent to and from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. In addition, the cell relied upon street crimes such as home burglary, car theft, and car burglary to fund their cell activities.

We live in a new and more dangerous world since the 9-11 attacks. This new world requires that we take another look at issues, such as financial crimes and illegal immigration. These issues, which were not priorities in the past, have become increasingly important in the quest to ensure our safety and security.

Unfortunately, there are too many out there, who want things to remain the same and are now exercising their political voices to prevent the necessary changes.

Perhaps, they should go out and watch "United 93" to refresh their memories of why we can no longer allow tolerate loose financial controls and allow criminals and terrorists easy access to our borders.

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