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Press Center

 The Honorable John W. Snow Prepared Remarks Before the Employees of the Financial Crimes Enforcment Network


5/4/2006

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Good morning; it's wonderful to have this chance to spend some time with the FinCEN team. Like so many dedicated civil servants who perform high-intensity jobs, dealing in issues of national and economic security, your acts go unheralded and unnoticed too often. Your work is often sensitive by necessity, but the importance and success of that work deserves the highest praise and is appreciated at the highest levels of our government. I come here today to underscore the critical importance of the work that you do.

I also want to discuss today the role the Treasury plays in protecting both our economic and national security. Many people think of the economy, global growth, and, of course, money when they think of the Treasury. And while that historically has been our better known role, it should not be overlooked that the Treasury shares the critical duty of protecting our homeland and the international community by working hand-in-hand with our law-enforcement, intelligence and national security colleagues both at home and abroad.   We are an essential component of national security.

After 9/11 we knew that our top priority was fighting the war on terror to keep America safe. For Treasury, that meant a critical new role � leading the effort to disrupt terrorist finance and deny terrorists the funds they need to carry on their activities.   In pursuing this new mission, we are using the tools and lessons-learned in our efforts over many years to combat money laundering, narcotics trafficking and other rogue threats to our financial system.

Recognizing the key role of finance in the war on terror, the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, or TFI, was created within the Treasury to help bolster our efforts to combat terrorist financing. TFI marked last week its two-year anniversary since its authorization in April 2004 � two years marked by great accomplishments.

As you well know, TFI brings a wide range of intelligence and authorities together under a single umbrella, allowing us to strategically target a range of threats � whether terrorists, narcotics traffickers, proliferators of WMD or rogue regimes, like Iran and North Korea. President Bush also recognizes the important role the Treasury plays in both global financial issues and security by making us a regular participant on the National Security Council. Even in the short amount of time since its authorization, TFI's efforts have already succeeded in making it harder for terrorists and criminals to raise and move money. And FinCEN is to be truly commended for the vital role it has played in helping to achieve these successes.

I'm pleased to be sharing the stage today with a colleague and friend, Bob Werner. Bob has been a true asset to the Treasury. He's served in the General Counsel's office and most-recently as Director of OFAC, with great distinction. This is his second tour of duty with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Some of you probably remember Bob from his days as chief of staff of FinCEN, and now he's back as Director. I'm proud of Bob's dedication to the Treasury and the leadership he is showing here at FinCEN.    We're all fortunate to have him here.

And I'm proud of the staff here at FinCEN and the role you play in making American more secure. There is, however, another important milestone to recognize today.   The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network celebrated its 16th anniversary just this week.

I sat down with Bob and several of your colleagues this morning who updated me on the truly critical work you are focused on. Your hard work to safeguard the financial system from abuse is preventing terrorists, money launderers, and other illicit criminals from using the U.S. financial system to bankroll their agendas. As a result, we are making the U.S. and the world safer and more secure.

The skillful use of the financial information at your disposal is a critical asset in going after terrorists, disrupting their funding networks and frustrating their objectives.   

Terrorists are motivated by hatred but to carry on their wretched plans they need access to money � and that's exactly where you come in because by denying them access to funds you cut off their lifeline.   Little that goes on in government today is more important or more central to defeating this modern scourge of mankind and your work here at FinCEN is a critical component of those noble efforts.

It's clear we are making progress on this mission.   Your efforts have greatly improved information sharing among law enforcement agencies and our partners in the regulatory and financial communities to combat illicit finance. You have raised the bar here.  

The Bureau's administration of the Bank Secrecy Act has helped to create transparency in the financial system, thus strengthening our defenses against criminals that endeavor to launder ill-gotten gains in the United States. And as the United States' financial intelligence unit (FIU), FinCEN plays a critical role in our global efforts by linking to a vast network of FIUs sharing information to pursue money laundering, terrorist, and other investigations.

Your role was recognized by the 9-11 Commission, which awarded these efforts the highest grade on its report card issued last December reviewing government-wide programs to protect America from terrorists. Cracking down on terrorist finance may not often make the front page, but we know that it is making a difference � and that's what the American people are counting on all of us for.

As you know best, all rogue threats depend on a financial network to exist and propagate. Terrorists need money to train and indoctrinate operatives, bribe officials, procure false documents, and to carry out horrific attacks. Weapons proliferators need access to the financial system to launder ill-gotten gains from illicit activities, such as smuggling. Drug cartels need money to run sham businesses and front companies to shadow their trafficking activities.

You think about this every day so the American people don't have to.

I am pleased to be here today to underscore the vital role that Treasury plays in our national security system. When the U.S. is confronted with a threat that is unreceptive to diplomatic outreach and when military action is not an option, TFI's tools are often the best authorities available to exert pressure and to wield a tangible impact. It is heartening to know that these tools exist and are being put to use well and wisely, day in and day out.

While our success stories can't always be shared with the public, I want you to know that your work is valued and deeply appreciated at the highest levels of our government.

By attacking the financial underpinnings of these groups, we are deteriorating their structures and operations. Our use of powerful tools, such as the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA PATRIOT Act, is helping to accomplish our dual mission of protecting the financial system from abuse and combating threats to our national security.   It is essential we have these tools to do our job of protecting the American people.

With your continued dedication, considerable talents and intellect, and the continuing full support of both myself and the President, I know that America is safer and more secure and that your efforts are a critical part of our campaign to defeat the terrorists.  

Thank you again for the outstanding work that you do, and thank you for having me here today.

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