National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Nawaf Obaid | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Internal Security Reform

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of steps to improve its internal security and support the war on terrorism since September 11th. Saudi intelligence and the Saudi foreign ministry have conducted a detailed review of Saudi companies and charities operating in Pakistan and Central Asia. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries also agreed to take new steps to control the flow of funds and money laundering at the GCC summit meeting on December 31, 2001.1

The Saudi government has arrested a number of individuals the United States suspects of supporting Osama bin Laden, as well as cracked down on its more extreme Islamists. While it has acted slowly because of the sensitivity Saudis show to any outside pressure and because of rising public anger over the Second Intifada, it issued orders blocking the assets of 66 persons, companies, groups, and charities on the U.S. watch list for entities linked to global terrorism in late October 2001.2Saudi Arabia agreed to sign the 1999 UN antiterrorism convention aimed at blocking the financial support of terrorists in early November 2001.3In December 2001, the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, promised to punish Saudis criminally involved in al Qaeda terrorism.4

The government has acted to freeze bank accounts linked to suspected terrorists, and Saudi intelligence is now monitoring at least 150 accounts for terrorist activity. The Saudi Chamber of Commerce established a task force in January 2002 to develop a financial and administrative system for Saudi charities to ensure that their funds would not go to extremist causes, and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) is assisting Saudi banks to develop and computerize systems to track money laundering. The Saudi government is also drafting new laws to limit money-laundering activity.5

Another major institutional initiative is the creation of a specialized Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the Ministry of Interior. This unit is specially tasked with handling money-laundering cases. A communication channel between the Ministry of Interior and SAMA on matters involving terroristfinancing activities has also been established.

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