Permission to publish full article by Rachel Ehrenfeld
Nov 1, 1993
Follow the money.
by Rachel Ehrenfeld
In the welter of events following the catastrophe at the World Trade Center, few noticed that the first man arrested, Mohammed Salameh – the poor, unemployed illegal immigrant from an impoverished family – volunteered $5 million to bail himself out. Where did this money come from? Subsequently, the FBI identified more than $100,000 transferred from Europe to the bank accounts of Salameh and others. Is the same source responsible for funding the eight men arrested in Queens for allegedly planning to blow up tunnels and bridges and assassinate public officials?
In 1992 Congress passed a law authored by Senator Grassley giving federal courts jurisdiction over civil suits filed against terrorist organizations by American victims. The law also requires the Treasury Department to report assets held in the United States by terrorist countries and organizations. Grassley’s initiative was prompted by the common wisdom of “follow the money trail.” But the Treasury Department did not comply with the law.
Because Treasury has failed to implement Grassley’s amendment, terrorists are able to raise funds and use them at will. The April report by Treasury listed the assets of the six countries on the terrorist list (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria), but failed to report on assets of well-known terrorist organizations such as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), the PLO, and the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). Had Treasury fulfilled its obligation to look into these groups, perhaps the money supporting Salameh would have been detected in time to prevent the World Trade Center bombing.
When BCCI went belly up in the summer of 1991, we learned that Abu Nidal and the PLO had accounts in the bank. More importantly, we also discovered that the American and British governments knew and kept that information secret. The PLO leaders, who strongly supported Saddam Hussein before, during, and after the Gulf War, met with the leaders of HAMAS in Khartoum in January 1993 and issued a joint statement of cooperation and collaboration. The statement stressed the need for fundraising to support intensification and escalation of the intifada. Sudan is yet to be put on the terrorist list, and instead of reprimanding the PLO, the U.S. Government rewarded it by arranging for continuing Saudi subsidies and by inviting it to participate in the Middle East peace talks.
Various U.S. – based organizations such as the Islamic Foundations for Education, the Islamic Committee for Palestine, the United Funds for the Holy Land, the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association for Palestine, Mercy International, and the American Muslim Council are among the major Muslim fundraising organizations dedicated to expanding radical Muslim fundamentalism in the United States. These organizations acquire funds under the guise of religious, charitable, educational, and cultural activities, many of which are perfectly legitimate. Their anti-American, anti-Western stance is dismissed as “religious fervor.” Yet their religious activities mask their real political agenda.
The funds they collect are usually smuggled out of the U.S., often in cash in large quantities, sometimes in gold. But not all the money collected in the U.S. ends up abroad. Some of it is transferred back to promote social services, build mosques, organize conferences, publish newsletters, and support terrorist activities.
In St. Louis last March, the Justice Department indicted members of the ANO under RICO, charging them with smuggling money, conspiring to kill American Jews, plotting to blow up the Israeli Embassy, and illegally purchasing weapons. In January, Mohammad Jarad and Mohammed Salah were arrested in Israel for smuggling over $600,000 for HAMAS. Both were members of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois. Early in June, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six months in prison in Israel. In April of this year, Norman Gabay, an American businessman, filed a civil suit in New York District Court against the New York-based Alavi and Iran-based Mostazafan Foundations for $56 million in compensation for companies of his which were seized during the Iranian revolution. Apparently, U.S. regulators who granted tax-exempt status to the Alavi Foundation were unaware of the real nature of these charitable organizations. The two foundations have a mandate to provide care for families of the Hezbollah members who carried out the suicide bombing mission against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Back in 1989, the Alavi Foundation’s anti-American activities in the U.S. were questioned in the media. Yet the IRS failed to investigate.
Allowing terrorist organizations and foundations to operate in the United States with impunity creates an obvious danger for US. citizens. Rewarding them with tax-exempt status adds insult to injury, forcing Americans to pay for their own endangerment through heavier tax burdens. No wonder, as Senator D’Amato commented in a recent interview, the terrorists are “laughing at us.”
Miss Ehrenfeld is the author of Narco-Terrorism and Evil Money: Encounters along the Money Trail.