Counter Terrorism Content
Money is the lifeblood of terrorism. Although terrorist attacks themselves often require only a few thousand dollars to fund, terrorist organizations require millions of dollars to sustain themselves. Money (often in the form of U.S. dollars) is essential to terrorist organizations’ ability to recruit and train members, disseminate propaganda, provide logistical support for operations and both develop and sustain organizational infrastructure. The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has recognized that such support infrastructure is critical for terrorist organizations’ vitality. U.S. Government officials also recognize that cutting off terrorists’ funding is an indispensable means of disrupting their operations. As former Department of Justice attorney and former General Counsel of the United States Information Agency, Joseph A. Morris, testified before Congress:
International terrorism has become, in many respects, an industry. It rests on a foundation of money. Money is often more important to the masters of terrorism than are people. That they care little for their victims goes without saying; but it is instructive that many terrorist organizations appear to care little for their own operatives, treating them as fungible and expendable.
The sections that follow provide a brief description of the mechanisms of terrorism financing, as well as background information on major terrorist organizations and law enforcement efforts to combat terrorism under U.S. law. A section on civil counter-terrorism lawsuits describes how these suits provide terror victims an opportunity to obtain compensation for their losses and injuries, while simultaneously complementing and supporting other law enforcement counter-terrorism efforts.
TERROR VICTIMS’ OPTIONS
Unfortunately, neither diplomacy nor official designation under law has had a decisive impact on terrorist organizations’ access to their worldwide fundraising networks. Against this backdrop, the civil provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act point to alternative ways that private citizens can have an impact in the War on Terror. The provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. § 2333(a)) permit United States citizens to bring private lawsuits against the terrorists who injured them or their family members in terrorist attacks. The law also allows terror victims to bring actions against the individuals and entities that support or finance international terrorism.
Private lawsuits cannot replace diplomatic efforts, and they are no substitute for vigorous law enforcement and criminal prosecutions. However, these cases play an important complementary role not only in bringing a small measure of justice to individual terror victims but also bringing these issues to the public’s awareness. Litigation can also prove a deterrent to financial institutions that have turned a blind eye to terror financing in pursuit of greater profits.
The horrific problems presented by terrorism, terrorism financing, and those that knowingly enable them, are complex and not susceptible to easy resolution. But a combination of diplomacy, wise political and military strategy, regulatory enforcement, and the work of private “attorneys general” such as Osen LLC can serve as vital, effective measures in mitigating risk, thwarting future attacks, and making the threat more manageable. Osen LLC is committed to obtaining just compensation for terrorism’s victims, and exploring new policy and legal initiatives that will advance and improve counter-terrorism programs generally. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our counter-terrorism practice with you.