The order also authorizes the United States to freeze the assets of any foreign bank that does not cooperate in shutting down the specified groups.
“Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations. Today, we’re asking the world to stop payment,” Bush said at a press conference in the Rose Garden.
Pres. Bush’s order gives the Treasury Secretary broader authority to pressure foreign banks. If they do not take independent action to freeze accounts associated with terrorists, the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their assets and transactions.
Most of the 27 people and organizations do not hold assets in the United States.
“Today, we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network,” Bush said. “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.”
The announcement comes two weeks after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed over 6,000 people.
The White House has announced that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network are prime suspects for the attacks and will be targets in the “war on terrorism.”
The specified list in the executive order includes bin Laden and his group as well as several non-profit organizations that Bush said are fronts for terrorist organizations.
“This order is a notice to financial institutions around the world,” Treasury Secretary O’Neill said at the press conference. “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.”
O’Neill will oversee a Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center at the Treasury Department “to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks.”
According to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the United Nations, the European Union and the G-7 and G-8 countries are participating in the financial front in the battle against terrorism.
“Terrorists require a financial infrastructure. They require safe-havens. They require places that will get them succor and comfort,” Secretary of State Powell said. “We’re going after all of them in every way that we can.”