The End of the Beginning of the War on Terror

The War on Terror did not start on 9/11. We can argue semantics, but until the ongoing struggle against extremists materially changes we will continue to use the aforementioned name. And with a new administration, al-Qaeda does not seem to sit idle while President Obama instills new initiatives to combat them. The second in command of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, continues to mock and belittle the United States in front of his supporters. It is safe to conclude that al-Qaeda will not give the new president a honeymoon and will continue to find ways of attacking us. In the years since the attacks on our homeland in New York City, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon, we must remain vigilant against terrorist networks around the world. We must fight this network with our own network.

President Bush and his administration implemented many initiatives and programs to ensure the safety of all Americans. Today, there are countless arguments and debates on surveillance and torture. However, one counterterrorism measure that does not garner front-page coverage has been our enhanced efforts to counter threat finance and develop financial intelligence. The Obama administration would be wise to continue to use these tools to disrupt and deter our enemies.

Since the Clinton administration, there have been efforts to follow the money and disrupt terrorist networks' ability to fund their activities. In October 1999, the State Department encouraged the United Nations to enact Security Council Resolution 1267 against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. This resolution gives countries the legal authority to freeze assets of known terrorists or those who support terrorists. However, it was President Bush who increased efforts dramatically. As a result our government now attacks the financial networks of criminals and terrorists with all elements of national power.

In seizing financial assets, as in drug seizures, the total cumulative dollar amount captured annually does little to reflect the progress of law enforcement. It is difficult to devise and employ metrics to gauge how the government is performing on this effort. Does more money being seized mean we are successful against more targets? Or, rather, is there so much being circulated in the global financial network that we are only scratching the surface?