RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. We turn now to the global war against terrorism; a threat that has changed dramatically since 9/11. There have been ground wars in two countries, hundreds of drone strikes in several others. And today, the threat of terrorism isn't just emanating from al-Qaida, but regional groups like out al-Shabaab in East Africa and the self-proclaimed Islamic State operating in Iraq and Syria. And while these groups vary in membership, ideology and objectives, the one thing that remains constant - all these groups need money to survive. And that is where our next guest comes into the picture. His name is Daniel Glaser. He is the assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the U.S. Treasury Department. Mr. Glaser, thanks for being with us.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR TERRORIST FINANCING DANIEL GLASER: Oh, thanks for having me here.
MARTIN: A couple weeks ago, the Treasury Department announced that the U.S. government and Saudi Arabia were imposing sanctions on a charity group based in Pakistan thought to be funneling money to al-Qaida and other groups. What can you tell us about this charity and how long you had been tracking them?
GLASER: Well, this is a charity that we've been tracking for a long time. It's charity a called the Al-Furqan Foundation. And Al-Furqan Foundation is a successor charity to two older charities. And those two charities - their operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan were exposed, and then they had to change their name. And they merged, and they changed their name to the Al-Furqan Foundation. And we and Saudis and other countries have been tracking them ever since. And we were able to take action against them just a couple of weeks ago.
MARTIN: What will those sections do? What can you possibly do to prevent this group from just reconstituting itself - changing its name and funneling the money through different means?
GLASER: This is why it's so important to work with our partners in the Gulf 'cause so much of the money that goes to that charity comes from the Gulf. So what the designation does is makes it illegal for anybody in the United States and anybody in Saudi Arabia to conduct any sort of business transaction with that entity. And of course, if they have funds that belong to that entity, they would have to be frozen. What's exciting about it is that this demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is fully on board and is going to work with us to make sure that there's no money coming from Saudi Arabia, but also make sure that they work very closely with the other countries in the Gulf.
MARTIN: Had Saudi Arabia not been aggressive on this front before?
GLASER: I think that Saudi Arabia has been a strong partner of ours for a while, but their relationship has been evolving. This is the first time we've ever done a joint designation with Saudi Arabian involving an entity not in Saudi Arabia. And I think what this shows is the increasing awareness of the Saudi authorities of the importance of them taking a global leadership role.
MARTIN: May I ask you how you traced the money? I mean, it's my understanding many of these organizations use informal banking systems like Hawala, which can make it hard to follow the money, right?
GLASER: Right. Well, Hawala is just another word for informal money remittance. And yes, the terrorist financing could go through the formal system like banks. It could go through less well-regulated, formal entities like exchange houses, or it could go through entirely unregulated entities like Hawala, or it could go through the bulk movement of cash. We have to make sure that we're policing, we're patrolling any form of value transfer. That's why it's so important that we work with countries like Saudi Arabia and work with countries like Kuwait and Qatar and Afghanistan and Pakistan, for that matter, to make sure that there's no mechanisms of transfer that are going to be safe and easy for these organizations.
MARTIN: What's the key to cutting off funding for a group like ISIS?
GLASER: Well, ISIS presents a particular challenge because so much of their resources are generated internally. They have the opportunity to rob banks within their territory. They have the opportunity to extort businesses and populations within their territory. And they have the opportunity to profit from commercial activity, whether it's oil cells or other types of commodities. So we need to make sure that they can't use that wealth. We make sure that whatever money they have, they're sort of stuck with inside a territory that they control.
MARTIN: Is it working?
GLASER: Well, it's an ongoing effort. And I'm confident that the international financial system is a hostile environment for them. The challenges that remain ahead for us is to get better information on precisely what mechanisms they're using and where they're using them in order to try to gain access and make sure we keeping those mechanisms ineffective. One of the things that's interesting is as ISIL gains affiliates around the world, that's going to force them to come above ground a little bit on the financial side. And that's going to create targets for us and allow us to try to disrupt that activity.
MARTIN: Daniel Glaser is the assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the U.S. Treasury Department. Thanks so much for talking with us.
GLASER: Oh, thanks for having me.
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