Author Details Drug/Terrorism Link in Post-9/11 World

By Steve Brown | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - Narcotics trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and terrorism are inextricably linked and coordinated on American soil and in many countries allied with the U.S., according to the author of a new book on the financing of terrorism.

Rachel Ehrenfeld, who wrote Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It, also asserts that this nexus of wrongdoing continues to take place in the midst of the U.S. public, its institutions and elected officials, even in the post-9/11 world.

Ehrenfeld's book underscores the reality in the aftermath of the worst attack on the United States in its history, what allowed it to happen, what must be done to prevent it from happening again and how the window of opportunity to prevent another 9/11 attack is shrinking.

As director of the American Center for Democracy (ACD), Ehrenfeld is an acknowledged expert on corruption, money laundering, transnational organized crime, international terrorism, drug trafficking and substance abuse. She is also credited with coining the term "narcoterrorism" in her 1990 book, Terrorism.

In Funding Evil, Ehrenfeld alleges that illegal narcotics, principally heroin and cocaine, flow from the Middle East and South America to U.S. and Western European streets before the drug profits are then allegedly funneled through charitable organizations, front businesses, banks (many based in America) and ultimately back to Islamo-fascist terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda, Hizballah and Hamas.

According to Ehrenfeld, information culled for the book did not come from classified documents or undercover sources, but rather from government documents, congressional committee testimony and executive agency reports, all of it available to the public.

The clandestine operations were conducted in places like Herndon, Va., Charlotte, N.C., and Quincy, Mass., as detailed in the book.

"Since I have been following this - I started with drugs, money laundering and criminal organizations and terrorist organizations - I've been doing it for 18 years," Ehrenfeld told "When I see a name, I immediately make a contact. Thank God I have a good memory. It is interesting that many of the same people are still operating, and this is why it is easy for me to identify many of the suspects."

Ehrenfeld arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1980s from her native Israel and said she became interested in the heavy amount of drug use in the U.S. and the society's overall fascination with drugs.

"It was mind-boggling because I didn't see anybody standing with a gun to their heads forcing them to take drugs, yet they were taking them like somebody was chasing them," Ehrenfeld said. "There was a lot of peer pressure of course in this country, but I understood immediately that somebody was promoting it, somebody's marketing it, and somebody's creating this peer pressure to buy this stuff. And I saw that there might be political interest in it."

Her interest led Ehrenfeld to uncover the Soviet link in U.S. illegal drug sales, marketing and consumption. From her experience in the Middle East, Ehrenfeld believed that the Palestine Liberation Organization was also using drug money to fund its activities. And during the same period, the illegal narcotics trade was becoming a major problem in South America.

"This was the time that the Colombian Cartel started to be growing really vocal and very powerful," Ehrenfeld said.

Research into money laundering used to fund the narcotics market and in turn terrorist organizations led to her 1992 work, Evil Money. Ehrenfeld discovered that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which closed in 1991 after a U.S. Justice Department sting operation, had served as the epicenter of the money laundering.

"I looked into the political agenda they (the BCCI) had. This was the biggest and the first international Islamic bank that was created by Agha Hasan Abedi, a Pakistani," Ehrenfeld explained. "When it was closed down, there were tons and tons of documents around the world about the PLO assets, how they funneled money to Abu Nidal (alleged terrorist, now dead, who founded an organization that split from the PLO in 1974), Iran, Iraq, everybody. The BCCI, as far as I could tell, was the beginning of a concerted effort to fund Islamic terrorist activities."

In her latest book, Ehrenfeld writes about the still-operational National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia and the Al-Barakaat Exchange in Dubai, founded in 1989 by Somali Ahmed Nur Jimali, close personal friend of Osama bin Laden. Nur Jimali learned the U.S. banking system by working for Citibank from 1979 to 1986, which itself founded the Saudi American Bank. The Al-Barakaat Exchange has U.S. headquarters in Dorchester, Mass., with branches in Minnesota, Ohio and Washington state.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has alleged that "the al-Barakaat companies are the money movers, the quartermasters of terror." Ehrenfeld details in the new book how the Al-Barakaat Exchange, along with other banks, was used to funnel nearly $1 million to the 9/11 hijackers through Western Union.

"Most American banks with international branches one way or another, you can say that they are involved because the major currency is the U.S. dollar," Ehrenfeld said. "Because the banks are not really fined severely, they are not identified publicly."

Funding Evil alleges that the money flowing through these banks goes to poppy field farmers in Afghanistan (whose poppy crop output actually increased after international forces ousted the Taliban), to cocaine cartels in South America, whose leaders, Ehrenfeld writes, have become financially wedded to Islamic terror masters and their agenda of destroying Israel, the U.S. and the West.

To curb the national and international narcoterrorism, Ehrenfeld writes that government corruption must be rooted out in Third World and developing nations through an International Integrity Standard (IIS), which she has formulated herself. Ehrenfeld said the IIS could be used in tandem with President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, an initiative to increase U.S. assistance to developing nations by 50 percent over the next three years, or $5 billion annually.

"[The] U.S. is the biggest contributor to all kinds of social programs through international organizations throughout the world," Ehrenfeld said. "We should actually follow the president's new Millennium Challenge Account by making sure, and this is where the International Integrity Standard comes in, by making sure that the countries who receive the money are actually qualified to receive this aid from the U.S. government."

This would involve using the IIS to ensure that the programs being funded actually receive the money and are effective at their stated goals. However, it would involve a radical change of behavior regarding accountability on the part of nations like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, France, Germany and Russia, according to Ehrenfeld. The same accountability change would also be necessary for international organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, her book asserts.

Ehrenfeld admits she may be "a little naive or idealistic" for harboring such an ambitious agenda that would require a cultural sea change at so many levels and institutions both nationally and internationally.

"If you don't start somewhere, you'll never go anywhere, and it's time for us to start because I really believe that it's either them (the terrorists) or us, and if we don't start now, tomorrow will be too late," Ehrenfeld said. "I'm very concerned because these people out there are the foot soldiers that this new criminal big enterprise that is dressed up with religion is pursuing, and they don't care how many people die."

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