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Copyright 2003 The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

July 17, 2003 Thursday FINAL Edition

SECTION: SECTION A; Pg. 1A

LENGTH: 1562 words

HEADLINE: U.S. met secretly with Saudis over al-Qaida funding;
1999 meeting set up by Vice President Gore failed to stop flow of money, experts say

BYLINE: TONY BARTELME Of The Post and Courier Staff

BODY:
Long before the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks, officials in the White House learned that Islamic charities and
wealthy Saudi Arabian businessmen were bankrolling al-Qaida.

By 1999, the evidence was so clear that Vice President Al Gore contacted Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
to set up a secret meeting between U.S. counter terrorism experts and high-ranking officials in Saudi
Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

"We wanted to show how seriously we took the issue, and requesting the meeting through the vice
president was one way to do that," said William Wechsler, a former counterterrorism director with the
National Security Council.

Wechsler was a key member of the delegation that flew to the Gulf. He said many details of the trip
remain classified but described the talks with the Saudis as "substantive ... We left hoping that we had
started something."

Afterward, however, the Saudis did little to turn off the money spigot to al-Qaida. "In the long run, the
trip was of marginal utility."

Gore's help arranging the secret 1999 meeting, which has not been disclosed until now, sheds new light
on how top U.S. government officials grappled with the threat from al-Qaida before Sept. 11, 2001, and
how powerful bureaucratic and diplomatic currents worked against them.

The 1999 trip also underscores how the U.S. and its longtime ally Saudi Arabia knew a great deal about
al-Qaida's organizational structure long before the Sept. 11 attacks.

What the government knew about the attacks, and whether it could have done more to prevent them, is a
debate that's likely to become more vigorous. One high-profile congressional commission is expected to
release its final 800-page report about the attacks next week.

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer, a Democrat who served on the House Intelligence Committee, told The
Miami Herald last week that it contains information that is "highly explosive."

Other lawmakers who have read the report have said it is highly critical of U.S. intelligence lapses and

https://www.nexis.com/research/search/submitViewTagged 176/2004
Roadblocks Cited in Efforts to Trace bin Laden's Money - Global Policy Forum - Nations... Page 1 of 4

Roadblocks Cited
in Efforts to Trace bin Ladenfs Money
Bv Tim Werner and David Cay Johnston
V */

New York Times
September 20, 2001

A six-year struggle to uncover Osama bin Laden's financial network failed because
American officials did not skillfully use the legal tools they had, did not realize they needed
stronger weapons, and faced resistance at home and abroad, officials involved in the effort
say.

Federal officials say they have not persuaded foreign banks to open their books to
investigators and that in this country, a law that would have allowed the United States to
penalize foreign banks that did not cooperate was blocked last year by a single United
States senator.

Current laws and regulations give the government less authority to seize the assets of
terrorists than of drug cartels, one federal investigator said; it may seize only assets that are
the direct proceeds of terrorist violence. For drug cartels or organized crime gangs, it can
seize any assets used to support their activities.

Investigators also attribute their inability to pierce Mr. bin Laden's financial network to an
ancient system of cash transfers based on trust, not detailed records, that they say has spread
from countries like Pakistan into the United States.

Since last week's attacks, proposals to curb money laundering by terrorists have suddenly
gained support among old opponents — including the Bush administration — after
languishing for two years. The White House says it now wants an aggressive attack on
money laundering, including stepped-up seizure of assets.

The bin Laden organization operates in 35 countries and needs to move money to its
members, American intelligence officials say. Tracing the money could reveal not only
terrorists' sources of support, but their intentions.

But present and former government officials say that since the mid- 1990's, they did not
fully use the legal tools they had to wage this difficult fight. "We could have starved the
organization if we put our minds to it," said Richard Palmer, who gained experience in
money laundering as the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Moscow during the
1990's. "The government has had the ability to track these accounts for some time."

Congress is now reviving a proposal killed last year by Senator Phil Gramm, the Texas
Republican who was then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The bill, introduced
by the Clinton administration, would give the Treasury secretary broad power to bar foreign
countries and banks from access to the American financial market unless they cooperated

http://www.globalpolicy.org/nations/launder/general/2001/0920uslaun.htm 1/6/2004