MARGARET WARNER: One of today's targets, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, describes itself as the largest Muslim charity in the United States.
After federal authorities froze its assets and closed its offices today, the group issued a statement that read in part: "The Holy Land Foundation denies allegations that it provides any financial support to terrorist groups or individuals. The foundation is a humanitarian organization, which has worked to serve the needy, both at home and abroad, since 1989."
The statement went on to say, "The Holy Land Foundation has been unfairly targeted in the nationwide smear campaign to undermine Muslims and the institutions that serve them.
Joining me now is a key figure in the U.S. effort to shut down the global financial web that supports terrorism, the Treasury Department's Undersecretary for Enforcement, Jimmy Gurule. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
JIMMY GURULE: Thank you, Margaret. It's a pleasure to be here.
MARGARET WARNER: You saw and heard what the Holy Land Foundation had to say. What makes the Treasury Department and the Justice Department so sure that, in fact, it is a front for raising money to support Hamas and terrorist activities?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, first of all, the Holy Land Foundation has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI for several years. So it has been on the radar screen of federal law enforcement for a long period of time. This isn't an organization that just recently came to the attention of the Department of the Treasury and the FBI.
The Department of the Treasury has developed strong and credible and compelling evidence that the Holy Land Foundation is involved in funneling and transferring money to Hamas to support terrorist activities.
MARGARET WARNER: What kind of terrorist activities?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, one example, the president stated this in his statement in the Rose Garden today. Hamas receives money from the Holy Land Foundation with respect to schools. There are schools that are supported by the Holy Land Foundation, and these schools encourage children to engage in terrorist activities specifically suicide bombing activities. So that's one example.
Another example is the money that is raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used to support the families of suicide bombers that engage in suicide terrorist attacks, an insurance policy, if you will, for the survivors of terrorist attacks by suicide bombers.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, are you able to track that? Are you actually able to track money from the Holy Land Foundation to Hamas, to actually these families, or are you saying the Holy Land Foundation, let's just take that example directly supports these families?
JIMMY GURULE: We're able to track money from donors to bank accounts, from bank accounts to the Holy Land Foundation back to the Holy Land Foundation to schools that support terrorist activities.
We do this through the use of the Bank Secrecy Act, the database that is administered by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is an agency within the Treasury Department.
We are able to do this through the Foreign Asset Tracking Center, which is an agency within the Treasury Department as well, so there are several vehicles, several mechanisms that we use in order to track terrorist assets.
MARGARET WARNER: Now when you say they support schools that encourage-- I can't remember your exact words-- suicide bombings, are you talking about schools like these madrasas in Pakistan, which are essentially indoctrination schools, or are these normal schools but that your investigation has shown or somebody says are also teaching negative views about Israel? In other words what kind of schools are we talking about?
JIMMY GURULE: More of the negative views. We're certainly talking about more of the negative views with respect to the United States and Israel. We're talking about schools that support the commission of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, schools that stress upon their students that they should sacrifice their lives for this cause of establishing a Palestinian state in Israel and eliminating and killing all Israelis.
MARGARET WARNER: The president said sometimes the... even the officers of this organization don't really know what the money is going for. Talk to us about that. How much knowledge is there?
JIMMY GURULE: It's a very devious scheme, if you think about it. The Hamas in this particular case is taking a charitable organization. Some of its activities are directed and devoted to legitimate humanitarian causes.
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking now about Holy Land's part of Hamas's part, or both?
JIMMY GURULE: Holy Land. Holy Land certainly is dedicated to some legitimate humanitarian causes, and Hamas has infiltrated and is taking advantage, if you will, of this particular organization. And so it's using it as a front in a very devious way. It's using it as a cover for raising funds that are used to support terrorist activities.
MARGARET WARNER: So why wouldn't the government just go to a group like the Holy Land Foundation and say, look, your money is being misused, you shouldn't be sending it to X or Y?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, in addition the action taken today is an administrative action intended to block the accounts of the Holy Land Foundation and in essence to shut it down so that this vehicle can no longer be used by Hamas for its terrorist purposes but at the same time, keep in mind the FBI has an ongoing criminal investigation against Hamas, the employees that work for Hamas and other individuals related to -- excuse me -- the Holy Land Foundation.
MARGARET WARNER: So for instance if you were a donor to the Holy Land Foundation are you potential now for investigation?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, you could be, but I certainly don't want to suggest that everyone that has donated money to the Holy Land Foundation has done so with this evil intent to support criminal activity and terrorist activity.
But under the president's authority that's given him under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, the president is given broad, wide latitude, new powers, new authorities with respect to entities that support or are controlled by terrorist organizations. And that's the link here. The Holy Land is being controlled by in part -- by Hamas, this violent terrorist organization.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's talk about timing. You said earlier that actually Holy Land has been under review and investigation for years. Why not... If the ties were so obvious to Hamas and Hamas was designated a terrorist organization by the State Department in '95, why didn't the government move against Holy Land much, much sooner?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, we certainly had pieces of evidence, bits and pieces that suggested that the Holy Land Foundation was involved in supporting terrorist activities.
However, since 9/11, the Department of the Treasury has been concentrating, focusing its law enforcement efforts, we've been able to break down through new legislation barriers that existed between the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury and the CIA with respect to sharing of information.
Based upon new legislation that was enacted pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act, it's much easier now to share this information. That's been very valuable, very helpful to us in an...in the effort of supporting and establishing... making the case to go against the Holy Land Foundation.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, on the other hand, there were reports that you made this announcement sooner than you had intended, that you had hoped to wait a few more weeks and line up other countries. One, is that true? And why speed it up?
JIMMY GURULE: As I stated before, the Holy Land Foundation was on our radar screen. We've been investigating them for a period of time and investigating them aggressively.
We were looking at making this ... taking this action with respect to blocking of assets, but obviously the terrorist acts that took place over the weekend, that Hamas by the way has accepted responsibility for and that resulted in the killing of 26 innocent Israeli civilians obviously added a heightened sense of urgency to moving expeditiously against Hamas and any related terrorist entities.
MARGARET WARNER: In the brief time we have left, let's just look at your bigger effort here because, of course, this is just one of dozens of groups and individuals that you have frozen assets of trying to get at this financial network that supports terrorism. How successful has that effort been so far?
JIMMY GURULE: We think the effort has been successful. We are making an impact. We are making it more difficult for terrorist organizations, specifically al-Qaida and the Taliban, to move money globally.
And that is in large part the goal here. I mean the objective is to obstruct, to make it more difficult for these organizations to move money, and in the process, to act in a very preventive way to save lives -- prevent the commission of future terrorist acts.
MARGARET WARNER: Is there specific points of success that you can cite?
JIMMY GURULE: Well, certainly action that we took in November, on November 7 with respect to Al-Barakaat. Al-Barakaat was the principal financial network that was used by bin Laden to move money globally. Through our efforts at the Treasury Department, we have taken down, dismantled this major terrorist fund raising, which is a financial operation that was essential to the movement of funds for bin laden and al-Qaida.
MARGARET WARNER: And is there any evidence that the U.S. Government has that yet al-Qaida or the Taliban, if the Taliban is still operating, but al-Qaida is feeling the pinch?
JIMMY GURULE: Yes, we do have information. I've reviewed and have had access to intelligence reports. The intelligence reports indicate that bin laden is having to develop additional means, additional schemes to move money globally. Al-Barakaat is an organization that had tentacles -- if you will -- in 46 countries. So the fact that we've been able to dismantle that organization, that cannot be easily replaced by bin laden and al-Qaida.
MARGARET WARNER: And you have intelligence that they're actually feeling the squeeze?
JIMMY GURULE: Absolutely, absolutely.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, Secretary Gurule, thank you very were.
JIMMY GURULE: Thank you.