Research: Commentary

Track Bin Laden or Seize Cigars and Rum? Bush Puts Cuba Sanctions First over Fight against Terrorism Says Center for International Policy

U.S. Newswire, April 29, 2004 | Article

By Sarah Stephens

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Treasury department agency charged with stopping the transit of illegal funds to terrorist organizations, allocates more employees to tracking Americans for Cuban embargo violations than to investigating where and how Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein get their money, according to an OFAC letter to Congress. (note)

In the letter from OFAC to Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee it was revealed that just four full-time employees were assigned to investigating Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's wealth while nearly two dozen were working on Cuban embargo violations.

"This outrageous misallocation of resources clearly demonstrates the absurdity of the Bush administrations's policy toward Cuba," said Sarah Stephens, director of the Freedom to Travel Campaign of the Center for International Policy. "American interests would be better served if President Bush and Secretary Snow would direct OFAC to devote all of its resources and energies to finding the financial sources of support for the terrorists who seek to harm our country, rather than punishing law-abiding Americans who want to travel to Cuba."

Additionally, in a letter to OFAC director Richard Newcomb dated December 22, 2003, Senators Grassley and Baucus write: "In at least two instances since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, news reports have highlighted that non-U.S. agencies have identified persons linked to terrorism and terrorism financing before OFAC did so. If this is true, it is cause for concern..."

"We applaud Senators Grassley and Baucus for exercising their oversight responsibilities as leaders of the Senate Finance Committee," says Stephens. "We urge Congress to call OFAC to account: stop wasting precious budgetary resources on Cuba travelers and devote more time and effort to straightening out its more pressing work, like stopping terrorism and the people who finance it. Our security problem rests not with Cuba or its rum and cigars, but with Al Qaeda. The Bush administration may not recognize that, but the Congress should."

Note: Treasury Agents Track Bin Laden Money by John Solomon, Associated Press, April 29, 2004

Copyright 2004 U.S. Newswire.

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