Jordan Intervenes in U.S. Terror-Funding Suits

The WSJ reports that Jordan is stepping up efforts to shield its biggest bank from several
lawsuits in New York that claim it helped fund terrorist operations,
cases that are stirring tensions between the U.S. and one of its closest
Middle East allies. A set of related U.S. civil suits filed in federal district court in Brooklyn, N.Y., against Arab Bank PLC allege the bank knowingly routed compensation payments from Saudi donors to suicide bombers’ families. The suits’ plaintiffs also allege the bank helped finance groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. Arab Bank denies the charges.

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European Commission adopts internal security strategy

The “EU Internal Security Strategy in Action” adopted today comprises 41 actions to be regulated in the coming four years and is imed at implementing the extra powers in the field of home affairs acquired by the EU once the Lisbon Treaty came into force. It also responds to requests from the European Parliament to have EU-based data extraction and analysis on bank transactions to terrorist organisations, instead of sending all the banking data to the US, where such a programme has existed since 2001. Read COM(2010) 673 final here.

The EU Internal Security Strategy in Action identifies five strategic objectives and outlines a series of actions for each of them:

1. Disrupt international crime networks
– To identify and disrupt criminal networks, it is essential to understand their members’ methods of operating and their financing, the Commission says.

The Commission will therefore propose in 2011 EU legislation on the collection of Passenger Name Records of passengers on flights entering or leaving the territory of the EU. These data will be analysed by the authorities in Member States to prevent and prosecute terrorist offences and serious crimes.

– The Commission also suggests to revise the EU anti-money laundering legislation and setting up joint investigation teams

The Commission will propose legislation in 2011 to strengthen the EU legal framework on confiscation as well.

2. Prevent terrorism and address radicalisation and recruitment
The Commission stresses that the core of the action on radicalisation and recruitment is – and should remain –
at national level.

By 2011, and in partnership with the Committee of the Regions, the Commission will promote the creation of an EU radicalisation-awareness network.This network will consist of policy makers, law enforcement and security officials, prosecutors, local authorities, academics, field experts and civil society organisations, including victims groups. The Commission will also support the work of civil society organisations which
expose, translate and challenge violent extremist propaganda on the internet.

The Commission will in 2012 organise a ministerial conference on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment at which Member States will have the opportunity to present examples of successful action to counter extremist ideology.

More importantly the Commission will in 2011 consider devising a framework for administrative measures under Article 75 of the Treaty as regards freezing of assets to prevent and combat terrorism and related activities, and it will develop a policy for the EU to extract and analyse financial messaging data held on its own territory.

3. Raise levels of security for citizens and businesses in cyberspace
– Establishment of an EU cybercrime centre (2013).
– Establishment of a network of Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) (2012).
– Establishment of a European information sharing and alert system, EISAS (2013).

The Commission adds:

The handling of illegal internet content – including incitement to terrorism – should be tackled through guidelines on cooperation, based on authorised notice and take-down procedures, which the Commission intends to develop with internet service providers, law enforcement authorities and non-profit organisations by 2011. To encourage contact and interaction between these stakeholders, the Commission will promote the use of an internet based platform called the Contact Initiative against Cybercrime for Industry and Law Enforcement.

4. Strengthen security through border management
– Establishment of European external border surveillance system, EUROSUR (2011).

EUROSUR will establish a mechanism for Member States’ authorities to share operational information related to border surveillance and for cooperation with each other and with Frontex at tactical, operational and strategic level. EUROSUR will make use of new technologies developed through EU funded research projects and activities, such as satellite imagery to detect and track targets at the maritime border, e.g. tracing fast vessels transporting drugs to the EU.

According to EU observer “Eurosur is likely to spark controversy among human rights groups
pointing to the fallacy of mashing together asylum seekers and irregular
migrants with traffickers and organised crime lords. “

– Better analysis to identify ‘hot spots’ at the external borders (2011).
– Joint reports on human trafficking, human smuggling and smuggling of illicit goods as a basis for joint operations (2011).

The Commission shrewdly states that Frontex should be able to process personal data.

During its operations, Frontex comes across key information on criminals involved in trafficking networks. Currently, however, this information cannot be further used for risk analyses or to better target future joint operations. Moreover, relevant data on suspected criminals do not reach the competent national authorities or Europol for further investigation. Likewise, Europol cannot share information from its analytical work files. Based on experience and in the context of the EU’s overall approach to information management, the Commission considers that enabling Frontex to process and use this information, with a limited scope and in accordance with clearly defined personal data management rules, will make a significant contribution to dismantling criminal organisations. However, this should not create any duplication of tasks between Frontex and Europol.

5. Increase Europe’s resilience towards crises and disasters
– Proposal on the implementation of the solidarity clause (2011).
– Proposal for a European Emergency Response Capacity (2011).
– Establishment of a risk management policy linking threat and risk assessments to decision making (2014).

The Commission will submit an annual progress report to the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission will support the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security, COSI, which will play a key role in ensuring the effective implementation of the strategy.

Implementing the strategy: the role of COSI
The Commission will support the activities of the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) to ensure that operational cooperation is promoted and strengthened, and that coordination of the action of Member States’ competent authorities is facilitated.

Comments
Commissioner Malstrom:

“EU internal security has traditionally been following a silo mentality, focusing on one area at a time. Now we take a common approach on how to respond to the security threats and challenges ahead. Terrorism, organised, cross-border and cyber crime, and crises and disasters are areas where we need to combine our efforts and work together in order to increase the security of our citizens, businesses, and societies across the EU. This strategy outlines the threats ahead and the necessary actions we must take in order to be able to fight them. I encourage all relevant actors to take their responsibility to implement these actions and thereby to strengthen EU security”, said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Background
In February 2010, the Spanish EU Presidency outlined the security challenges for the EU in an Internal Security Strategy (“Towards a European Security Model“), and called on the Commission to identify action-oriented proposals for implementing it.

Federal prosecutors charge 3 men with funding Somalia terrorist organization

The US District Court Eastern District of Missouri unsealed an indictment charging three men with providing material support to Somali-based Islamic terrorist organization al Shabaab. The October 21 indictment charges Mohamud Abdi Yusuf, Duane Mohamed Diriye and Abdi Mahdi Hussein with funding and providing materials to a known terrorist organization. The federal grand jury charged Yusuf and Hussein with allegedly transferring funds through a Minneapolis wire-transfer business where Hussein was employed to al Shabaab supporters in Somalia from 2008 to July 2009. The indictment details the care the men took to avoid detection, often breaking up transfers into smaller amounts and using code words. Diriye, who is believed to be in Kenya or Somalia, was charged with collecting the funds for al Shabaab. The indictment also mentions unspecified individuals who were allegedly complicit in the conspiracy to provide funding to the organization.

Brief in US v El Mazain Argues Material Support Conviction Should Require Knowledge of Terror Connection

On Oct. 26, 2010, a diverse group of U.S. organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit arguing that individuals may not be convicted under a statute barring “material support” to “designated terrorist groups” if they have not knowingly supported any designated terrorist group. Under the lower court’s ruling, a charity that carefully checks all government lists of “designated terrorists” and avoids supporting any of them may still be convicted, if the government later shows that, unbeknownst to the donor, its grantee was connected to another designated group. The case, U.S. v el Mezain et al, involves the 2008 convictions of leaders of the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation (HLF) on a variety of charges. 

The brief limited its arguments to the charges involving support to non-designated groups, because if upheld, the lower court’s decision would render thousands of foundations and charities in the United States vulnerable to criminal prosecution. It was filed by 20 foundations, charities, peace groups and constitutional rights organizations, including the 1750-member Council on Foundations, The Carter Center (founded by former President Jimmy Carter), the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and Grassroots International. The Dallas-based HLF and its leaders were convicted of aiding five local charities in the West Bank and Gaza that are not on any government lists of terrorist organizations, but which the prosecution said were controlled by Hamas, which is listed. The full list of signatories is here. The current appeal involves the leaders, while the Holy Land Foundation, which was unrepresented at trial, is pursuing a separate appeal.       

Al-Shabab bans mobile phone money transfers in Somalia

BBC reports that Somali Islamist group al-Shabab has ordered mobile phone companies to stop their popular money transfer services, saying they are “unIslamic”. Mobile phone banking was introduced in the northern Somaliland region in 2009 and has now spread across the country. Al-Shabab and its allies control much of southern Somalia and one mobile phone company official said he had “no option but to obey” the order.

Al-Shabab says mobile phone banking could expose Somalia to interference by Western countries, through the international partners of the Somali telecommunications firms.BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the Islamist insurgent group, which has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States and several other countries, may also fear that its members and backers can be traced more easily when mobiles are used for money transfers.

Some observers believe the ban may be intended to block a rival to the traditional money transfer systems, known as hawala, which al-Shabab can influence, or tax, more easily.

Bruguiere report on SWIFT-TFTP Agreement

Statewatch just released the second report on the processing of EU-originating personal data by the US Treasury Department for counter-terrorism purposes by Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere. This report by the Judge took place under the previous SWIFT-TFTP agreement with the USA on the transfer of data on all financial transactions recorded by the EU-based SWIFT system. However, this report poses relevant questions for the new EU-USA Agreement. According to Statewatch:

1. The Judge did not, and was not expected to, question who falls into the “terrorist nexus” as defined by US agencies. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Watch List say that over 1 million people are on the US Terrorist Screening Center watch list used by the TFTP. Although comparisons are difficult to make Interpol says that “in January 2008, there were 8,479 persons suspected in database linked to terrorist activities.”
2. Nor does the Judge address the question of how many US agencies have access to TFTP reports derived from SWIFT and whether they further process them (ie: add data and comments before further circulating them). A US source told Statewatch that the default of US agencies is to “share” information both horizontally (across the Federal government) and vertically (down to state and local agencies) as set out in Bush’s Directive on the Information Sharing Environment. A recent investigation by the Washington Post found that there were 1,271 government agencies dealing with counter-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence (excluding state and local agencies)
3. The TFTP had produced over 1,550 reports (based on data gathered from the SWIFT-TFTP agreement) over the previous 8 years and of these 800 had been sent to non-EU governments: “To protect the original source of the information, the receiving government typically has not known that the information was derived from the TFTP.”

New proposed US money transfers regime undermines EU-US swift agreement

The Obama administration wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering. Financial institutions are now required to report to the Treasury Department transactions in excess of $10,000 and others they deem suspicious. The new rule would require banks to disclose even the smallest transfers.

The proposal is a long-delayed response to the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which specified reforms to better organize the intelligence community and to avoid a repeat of the 2001 attacks. The law required that the Treasury secretary issue regulations requiring financial institutions to report cross-border transfers if deemed necessary to combat terrorist financing.

“By establishing a centralized database, this regulatory plan will greatly assist law enforcement in detecting and ferreting out transnational organized crime, multinational drug cartels, terrorist financing and international tax evasion,” said James H. Freis Jr., director of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

But critics have called it part of a disturbing trend by government security agencies in the wake of the 2001 attacks to seek more access to personal data without adequately demonstrating its utility. Financial institutions say that they already feel burdened byanti-terrorism rules requiring them to provide data, and that they object to new ones.

If the proposed rule goes into effect, transactions between European and U.S. banks would be captured regardless of whether there is a substantiated need.

Sophie in’t Veld, a member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands, said lawmakers undertook “painstaking” negotiations to restrict the amount of financial data to which the United States would have access. “It seems they’re getting it anyway,” she said.