No evidence drug profits fuel terrorists

January 11, 2002

Investigators from the Treasury and Justice Departments, the FBI and other federal agencies have finished the initial phase of their exhaustive effort to trace the financial underpinnings of the attacks that killed about 3,000 persons in New York City and Washington, DC on September 11. Despite repeated charges from pundits and politicians, including President Bush, that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization was aided and abetted by funds derived from drug trafficking, federal investigators did not mention illicit drug profits as a source of funding for the attacks.

Working from credit card receipts, ATM transactions and other financial records, federal investigators determined that the plot had cost about $500,000, with funds being transferred by Al Qaeda paymasters in Germany, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates to hijacking teams in place in the United States. "Investigators are still uncertain about the origins of the $500,000 used in the September 11 plot," wrote the Washington Post in its exclusive report on the investigation published in early-January. "But US intelligence officials say Al Qaeda has raised money through means as varied as credit card fraud, diamond trafficking and the sale of honey."

The Post story made no mention of possible profits from the narcotics trade. "If you quit honey, you join the fight against terror in America," President Bush did not say in response to the investigation. "It's important for Americans to know that the trafficking of honey finances the world of terror, sustaining terrorists," he did not add.

Bush's non-utterances on terrorist financing stand in stark contrast to comments he did make on December 14 when he first attempted to tie domestic drug use to international terrorism. At that time, President Bush told an audience of anti-drug activists that drug users aid terrorists, who benefit from black market profits from the drug trade, he claimed. "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America," Bush said. "It's important for Americans to know that the trafficking of drugs finances the world of terror, sustaining terrorists," Bush said.

For the president and the other politicians and pundits eager to tie their tired last war to their shiny new one, better a rhetorical crusade against a favored bogeyman-the drug trade-than a complex and complicated struggle to understand the roots of Al Qaeda and its financing within the legitimate structures of the global economic system. After all, if honey is financing terrorism, someone might start asking questions about oil next.

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
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