Mr. Chairman, let me begin by commending you for rescheduling this very important hearing so quickly. As we all know, anti-money laundering tactics will play a critical role in our war against terrorism, and I would like to note for the record that Senator Sarbanes had the foresight to schedule a hearing on this topic well before the attacks of two weeks ago.
Chairman Sarbanes identified early on that our national money laundering strategy is a critical weapon in our arsenal against terrorists, drug lords, organized crime syndicates, and others. I am proud to be a member of this Committee, which plays a critical role in our nation’s anti-money laundering efforts. I also would like to thank President Bush for taking decisive action this week to move forward with what is at least the first step in a “silent” war on the financial assets of those who so cowardly attacked America two weeks ago.
Over the past two weeks, we have all learned the power and strength of a united front. Americans have come together against a common enemy, and I am confident that we will prevail in achieving justice. We in Congress are working in a bipartisan fashion to make sure that our nation’s law enforcement personnel have the weapons they need to win the war on terrorism, whether these weapons are F16 fighter jets, or computer capability, or access to financial activity that bears further investigation.
I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses. The President has just released his National Money Laundering Strategy, which sets out the Administration’s plan to choke off the lifeblood of terrorists and other groups that use the American and global financial system to further their destructive ends. Together, we need to determine whether our current laws provide law enforcement with sufficient ammunition to defeat the enemy.
Of course, even with the best laws, we must work together to promote strong enforcement of these laws. Clearly, our efforts will be much more fruitful if the spirit of cooperation that has helped Congress respond quickly to our national tragedy spreads to the law enforcement community.
We must continue to encourage U.S. law enforcement agencies to cooperate in their anti-money laundering efforts. The Treasury, the FBI, the CIA and other national, state and local enforcement agencies can be particularly effective when they share vital information and work together toward a common goal.
We also need to work with our banking regulatory agencies to review which procedures and examinations required under current law are effective. And we need to take care that any new legislation provides those agencies with sufficient regulatory flexibility to respond to constantly changing money laundering strategies. And we need to pay special attention not just to mainstream financial institutions, but also to Money Services Businesses. MSBs are notoriously difficult to monitor, but are a critical component of any successful national anti-money laundering strategy.
We also need to call on the financial services sector to continue their cooperation with law enforcement to root out terrorists and others who abuse our financial institutions. We need to craft laws that banks can implement without undue burden or intrusion into customer privacy. At the same time, we ask our financial institutions to be patient and do all they can to help this nation in its war against terrorism.
Finally, we must encourage international cooperation and information-sharing that allows the freedom-loving global community to shut down financial systems that support these cowardly acts of terrorism. Cooperation must extend beyond our borders to be effective.
The Senate Banking Committee has an important opportunity to help wage our silent war on terrorism, and I am pleased to be part of that.
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