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Why Terror Financing is So Tough to Track Down 578

Posted by samzenpus
from the follow-the-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After a recent Slashdot story detailing the errant investigation into a credit card holder's dept payment, comes this article from the Christian Science Monitor discussing the commoditization of terrorism, its relationship to crime, and the difficulties encountered when trying to track "bad" money."
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Why Terror Financing is So Tough to Track Down

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:55AM (#14880867)

    one mans terrorist is anothers freedom fighter

    if its freedom fighters we have to look no further than the US goverment, iam sure Bin Laden would agree

    • by hunterx11 (778171) <hunterx11 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:04AM (#14880905) Homepage Journal
      Some people fight for freedom. Some people use terror as a political tactic. Some freedom fighters use terrorism. Not all freedom fighters are terrorists. Not all terrorists are freedom fighters. Claiming that the two terms simply carry different connotations for the same meaning is not insightful.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Not all terrorists are freedom fighters.
        All terrorists are freedom fighters to someone.

        It's just that an awful lot of the time, that someone is wrong.
      • Power Of Nightmares (Score:5, Interesting)

        by drgonzo59 (747139) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:19AM (#14880969)
        A couple of days I watched the "Power of Nightmares" -- a British documentary. It talks about how both Islamic extremism and neo-conservatism both have a lot in common, especially in the fact that both have this absolutist, idealized view of the world. For ones like Osama, Islam is the answer to all, and the justification of all means, and for Bush, Cheney, Wolfowits and "gang" it is the "American Way" that has to be imposed over all countries. US is seen as the incarnation of pure good and its destiny is to fight and conquer evil. Anyway, another point of the movie is that al Qaeda doesn't really exist in the way we think it exists, there are no organized sleeper cells, Osama didn't even use the name until after 9/11 the Americans gave it to his organisation. The al Qaeda global super organization myth is actually serving the neo-conservatives in this country. Anyway, if you have time, watch the film: free on archive.org [archive.org]. It is about 3 hours long. It is very well done, not as heavy propaganda laden as the Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which I thought was as good of a documentary as "Mars Attacks".

        Check out the Wiki page on it too...

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:57AM (#14881087)
          I'd just point out that the documentary says that the name "Al Qaeda" was termed during the investigation of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, not after 9/11. However, it does say that the term was first coined in America and was later adopted by Bin Laden to describe his group.

          It also goes on to say that, for example, Bin Laden had to hire stand-ins to represent his personal guard on camera, since there were so few people actually allying with him. The documentary goes on to compare our fear of terrorism to the fear of the USSR in the cold war - showing, for example, a completely nondescript sattelite photo of a Russian city and an American saying "there are weapons here so insidious that our cameras can't even detect them." It gives pretty good insight into the history of the players in this conflict, and how this war is similar to the things that have happened in the past. Definitely worth a watch.
        • by qbzzt (11136) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:18AM (#14881849)
          It talks about how both Islamic extremism and neo-conservatism both have a lot in common, especially in the fact that both have this absolutist, idealized view of the world.

          In other news, both Hitler and Churchil believed in the rightness of their causes. Both were willing to fight to the last soldier or civilian if that's what it took.
          • by Profound (50789)
            >> both Hitler and Churchil believed in the rightness of their causes.

            They were opposed, but their goals and beliefs were different: Hitler wanted the German people to dominate and Churchill wanted to stop Hitler.

            Neocons and Islamic extremists both want to force their way of life on the rest of the world because they believe theirs is the best, and only way to live.
    • by Daytona955i (448665) <flynnguy24@yahoo . c om> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @09:06AM (#14881959)
      one mans terrorist is anothers freedom fighter

      Except they aren't fighting for freedom, they are fighting for oppression.
      Freedom of religion? As long as it's Muslim.
      Freedom of speech? Sure, as long as it doesn't go against anything in the Koran.
      Right to live? Sure, as long as you are Muslim (and once you're in, you can never leave or it means death)

      Sometime people kill to gain their freedom and to fight against oppression, other times they just kill you because you don't subscribe to their beliefs. I mean look what happened over a few cartoons... still think they are fighting for freedom?
  • The source (Score:5, Informative)

    by afaik_ianal (918433) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:03AM (#14880898)
    For people who shuddered when they saw that the paper reporting this had "Christian Science" in the name like I did, it appears that the paper is not linked in any way with the Creation Science movement.

    According to their site, the paper is largely secular (except for a single religious article each day). The paper just happens to be published by a church. [csmonitor.com]
    • Re:The source (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      Yes, the "Christian Science" is a known sect/church, it has nothing to do with Creationism.
      • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:33AM (#14881016)
        The "Christian Science" doesn't seem to have much in common with either Christianity or Science. I am not trying to flame them, I am just saying that the name is confusing. This Church was started by Mary Baker Eddys. Her view of God was nothing what the traditional, Christian God is. She presented an impersonal God or more exactly a "divine Principle of all being". As far as Christ goes, they don't believe in his deity. So they are not quite Christian.

        They are also not very scientific in their approach, as they often would refuse to be treated by doctors, and refuse to acknowledge the existense of bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms and how these can cause disease.

        I think they should just pick a new name. There was such a group on my campus and I approached their table thinking it is a group of scientists who are just Christian that have meetings, Bible study and what not, I had no idea it was a religion all by itself...

        • by cimmer (809369) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @02:22AM (#14881149)
          Actually, the Christian Science viewpoint (having been raised in a CS household without having chosen to subscribe myself in my adult years) is that God and sprituality must operate by a set of governing laws as measurable and static as any set of scientific principles. IE, God isn't a magical being with a beard/4 arms/turban and a mysterious agenda, but a "greater" entity bound by the laws of the universe/creation/reality/[insert definition for everything here].

          Interestingly, some CS'ers claim that Einstein did some hanging around CS reading rooms later in his life. I have to think that if this is true, the inability to describe matter as anything other than energy-equivalent in increasingly shrinking component pieces played into an interest in the CS theory that matter is an illusion (hence the occasional wack job offing their kid with a bedroom seance instead of antibiotics). http://www.christianscience.org/Einstein.htm [christianscience.org]

          As a side note, Jill Carroll, whose abduction in Iraq has caused a bit of a ruckus for a few weeks now, was a freelance write for the CS Monitor. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1666314&page=1 [go.com]

    • Re:The source (Score:5, Informative)

      by i.r.id10t (595143) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:24AM (#14882275)
      I found myself reading a few good articles when the Iraq debacle started, then discovered they were on the CSM. Did some research - turns out the CSM has a *very* good reputation for being unbiased, especially with international news and with quite a few people who work for various 3 Letter Agencies.
  • by rob1980 (941751) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:06AM (#14880912)
    Just keep an eye out for the people who pay down the entire balance of their store credit card. Those people are obviously the terrorists!
    • keep an eye out for the people who pay down the entire balance of their store credit card

      ...and then max it back out again at a nearby strip club. If I'm gonna die on Thursday, I'm gonna spend Wednesday night exploring the finer things in life---and tucking $20 bills in their G-strings.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:10AM (#14880935)
    There are other reasons as to why terror funding is hard to fight. One of them is our (USA) incompetence. We simply do not get it. You still hear folks wondering why an individual would offer himself as a sacrifice in suicide bombing.

    The other reason is that our leaders who might themselves be inept, think that the way America works is the way other societies work and think. In areas where terror is cultivated, folks are willing to do stuff for free...all in the hope that some divine power will reward them sometime in future.

    The other case to consider is the fact that societies cultivating terror do their thing in the crude way. Messages are sent by horse-back and pigeons. Worse still these messages are encrypted...talk of a cold winter might mean the delivery of some important ingredients for some project. In this case, our folks at NSA simply get lost or ignore stuff like this. We also do not understand the cultures of others and are too willing to think we're the best!

    To conclude, I'd like to pose a question:

    Can any slashdotter tell me why despite the fact that Katrina was known to be coming, and that it would be huge, there was so much devastation amid confusion without clear leadership? This is all part of the incompetence I mentioned above.

    • Can any slashdotter tell me why despite the fact that Katrina was known to be coming, and that it would be huge, there was so much devastation amid confusion without clear leadership? This is all part of the incompetence I mentioned above.

      It was an eye opener to many people. The great USA not being able to deal with an expected catastrophy. You people looked very backwards and primitive. Neither was your nation able to prevent most of the damage, nor was it able to provide adequate assistance. That is the n
      • by mpe (36238) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:21AM (#14881431)
        European help was rejected with phony arguments, despite being urgently, and obviously so, needed.

        Not just European help, people from other parts of the US were prevented from helping. You even got the situation of doctors being prevented from treating people whilst their papers were checked.
        • by glesga_kiss (596639) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @09:41AM (#14882088)
          Not just European help, people from other parts of the US were prevented from helping. You even got the situation of doctors being prevented from treating people whilst their papers were checked.

          That's more a sign of the times really. A doctor now has to think twice about helping after an accident: the victim might one day sue. Another example of this sort of thing is lost children; if I see a lost child I am staying the hell away and not helping them. Previously, I'd speak to them and try to find a cop or store clerk that could help. Now I'm just frightened of being accused of being a pervert or child abductor. Your lost children are on their own, it's just not worth the risk to help them anymore.

    • by blockhouse (42351) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:33AM (#14881015)
      Can any slashdotter tell me why despite the fact that Katrina was known to be coming, and that it would be huge, there was so much devastation amid confusion without clear leadership?

      I think it comes down to a confusion of responsibility. Decades ago, people would have known that the hurricane was coming and that it would be big. They would have taken the personal responsibility to get the hell out of dodge. Boat, plane, train, hitchhike, hike, swim . . . ANYTHING, just to get the hell out. But it's the new millennium, and people are used to being coddled by their government, which has been arrogating more and more power to itself so that people think it's omnipotent. "This is America. This isn't a third-world country. Nothing bad can happen to me. Uncle Sam will figure it out so I won't get hurt" is a common thought that runs through people's heads. (I see this line of reasoning all the time, exempli gratia, at the pharmacy at which I work, when people don't understand why the federal government won't somehow make their drug copayments go away.)

      The federal government does not do anything well that involves actual people except for killing them. The states have limited means, because what state senator wants to vote for a tax increase to fund emergency preparedness, especially when the federal government ostensibly has the will and the means to do it for them. So the people give up the buck, the states pass the buck, and the feds drop the buck. And so you have a mess like New Orleans after Katrina.

      Less clear to me is why we don't hear too much about any recovery efforts in Mississippi, even though it was in the right front quadrant of Katrina, and therefore bore the real brunt of the storm. Was it simply less damaged, were people better prepared, or was the response better managed? We're learning a lot from what Louisiana did wrong. What can we learn from what Mississippi did right?
      • Well, you didn't have a whole city flooded after the storm. But as far as direct storm damage, I can tell you firsthand, it's hard to imagine anything "more damaged" than coastal Mississippi. And as for response afterwards: you have a much lower concentration of people who depend on government for everything.
      • by Malor (3658) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @02:42AM (#14881197) Journal
        We also, for the most part, didn't have the absolute poverty that we have today. That's the real reason people didn't leave.

        Imagine: it's 2 days before a big hurricane hits. You're a single mom (bear with me, I realize this is Slashdot :) ), have a Buick that's not running well, three kids, and $20 to last through the end of the week. How the hell are you supposed to pick up and go to Houston?

        The ones that had the money and didn't go.... they were dumb, and deserved the later problems. But an awful, awful lot of those folks just didn't have many options.

        Decades ago, Americans weren't this poor.
        • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:53AM (#14881595) Homepage Journal
          Decades ago, Americans weren't this poor.

          Sorry I don't believe you. Living standards in western countries are now much higher than they were (say) 50 years ago.

          What we do have now is professional management (as opposed to people rising up the ranks), and formal processes like ISO9001.

          These "improvements" are great ways of optimising your sausage manufacture to minimise cost but they really kill your ability to cope with one off events.

          • by Idarubicin (579475) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (teiuqslla)> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:37AM (#14881885) Journal
            Sorry I don't believe you. Living standards in western countries are now much higher than they were (say) 50 years ago.

            And we're sorry you don't understand the statistics to which you allude.

            The average person in the United States earns more and has greater purchasing power than he or she did fifty years ago. That doesn't tell you anything about the distribution of incomes across the population, nor does it address specifically the people of New Orleans.

            In the 2000 census, Louisiana ranked 47th of 50 states in per capita income [wikipedia.org] (2000 census). New Orleans has the lowest median household income [wikipedia.org] of any metropolitan area with a population greater than 1,000,000 (1999 figures).

            Looking at trends in the Gini coefficient [wikipedia.org] for the United States shows a steady increase over the last thirty years, indicating a continuing drift of the Lorenz curve [wikipedia.org] away from a uniform distribution of income. In other words, the rich--and even the upper middle class--have gotten richer, but the poor have gotten relatively poorer by a fair margin.

            The fact that standards of living are quite high and poverty quite low in San Franciso, or Boston, or Hartford doesn't address the situation in New Orleans.

            • by ameline (771895) <ian.ameline@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:15AM (#14882224) Homepage Journal
              Your posts have the ring of "truthiness" to them, however, you give yourself away with the phrase "relatively poorer" -- in absolute terms in inflation adjusted dollars, the poor are not poorer than they were decades ago. Where they are *relative* to everyone else does not matter for this particular argument (one can argue that it is unjust etc, but that is a seperate discussion) -- when you say the poor are poorer than they were decades ago, you imply that they have less spending power in absolute terms. And this is clearly not so. Your post above indicates that you are well aquainted with these facts, so that leaves me with the conclusion that you are actively attempting to decieve in order to promote some agenda.
          • by xtracto (837672) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:42AM (#14881903) Journal
            Sorry I don't believe you. Living standards in western countries are now much higher than they were (say) 50 years ago.

            I think you did not understand parent. Although the "living standard" in western countries are higher the gap between the rich and poor is growing bigger and bigger.

            It is like my statistics professor told me, the mean (average) is the least informative of all the statistical equations, you can have two sets {$10,$10,$0,$0} and ($5,$5,$5,$5} and they will give you the same average. Guess which one of those groups of people are better.

            As I saw it from outside (I am from Mexico but was in UK when it happened) it seemed that Katrina came to show the extreme poverty that exists in the USA (the $0 in the sets). Those are the people that won't move from their homes, as it is the only thing they have. I know that because I lived in Campeche, which is a city that is struck by hurricanes quite often (Gilbert, Isadore, etc) and there are plenty of very poor people over there. People that has only their houses and what is inside them. When a hurrican comes they fear that, if they leave they will lose everything they have.
        • Decades ago, Americans weren't this poor.

          You're joking right? People in America have never been richer. Even the poor are much much better off than they used to be. But maybe decades ago, people were cleverer with their money, and didn't blow it on giant TVs, air conditioning etc?

          We also, for the most part, didn't have the absolute poverty that we have today.

          What is your evidence for this?
        • >>Decades ago, Americans weren't this poor.

          No. Decades ago, we were just really good at ignoring the poor.
      • by killjoe (766577) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:01AM (#14881244)
        "(I see this line of reasoning all the time, exempli gratia, at the pharmacy at which I work, when people don't understand why the federal government won't somehow make their drug copayments go away.)"

        I think you misunderstand their complaint. Their complaint is basically "what the fuck happened to all those taxes I paid, how come people in Turkey and Greece get free drugs and I can't. Why doesn't a person in Australia or New Zealand have to worry about going bankrupt because they broke a hip and I do?".

        They are right of course. Other much poorer countries manage to provide basic health care for their citizens (even if it's not ideal) and we still don't.

        As for the hurricane NO was a special case. The levies broke (like they were predicted to). If Bush was awake during the meeting when he was told they could break better plans could have been made. Of course if he hadn't lied afterwards and told people "nobody could have predicted this" people wouldn't blame him so much.

      • by copponex (13876) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:39AM (#14881333) Homepage
        Fantastic! I had no idea that New Orleans had the same population density, flood probability, and problem of a massive amount of people who didn't own a car. If you've ever lived on a coast, you know that half the time it never hits where they say it will, and some people even evacuate in the wrong direction, heading towards the storm (especially in Florida). The white elephant is, of course, that most of the deaths weren't people who drowned - they died of natural causes exacerbated by the fact that our Federal Government, with BILLIONS of dollars at their immediate and easily accessible disposal, completely failed them. There are still hundreds of empty beds at FEMA camps all across the region, due to poor management and poor planning. And there's no excuse for "confusion of responsibility:"

        "DISASTER. It strikes anytime, anywhere. It takes many forms -- a hurricane, an earthquake, a tornado, a flood, a fire or a hazardous spill, an act of nature or an act of terrorism. It builds over days or weeks, or hits suddenly, without warning. Every year, millions of Americans face disaster, and its terrifying consequences.

        On March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration."


        Now the current (and previous) administration has missed the clues and failed to prepare for:
        Terrorism and 9/11
        The Iraq War
        Katrina

        As Senator Kucinich said, I think we see a pattern here. But the problem is not Republican or Democrat - it's that our government is fundamentally broken. I'm voting straight down the line this year - voting out every single incumbant, regardless of how much I hate the alternative.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:55AM (#14881806)
          As Senator Kucinich said, I think we see a pattern here. But the problem is not Republican or Democrat - it's that our government is fundamentally broken. I'm voting straight down the line this year - voting out every single incumbant, regardless of how much I hate the alternative.

          The alternative? You're smart enough to recognize the incumbants suck. Why do you fail to recognize that the guy on the other side of the aisle is just the same guy wearing a different suit? You're right: The problem is not Republican or Democrat - it's Republican and Democrat.

          Vote for a third party, even if its not mine, please.
        • our government is fundamentally broken. I'm voting straight down the line this year - voting out every single incumbant, regardless of how much I hate the alternative.

          Without getting into specifics I agree with you on these points. However I do have a suggestion for like-minded thinkers: vote for a non-major party. Pick your favorite, just as long as it's anything but republican/democrat. The American government is stifling under the "two" party system, they've been around for so long that they control eve

      • by Politburo (640618) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @11:28AM (#14882792)
        "This is America. This isn't a third-world country. Nothing bad can happen to me. Uncle Sam will figure it out so I won't get hurt"

        If you really think this is how people think, you're seriously deluded. We're talking about people that live paycheck to paycheck, with barely enough food to eat that live in structures that you would be hard-pressed to call a house. You really think that they believe nothing BAD can happen to them? After the life of constant poverty that they've been living? What a fucking joke. Open your goddamn eyes man.
    • There are other reasons as to why terror funding is hard to fight. One of them is our (USA) incompetence. We simply do not get it. You still hear folks wondering why an individual would offer himself as a sacrifice in suicide bombing.

      Actually the leadership gets it just fine, but the general concensus is that poor peasants don't matter much unless they've got the funding to obtain equipment and training. So we focus on the leadership and their fund-raising efforts. If those can be shut down, then delu
    • by natmsincome.com (528791) <adinobro@gmail.com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:30AM (#14881317) Homepage
      The other reason is that our leaders who might themselves be inept, think that the way America works is the way other societies work and think. In areas where terror is cultivated, folks are willing to do stuff for free...all in the hope that some divine power will reward them sometime in future.

      You just don't get it do you? Most of the time people don't do things for religion. Generally religion is used as a scapegoat, excuse, reason etc. The only people that can be controlled by religion are the same people that can be controlled by anyone with charisma.

      Most acts of violence (terrorism is defined by those in power) are driven by fear, anger power and greed. The people at the top are generally driven by power and greed whereas the people at the bottom are generally driven by fear and anger. They are people just like you and me that have been driven into situations where they feel that their acts are their only way out.

      I read an article from a Russian journalist that summed it really well:

      Just after Russia conquered Afghanistan this journalist visited a major military base that they'd taken over by bombing it. The major military based ended up being a civilian village. As the journalist entered the village he saw a father holding his daughter that had been killed in the bombing. As they drove past the father looked up with hate in his eyes at the truck. At this moment he said he knew they wouldn't be able to hold Afghanistan. He said he realised that they people had nothing. This father who may have previously been a supported of the Russians was now there number one enemy and would do anything to get revenge. He had nothing and the only thing he had (family) was now taken away. Every time Russia had a victory they'd create more soldiers with nothing to live for. In the end Russia pulled out because they weren't able to hold it.

      If Fiji (crazy example on purpose) bombed America and took it over in a couple of days and decimated America's defences so they'd never be able to regain control. How many people could honestly say they'd just sit around and be peaceful? How many people would rally around anyone and anything to try and get justice even if it involved violence?

      People always try to demonise terrorist and distance themselves as much as possible even though we'd often act in a similar way if the roles were reverse.

      It's always a choice and I hope that if I was put in that situation I'd act differently but to be honest I don't know what I'd do if family was killed infront of my eyes. I don't think I'd be as honourable as I like to imagine I would be.
    • Nothing new, then. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Worse still these messages are encrypted...talk of a cold winter might mean the delivery of some important ingredients for some project.

      But this sort of thing has been going on for centuries. And the methods by which we establish who is a conspirator and who is not are just as accurate.

      "It is first agreed and settled among them, what suspected persons shall be accused of a plot; then, effectual care is taken to secure all their letters and papers, and put the owners in chains. These papers are delivered

    • by pimpimpim (811140) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:04AM (#14881715)
      Furthermore, the most recent london attacks just costed a few hunderd pound [bbc.co.uk]. With such low amounts of money needed, tracking is completely impossible. This BBC article is an interesting read in the current discussion btw, worth your time.
  • Stupid Terrorists. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:10AM (#14880936) Homepage
    If news lately is to be believed then there are thousands of terrorists running around. Rarely are building blown up, or water supplies poisoned. This has led me to the conclusion that either the government is fear mongering or the terroists are really stupid. Really, how hard is it to blow up a building?
    • by east coast (590680) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:38AM (#14881032)
      If news lately is to be believed then there are thousands of terrorists running around. Rarely are building blown up, or water supplies poisoned.

      Oh, so every terrorist is busy killing? No organizers? No fund raisers? No recruiters? No trainers? these people just pop up out of the ground strapped with semtex and go to work?

      The insergency in Iraq is nothing but well meaning Iraqis either I take it?

      This isn't a Hollywood film where a dozen guys get together and hatch a scheme. It's a bit more involved and it doesn't take much to see that for yourself, you've got the whole internet to understand how large this strcuture is, not much unlike a large corporation.

      You're thinking these guys are random kooks, far from it.
      • by Gorimek (61128) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:45AM (#14881476) Homepage
        Sure, GM has a huge organization with a monumental bureucracy of uncountable levels and whole departments so far removed from the factory floor that they could be on a whole different planet.

        But GM does actually produce a hell of a lot of cars, despite/because all this superstructure!

        I can imagine that Al Queda has a fair amount of trainers etc. Or an enormous amount. It doesn't really matter. If you look at the end product, they produce very little actual terror. If it's because they ran out of killers and only have paper pushers left or whatever, is not really that interesting.

        The original posts point remains. They're either incredibly inefficient at their core mission. Or they're not nearly as many and resourceful as we've been led to believe.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:41AM (#14881040) Journal
      The head terrorists aren't as stupid as people would like to think.

      A lot of what they do is a "reach out and touch somebody" kind of terrorism.

      They aren't blowing up shit willy nilly in 99% of countries, because it doesn't suite their purposes. Israel has been a relatively safer place since Hamas agreed to a cease fire about a year ago.

      If you hit up the Wikipedia page on terrorism [wikipedia.org] their first sentance is:
      The term terrorism is largely synonymous with "political violence," and refers to a strategy of using coordinated attacks that typically fall within the time, manner of conduct, and place commonly understood as unconventional warfare.
      Emphasis mine, because terrorism has rarely been about killing people, in the same way that war has rarely been about killing people.

      War and terrorism have almost always been extensions of politics. Even Osama Bin Laden's original stated goals were (are?) that the US withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia and support from Israel.

      To directly answer your question: We don't know how hard is it to blow up a building, because either we haven't tried or because we don't know the failure:success ratio. (If you have tried to blow up a building, I hope you work in demolitions and that you succeeded.)
      • by Kombat (93720)
        terrorism has rarely been about killing people, in the same way that war has rarely been about killing people.

        Wow, you hit the nail solidly on the head. Terrorism isn't about killing people, it's about scaring people (or, more precisely, "terrorizing" people). To that end, one could easily argue that with all the fanatical paranoia and color-coded terror-alert levels, the facist and invasive legislation being heaped upon the masses by the body-politic, and the constant fear-mongering by the media, the ter
    • The latter... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drgonzo59 (747139) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:42AM (#14881044)
      I already mentioned this in a post above, but I'll say it again. Watch the Power Of Nightmares movie. It is a 3 hour British documentary. Very well done. Get it at archive.org, just search for it, it is also probably in the "top 3 dowloaded" box.

      It turns out that "fear mongering" is what the neo-conservatives now in power in Washington DC need to do what they do. The most interesting conclusion of the film is that al Qaeda isn't this all global organization with thousands of sleeper cells ready to commit attrocities. That is what people like Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz want us to believe. To find out why, whatch the move...

      • Re:The latter... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by imroy (755)
        The interesting thing about Al Qaeda is that one of the top US military chiefs (Casey?) said almost as much at a congressional hearing. He equated Al Qaeda to a franchise. I'd go even further and say it's almost like a generic term now. You have all these groups popping up around the world like Spartacus, each claiming to be "Al Qaeda". Which suits the goals of many polititians just fine. Whenever something blows up, just blame Al Qaeda!
        It's the name everyone knows and trusts for terrorist attacks ;)
    • by Detritus (11846) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:49AM (#14881066) Homepage
      Most of them are busy in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Chechnya and other hot spots.

      Blowing up a building is relatively easy. Getting ahold of the required explosives is much more difficult in the USA. In a place like Iraq, it is much easier to scrounge old munitions and to extract the explosives for reuse.

      The terrorists are not stupid. They select targets with a desired effect in mind, not to just blow shit up.

      • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:25AM (#14881546)
        Actually, you can make perfectly good explosives yourself for next to nothing from ingredients available in your local garden centre or supermarket, if you studied chemistry in school instead of bunking off class. The suicide attacks here in the UK were done with home made explosives bought by employed people using their wages.

        Short of banning work, there's no way to stop that source of funding.

        In my view, there is a huge amount of scaremongering going on. Terrorists use terrorism because its CHEAP. It doesn't need much funding. The 9/11 thing was an exception.

        Laws preventing you from paying cash for cars (here in the UK) are not going to have any impact on terrorism. They probably do affect the disposal of stolen money, and they sure as hell inconvenience law abiding citizens, who then assume "its being done for a good reason" and that the government is "tough on terrorism".

        Its in the same league as my proposed ban on short skirts to combat inflation - it works if you apply the rules strictly - not because there is a cause and effect relationship in the scientific sense, but because it gives the general public the impression the government is "taking stringent action".

    • by killjoe (766577) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:08AM (#14881265)
      I think they are just stupid. YOu don't even have to blow stuff up.

      How hard is it to call in a bomb threat to a skyscraper?
      How hard is it to claim that you injected 500 random cows with mad cows disease (or whatever).
      How hard is it to mail talcum powder to a hundred people.

      All those acts would cause panic and fear. If you scare the public enough not to eat beef you will collapse the economy of the west.

      What these dumb fucks don't realize is that you don't have to DO anything. You just have to talk a good game. This is a lesson our politicians know very well. They just need to pull a Rumsfeld once in a while that's all.
  • by freedom_india (780002) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:11AM (#14880940) Homepage Journal
    It is primarily difficult to follow, because our laws (like PATRIOT) are like HUGE trucks trying to drive through an increasingly smaller 2 lane highway.

    Laws and law-enforcement officers are always lagging behind and will continue to do so. The degree to which they lag behind is what matters. If a dog starts running after you, and gets nearer to your heels you tend to speed up and ultimately lose focus and fall into the open manhole.

    This is what law-enforcement should focus on, instead of trying to leapfrog over the terrorists.

    PATRIOT act can't help much because it ends up harassing the normal people more than it can catch the bad guys.

    Singapore's example is a good one. The whole system is completely integrated. My library card becomes invalid the moment my employment pass is canceled. Similarly, the credit card company automatically sends me a closure statement and the IRAS gets the remaining funds from my bank account.

    However this does not hassle the common man in any way from buying beer in THailand or cigars in malaysia using his card.

    Prepaying the card with a huge amount also does not trigger a warning flag because the whole system hinges on a high degree of cooperative automation.

    However with disparate state laws, etc., it is difficult to enforce it in US.

    Strangely i felt more under microscope in US than i did in singapore. Every time i visited BankAm in US to deposit my paycheck ($4000-$6000) i needed to provide TWO photo IDs to deposit and withdraw. Additionally i needed to fill in a few nasty forms for an amount beyond $5,000/-
    In singapore since the system already has my photo and EP number and details, they don;t even bother asking. They took one good look at my face, compared it with record (seeing it was not canceled) and that's it.

    Moral: Laws cannot prevent or catch criminals. Only vigilance can. Law can be used to charge criminals.

    And GWB is making it worse for US agencies to get cooperation from other countries by kicking at their guts and laughing.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:34AM (#14881021)
      Remember in the 70's and early 80's when West Germany was fighting the Red Army Fraction and collaborating palestinian terrorists? Maybe not, since nobody called it global war on terrorism. Anyway, the federal government tried the same techniques (Rasterfahndung, dragnet investigation). They checked every bank account, every lease, harassed innocent people at every second intersection. The bottom line is these measures were unsuccessful and people did mistrust their government more than they did before. The worst case scenario! Free people should be able to trust their government. What did make the difference was a totally different tactic. Teams of few well trained police officers and agents tried to understand how the terrorists operated. One team would pursue one target. These teams were damn successful, and I am very glad. They big question is, why repeat mistakes?
    • A few weeks ago I read an article that the state of Alaska has unintentionally been investing in Iran and North Korea [suvalleynews.com]. Big Oops!

      FTA: "A recent report from the Center for Security Policy shows that the ARMB currently has investments in 68 companies that do business with Iran and eight with business ties to North Korea. Several billion dollars can be traced to these and other Alaskan investments."

      The state has a resolution pending to study the matter.

    • by jrumney (197329) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:37AM (#14881659) Homepage
      In my opinion, law enforcement is a dying skill due to overuse of technology. New laws are passed to allow the authorities to tap your email, phone calls etc without warrants, because traditional law enforcement skills are being thrown out and replaced with data mining. Gone are the days when law enforcement was about investigating and following leads, now they just throw everything into a database and see what comes out the other end. The result is they end up following up lots of false positives (see the previous credit card story), and the assumption is increasingly that if you are flagged by the system then you must be guilty, especially when terrorism is involved.
  • But but but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    But I thought that terrorism is supported by online piracy and illegal drugs and other things the government doesn't like.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Because those investigating the money trail are those responsible for organising and funding the terrorism in the first place.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:23AM (#14880979) Journal
    I have a friend living in Dubai as an ex-pat and during his last visit here at Christmas we got into terrorism and financing. According to what he knows, it's an open secret that the wealthy and well connected in the Gulf States, including the UAE, finance terrorists. Whenever you fill up your tank, at least a portion of that lines the pockets of the rich oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia who then in turn find ways to get the money to terrorists.

    Forget paying off your $6000 credit card bill with laundered money, the Gulf is where the real financing is coming from and buying foreign oil is partly responsible for that.
  • by patternjuggler (738978) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:38AM (#14881033) Homepage
    Remember that government funded superbowl ad about how buying marijuana was helping put box-cutters into the hands of hijackers? Of course at the time it probably made you angry enough to want to fly an airplane into the DEA headquarters, but there probably was some grain of truth, where if you follow n-many levels of redirection then yes some percentage of that money ended up in the hands of people so designated as terrorists. But then, you think about it more, and any money you give to anyone for anything could end up in the hands of terrorists after it has changed hands a few times. It's like 7 steps to Kevin Bacon, but with money instead of movies, and Osama or whoever instead of Kevin Bacon.
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:04AM (#14881249)
    While tracking money that goes through conventional means is difficult, tracking money distributed by Hawala [wikipedia.org] is much more so. Trying to really outlaw it has had only mixed success. The U.S. has had a lot of success in drying up tens of millions of dollars in known terrorist funding, but the frightening fact remains that 9/11 cost about $500,000 to plan and carry out. While the funding for 9/11 largely didn't depend on Hawala, it still remains an effective and difficult to trace method of doing business. The attack on the U.S.S. Cole likely cost much less than 9/11, not to mention low-cost, low-level domestic eco-terrorism operations (ALF, et. al.). Drying up the funding is great and important, but it's like playing whack-a-mole at best.
  • by jawahar (541989) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:33AM (#14881326) Homepage Journal
    People accross the world need economic safety and social security in order to prevent terrorism I think some the Marshall Brain's ideas should be implemented world-wide. http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-freedom.htm [marshallbrain.com]
  • by jonniesmokes (323978) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:25AM (#14881438)
    Terrorism financing is so hard to track down because terrorism doesn't exist until its labelled as such. The actual distinction between terrorism and war is nada (both require a lawmaker's stamp). Its obvious 9/11 was nasty, clearly characterizable as warfare. Think of the organized crime wars of past eras or the Janjaweed in Sudan now. What makes terrorism even more difficult to detect is that people who are not criminal, are sympathetic to the enemy. Bush says over and over that the US is not at war with Iraq, but that's just not true. The real Iraq is still there, and those people hate the US and want us out. Really, we're at war with all those people - right or wrong. I'm not very sympathetic to them, because I don't know many. I just don't think its a war worth winning. That's because I would do OK with expensive oil and a nervous Israel. I'd probably do better since there'd be less cars trying to run me over on my bike. And my Israeli friends would probably spend more time here in the US instead of Tel Aviv and I'd get to see them more.

    The US tries to sell this as a war on terror when its really just a war on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon to be Iran. But by trying to not be at war when you are, you create this confusion. Why did I say Saudi Arabia? Because they're a monarchy chiefly supported by the US and Britain (a puppet dicatorship if you will - watch 'Lawrence of Arabia' that's the Sauds). That's why so many of the 9/11 hijackers were from there.

    The same thing happened back in the 1980's with Northern Ireland. Plenty of donation money for poor Irish made its way to violent means back in the 80's. I lived in Boston back then and the level of conspiracy was intense. Donate to a good Irish cause - some of the money found its way to the IRA. I remember the winks and nods at Southie day in 1984. The British and Irish were at war, but the Irish couldn't fight against a nuclear power with conventional means. The Irish didn't want to take over Britain, they just wanted to kick them out of Northern Ireland (or least stop the paramilitary Protestant death squads). But in the end the British drew a truce reigned in the death squads and none of those terrorists is in a place like gitmo. That's because the British didn't have the heart for decimating the Northern Irish Catholics, which is what they would've had to do to win. I'll give the British props for not being as inhuman as the US is now.

    Maybe eventually, Americans will realize you can't have a war on terror because terror is a form of war. In fact it was originally coined by the French as a form of warfare on their own population. They had to keep all those citizens in line after the revolution and so they did some pretty terrible (terrorizing) things.

    To win this war, you need to rephrase the whole thing. Define your enemy. In this case it would be Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, maybe Syria soon too. But since the US population isn't ready to accept that this country is an imperialist on the scale of the Roman Empire, we have this stupid 'war on terror' confusion. If you want to win, you need to get everyone on board and lock up or kill every possible enemy and bomb them into oblivion. Think Dresden in WW2 or Nagasaki. That's how you break the enemy's morale. You have to decimate them. Think hundreds of Gitmo's. That's how you win a war. You kill them.

    I personally don't have the stomach for it, and I think its a stupid gamble that only people who havn't read their history would make.
    • No we're not. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:10AM (#14881625)
      To win this war, you need to rephrase the whole thing. Define your enemy. In this case it would be Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, maybe Syria soon too. But since the US population isn't ready to accept that this country is an imperialist on the scale of the Roman Empire, we have this stupid 'war on terror' confusion.

      What if things are going just peachy?

      What if the main objective is not to win the war, but to maintain a state of constant war? If this were the case, then it would achieve several things. . .

      1. It would keep the American Public in a state of perpetual fear. When people are scared, they don't think rationally. They don't mind having their freedoms revoked, they are much easier to herd like cattle. They do as they are told. The upshot being that the dictator gets to bend rules and stay in power for as long as he can maintain the state of 'war'.

      2. It keeps money flowing in huge amounts from the public coffers to the pockets of oil men and weapons salesmen, (both of which Bush is). His fellow staff share this trait. Peace is not profitable.

      Oil was selling at around $13 per barrel before the first Gulf War. When bombs started dropping in the desert, oil jumped to $40 per barrel. --A few people made a lot of money overnight. The brokers were wetting themselves. And they couldn't wait for it to happen again, which it has.

      I think the 'war on terror' confusion has more to do with deliberate marketing than with error.


      -FL

      • Re:No we're not. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by glesga_kiss (596639)
        Re: prepetual fear and constant war. Eisenhower said it best in 1961: [wikisource.org]

        This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the ve

    • The British and Irish were at war, but the Irish couldn't fight against a nuclear power with conventional means.

      We were never at war with Ireland. That's absurd; if that had been the case then Dublin could have been flattened within hours. The Irish government never had anything to do with the (current) IRA; in fact, London and Dublin collaborated on intelligence and enforcement for years.

      I don't actually recall either government using the rhetoric of war about the whole business, either. That was alway

    • If you want to win, you need to get everyone on board and lock up or kill every possible enemy and bomb them into oblivion. Think Dresden in WW2 or Nagasaki. That's how you break the enemy's morale. You have to decimate them. Think hundreds of Gitmo's. That's how you win a war. You kill them.

      No. That's how you lose. That's how you lose everything. Your pride, your integrity, your freedoms. Everything.

      Don't believe me. Try and remember that the other side in WWII engaged in "morale defeating excercises" even
  • by Milton Waddams (739213) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:45AM (#14881478)
    I know that this sounds like an off the wall conspiracy theory but when you think about it, it's true.

    Methods that peek into people's credit card transactions won't find terrorists. Terrorists are, as much as people might not want to admit, intelligent people. They are not going to do anything that gets them noticed. This includes buying semtex with their credit cards.

    I'm pretty sure that the Government knows this obvious truth. So if they are not using the PATRIOT Act to spy on terrorists (since things like the PATRIOT Act is useless in finding terrorists), then who are they spying on? You of course!

    The whole idea of a 'war on terror' is not a new one. Various Governments have used the same scare mongering tactics to try and control their populations. I know I'm not saying anything here that people don't already know but I feel it has to be said until people actually listen.
  • That's untrue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Silencer-7 (930802) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:08AM (#14881515)
    Did you pay taxes? Then the funding came from you.
    Maybe you missed the 2.3 TRILLION DOLLARS that the Pentagon announced 'misplaced' on September 10, 2001.
    Just think about it, that's the money that the 'Defense' Department WON'T admit to having used to kill people. But all of it comes from us.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:45AM (#14881577) Journal
    They still haven't found out that Microsoft has been funding SCO?
  • by BeBoxer (14448) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:42PM (#14883462)
    The article says that "Hundreds of millions of dollars of assets have been frozen." Does anybody believe that terrorists are funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? What that tells me is that a significant number of the funds being frozen are don't have anything to do with "terrorists". And later "Some estimates put the number of filings in the US alone at 13 million a day." That's almost 5 billion filings a year. Roughly 15 for every man, woman and child in the US every year. At that point, you're not watching for terrorists, you're watching basically everything. So what's the point? Is it really to watch for "teh terrorists"?
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:52PM (#14884078) Homepage Journal
    1 - Ban all 'cash' transactions for anything. All transactions must use 'digital currency' and go thru the federal government along the way. Even for a burger or stick of gum.

    2 - Just take all funds away from the people, make it a true socialist society.

    3 - Anyone caught bartering for any reason goes to prison for life.

    This was a joke.

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