Executive Order Remarks
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PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning. At 12:01 a.m. this morning, a major thrust of our war on terrorism began with the stroke of a pen.
Today, we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network. Make no mistake about it, I’ve asked our military to be ready for a reason. But the American people must understand this war on terrorism will be fought on a variety of fronts, in different ways.
The front lines will look different from the wars of the past. So I told the American people we will direct every resource at our command to win the war against terrorists: every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence.
We will starve the terrorists of funding, turn them against each other, rout them out of their safe hiding places and bring them to justice.
I’ve signed an executive order that immediately freezes United States financial assets of and prohibits United States transactions with 27 different entities. They include terrorist organizations, individual terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism, and several nonprofit organizations.
Just to show you how insidious these terrorists are, they oftentimes use nice-sounding, non-governmental organizations as fronts for their activities. We have targeted three such NGOs. We intend to deal with them, just like we intend to deal with others who aid and abet terrorist organizations.
This executive order means that United States banks that have assets of these groups or individuals must freeze their accounts. And United States citizens or businesses are prohibited from doing business with them.
We know that many of these individuals and groups operate primarily overseas, and they don’t have much money in the United States. So we’ve developed a strategy to deal with that.
We’re putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice, we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorist’s ability to access funds in foreign accounts.
If they fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts, the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their bank’s assets and transactions in the United States.
We have developed the international financial equivalent of law enforcement’s “Most Wanted” list. And it puts the financial world on notice. If you do business with terrorists, if you support or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America.
I want to assure the world that we will exercise this power responsibly. But make no mistake about it, we intend to, and we will, disrupt terrorist networks. I want to assure the American people that in taking this action and publishing this list, we’re acting based on clear evidence, much of which is classified, so it will not be disclosed. It’s important as this war progresses that the American people understand we make decisions based upon classified information, and we will not jeopardize the sources; we will not make the war more difficult to win by publicly disclosing classified information.
And, by the way, this list is just a beginning. We will continue to add more names to the list. We will freeze the assets of others as we find that they aid and abet terrorist organizations around the world.
We’ve established a foreign terrorist asset tracking center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks. It will bring together representatives of the intelligence, law enforcement and financial regulatory agencies to accomplish two goals: to follow the money as a trail to the terrorists, to follow their money so we can find out where they are; and to freeze the money to disrupt their actions.
We’re also working with the friends and allies throughout the world to share information. We’re working closely with the United Nations, the EU and through the G-7/G-8 structure to limit the ability of terrorist organizations to take advantage of the international financial systems.
The United States has signed, but not yet ratified, two international conventions, one of which is designed to set international standards for freezing financial assets. I’ll be asking members of the U.S. Senate to approve the U.N. Convention on Suppression of Terrorist Financing and a related convention on terrorist bombings; and to work with me on implementing the legislation.
We will lead by example. We will work with the world against terrorism. Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations.
Today, we’re asking the world to stop payment. Now, the Secretary of Treasury would like to say a few remarks, followed by Secretary Powell, then I’ll answer a few questions.
SECRETARY O’NEILL: Thank you, Mr. President. This order provides the authority to block funds of terrorists and anyone associated with a terrorist or terrorism.
The order names specific individuals and charitable organizations that are funding terrorist acts. Donors now will know to avoid these charities that front for terrorists.
With the signing of this executive order, we have the president’s explicit directive to block the U.S. assets of any domestic or foreign financial institution that refuses to cooperate with us in blocking assets of terrorist organizations.
This order is a notice to financial institutions around the world, if you have any involvement in the financing of the al Qaeda organization, you have two choices: cooperate in this fight, or we will freeze your U.S. assets; we will punish you for providing the resources that make these evil acts possible.
Many of our allies around the world have already stepped forward to cooperate in destroying terrorism’s financial infrastructure. I will be in contact with my G-7 colleagues again tomorrow to further coordinate our joint effort to shut down the financial underpinnings of terrorism.
Today’s executive order gives us a new weapon to deny terrorists access to funds. The foreign terrorist asset tracking center that we announced last week is up and running, coordinating information from among government agencies with the express purpose of identifying and stamping out the financial network that funds terrorism.
And we’re working with the G-7 nations, and many others, to attack all parts of a global infrastructure that finances these acts of evil.
Together, we will succeed in starving the terrorists of funding and shutting down the institutions that support or facilitate terrorism.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. President and Secretary O’Neill. As the President said, the campaign has begun.
We’re going after al Qaeda. We’re going after terrorism. And this is an indication of how we’re going to use all the elements of our national and international power to do it.
Terrorists require a financial infrastructure. They require safe-havens. They require places that will get them succor and comfort. We’re going after all of them in every way that we can.
And we’re focusing this morning on the financial infrastructure of terrorism. We’re going to take this initiative into the United Nations and try to get additional resolutions that will serve similar purposes.
We’re working with the European Union. We’re working with the G-7 and G-8, as Secretary O’Neill and the president have mentioned. We’re going to be working with Congress, as the president has mentioned, to get these two U.N. conventions ratified, and the implementing legislation in place.
I’m very, very pleased at the level of cooperation that we are receiving from around the world. All civilized nations in the world understand that the civilized world has to go after terrorism. The World Trade Center, America suffered a grievous blow.
But the whole world did — some almost 80 nations suffered losses at the World Trade Center. And that’s why the whole world is joining with us.
Nations such as the United Arab Emirates, which declared the Taliban no longer welcome and broke diplomatic relations. All of these are part of the campaign.
It’s a campaign that will be fought with persistence and with perseverance, and will be fought until, as the president has said, we have prevailed and we have won. Thank you.