May 03, 2004

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden

Last week, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mekong Delta) charged
that the incredible shrinking _resident had failed to
demand greater chemical plant security because of
pressure from his fatcat campaign contributors in the
chemical industry lobby. That's a very serious, and
well-substantiated charge...Of course, the "US
mainstream news media" choose, instead, to focus its
campaign coverage on the fact that JFK's personal
assistant makes him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
and speaks to him in French and on how the lack of
"color" in JFK's "inner circle" has become an issue
(although it is not clear with whom it has become an
issue, certainly not with the NAACP or the CBC)...So
it should not be surprising to you if the cable news
network propapunditgandists and the Stepfordized White
House press corp do not spend much time this week on
why the incredible shrinking _resident has more
Treasury agents investigating Cuban embargo violations
than he has investigating the money of Bin Laden and
Saddam Hussein combined...

John Solomon, Associated Press: The Treasury
Department agency entrusted with blocking the
financial resources of terrorists has assigned five
times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo
violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and
Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.

Start a Real Offensive against Global Terror, Show Up
for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden

Thu Apr 29, 7:23 PM ET Add White House - AP Cabinet &
State to My Yahoo!

By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department (news - web
sites) agency entrusted with blocking the financial
resources of terrorists has assigned five times as
many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as
it has to track Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s
and Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s money,
documents show.

In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said
that between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93
enforcement investigations related to terrorism. Since
1994 it has collected just $9,425 in fines for
terrorism financing violations.

In contrast, OFAC opened 10,683 enforcement
investigations since 1990 for possible violations of
the long-standing economic embargo against Fidel
Castro (news - web sites)'s regime, and collected more
than $8 million in fines since 1994, mostly from
people who sent money to, did business with or
traveled to Cuba without permission.

The figures, included in a lengthy letter OFAC sent to
Congress late last year and provided to The Associated
Press this week, prompted Republicans and Democrats
alike to question whether OFAC has failed to adjust
from the Cold War to the war on terrorism.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., threatened Thursday to
start an effort in Congress to eliminate some funding
for OFAC if more resources weren't put toward the bin
Laden and Saddam efforts.

"This is really astounding," Dorgan said. "I hope
somebody in the administration will soon come to his
or her senses and start directing our resources where
they are needed. Politics is clearly diverting
precious time, money and manpower away from the war on
terrorism here."

Sen. Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate
Finance Committee, requested the figures, which showed
that at the end of 2003, OFAC had 21 full-time agents
working Cuba violations and just four full-time
workers hunting bin Laden's and Saddam's riches.

"Rather than spending precious resources to prevent
Americans from exercising their right to travel, OFAC
must realign its priorities and instead work harder to
keep very real terrorist threats out of our country,"
said Baucus, D-Mont.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the
tax-writing Senate panel, agreed.

"OFAC obviously needs to enforce the law with regard
to U.S. policy on Cuba, but the United States is at
war against terrorism, and al-Qaida is the biggest
threat to our national security," Grassley said.
"Cutting off the blood money that has financed Saddam
Hussein and Osama bin Laden must be a priority when it
comes to resources."

The Treasury Department, which oversees OFAC, said its
workers "fully utilize the resources and tools
available to us to protect our nation and the
good-willing people around the world from those who
seek to harm us, be they terrorist thugs or fascist

In a statement, Treasury said the Bush administration
was "steadfast in fighting the financial war on terror
and honoring our commitment to the United States and
the United Nations (news - web sites) to uphold our
economic sanctions against rogue nations."

But the department last month signaled it wasn't
completely satisfied with its terror-fighting effort,
announcing a reorganization that placed four
historically autonomous offices OFAC, the Financial
Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of Asset
Forfeiture and the Office of Intelligence Support
under the control of a new undersecretary for the
Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Treasury Secretary John Snow wrote Grassley that the
initiative will, by 2005, double the resources OFAC
had just four years ago if President Bush (news - web
sites)'s budget is approved. Still, Snow acknowledged
change was needed.

"In a post-Sept. 11 world it was crucial that we took
a good, hard look at the capabilities we had available
as well as question what changes needed to be made in
light of that attack," Snow wrote.

In its letter late last year to the Senate committee,
OFAC said it "has no information that any foreign
government is knowingly sheltering Saddam's personal
wealth." The agency added that the deposed Iraqi
dictator "almost certainly used front companies and
trusted associates outside Iraq (news - web sites) to
hold and manage assets."

As for bin Laden, OFAC wrote that its dealings with
Saudi officials and bin Laden's family since 1999 have
led it to conclude that the al-Qaida leader did not
have a fortune of $300 million or more, as some media
reports have suggested.

"He may have had some wealth, but not in this range,"
OFAC wrote. Instead, OFAC said bin Laden used his
status as a "trusted person" from a wealthy Saudi
family to collect and distribute charitable funds in
the name of radical Islam, essentially underwriting a
recruiting and training network that became al-Qaida.

OFAC is charged with freezing the bank accounts and
other financial assets of countries, companies and
individuals who are U.S. enemies. Though obscure to
most Americans, the office has encountered significant

Last Christmas, Grassley and Baucus accused the agency
of failing on at least two occasions to freeze the
money of people identified by U.S. allies as terrorist

Richard Newcomb, the career official who has run OFAC
for years under both Republican and Democratic
presidents, was the subject of an internal
investigation in the mid-1990s that concluded he
improperly met outside the office with representatives
of companies under investigation by his agency and
took uncoordinated enforcement actions that
potentially compromised criminal investigations.


On the Net:

Office of Foreign Assets Control:

Posted by richard at May 3, 2004 02:10 PM