Half-Page Books: Bankers vs. Terrorists

By Books, Half-page | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Half-Page Books: Bankers vs. Terrorists


Books, Half-page, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


John B. Taylor, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at Stanford University, was a key player in the international financial war against terrorism after 9/11. As Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs from 2001 to 2005, he had to form international coalitions to freeze the financial assets of terrorists around the world, plan the financial reconstruction of Afghanistan and oversee the creation of a new post- Saddam currency for Iraq. I talked to him about his book "Global Financial Warriors" Wednesday by phone from his offices at Stanford.

Q: Can you give us a quick soundbite about what your book is about and who it is written for?

A: The book describes the financial aspects of the war on terror, starting with the efforts to freeze the assets of the terrorists after 9/11. It describes the diplomacy that was necessary to do it, which was quite successful. And then it goes on to describe the financial reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq and also the increased stability of the world economy. It contains many success stories, many descriptions of things that went right. It's written for an audience who's interested in public policy. You don't have to be a financial expert by any means to read this book. There are lots of stories about heroes and inspirational people and stories about my travels to places like Afghanistan and Iraq and also my meetings with the president in the situation room.

Q: How has terrorism affected the global financial system?

A: Well, the effort has been made to use the financial system in the war against terror. In other words, to track the assets and money of the terrorists to find out where they are or find out about their networks. So in many respects, the global financial system has been used to better deal with this war. I think that's the main message that I'm trying to get through here -- that this is an essential part of the war on terror. There is much focus on the military, much focus on the political. But the third leg on the stool is financial, and that is what this book is about.

Q: What are some of the weapons that are used in this financial warfare?

A: The president of the United States has the authority to ask financial institutions in the United States to freeze assets of people or groups he designates as terrorist. That's the primary tool -- the designation and freezing. The second tool is used against financial institutions that are helping in the financing of terror or are dealing with terrorists. For example, just two weeks ago an Iranian bank, Bank Sepah, was designated by the United States as an entity dealing with proliferation issues -- to finance the purchases of technology to build long range missiles in Iran that could deliver weapons. That's the second tool, to actually take action against banks. And the way it's done is telling U.S. banks you can not deal with these banks.

Q: There is also the technique of preventing or halting funds transfers?

A: Yes. That is what I would call the freezing. If you attempt to put money in a bank to send (to terrorists) it will be frozen. That's very much part of it - disrupting the flow via this freezing. A third weapon, if you like, is basically intelligence. Through the financial system you can follow the money and therefore learn about people in the networks that you otherwise wouldn't know about. It's been very useful as a form of intelligence and it's a system that is still working well.

Q: Can you name a single-biggest success story since 9/11?

A: I'll just give you some indications: 172 different countries participated in the freezing of the assets, and that demonstrates how effective the diplomatic strategy was; 120 of those countries actually had to change their laws to make this happen, so it was difficult for them. Very soon after 9/11, about $137 million was frozen. …

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