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 In Case You Missed It: David Cohen on CNN's Your Money

By: Erika Gudmundson
5/9/2011

This Sunday, May 8, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen appeared on CNN's Your Money with Ali Velshi to discuss the work Treasury does to stop the flow of money to al Qaeda. Click here to watch or read the transcript below:

VELSHI: Matt, stay right where you are for a moment. I want to welcome David Cohen. He's the Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He works counterterrorism, basically, for the Treasury Department. Matt just talked about following the money. You're looking at the guy who has to follow the money. David, tell us, where does al Qaeda get its money from?

DAVID COHEN: Hi, Ali. Well, al Qaeda traditionally has received its funding from donors in the gulf. And we, over the last several years, have been dedicated to disrupting those financial networks that emanate from the gulf, going after the donors, going after the fund- raisers, the facilitators, the financial institutions that may be involved in moving that money, and as a result, have had some pretty good success in putting a real strain on al Qaeda core's finances.

VELSHI: How do they -- how do they move money around? We all heard that Osama bin Laden had 500 Euros sewn into his clothes, ready to make an escape. But when they do raise money -- let's say somebody in the gulf says they're giving some money. How does that money move around?

COHEN: Well, today, it is primarily moved by couriers. Once it is collected by the fund-raisers, the bundlers, it is then generally passed off to couriers, who actually move the physical currency out of the gulf into -- whether it's Pakistan or elsewhere, where the extremist groups are operating. We have had, I think, quite good success over the last several years of pushing these terrorist organizations, al Qaeda in particular, out of the formal financial system and forcing them to rely...

VELSHI: Right.

COHEN: ... on much more difficult means of couriering money around.

VELSHI: Well, there's a lot of questions, obviously, about the degree of support that al Qaeda gets from Pakistan. Do you -- have you been able to discern any specific financial support, either from Pakistani authorities or military or intelligence or from donors in Pakistan?

COHEN: No, Ali, it's far too early to make any kind of judgment on whether there's any sort of support that was provided, in particular for bin Laden's house there in Abbottabad. We are currently very much engaged with the intelligence community in going through the material that was taken from the house, using the unique expertise and capabilities of the Treasury Department's intelligence office to comb through that material and look for leads with respect to financing, wherever they -- wherever they may lead. You know, I'm hopeful that we're going to find some interesting material in there.

VELSHI: Sure.

COHEN: If I were a donor or a fund-raiser, a facilitator, I would be quite nervous today.

VELSHI: I'm assuming that they don't keep lists the way the sort of a congressional campaign would, but you guys know how to dig through that stuff, so hopefully, you'll find stuff. One thing that's interesting is -- Christine and I were talking earlier in the week, that this might -- this feels a little bit like organized crime. You are involved, as well, in tracking organized crime. Are there similarities in how you combat, let's say, the Mafia versus international terror organizations like al Qaeda?

COHEN: Look, the underlying similarity is that we need to follow the money. Whether it's an organized crime group or a terrorist organization, they all need money to keep the organization going, from training, recruiting, paying the operatives, buying supplies. And if you can go after the money supply, you can substantially weaken their ability to operate.

VELSHI: Right.

COHEN: And so that's -- that is the fundamental theory behind what we do in my office at Treasury and that we do with others around the U.S. government, and frankly, around the world, in trying to cut off the money supply.

VELSHI: David, good to have you here. Thanks for telling us a little bit about this. David Cohen is the Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the Department of the Treasury.

Posted in:  Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
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