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24 September 2001

Transcript: Bush, O'Neill, Powell on Freezing Terrorist Assets

(Foreign banks must cooperate or face freezes themselves, says Bush)
President Bush has signed an executive order that immediately freezes
U.S. financial assets of, and prohibits U.S. transactions with, 27
different entities tied to terrorism.
In a press briefing held at the White House September 24, Bush said
that many of the groups in question operate primarily outside the
United States and their U.S. assets are not large, but the United
States would work with governments around the world to encourage them
to take similar actions in freezing the assets of those involved in
The president said that if foreign financial institutions fail to help
the United States in stopping the flow of funds to terrorists, they
too might find access to their assets in the United States blocked.
"We have developed the international financial equivalent of law
enforcement's most wanted list, and it puts the financial world on
notice," Bush said. "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," the president said. "But make no mistake about it, we
intend to, and we will, disrupt terrorist networks."
Bush said the 27 entities include terrorist organizations, individual
terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism,
and several nonprofit organizations. He said that this list is just
the beginning and that other groups and individuals will be added as
more information is gathered.
The president said that his intention is to "starve the terrorists of
funding, turn them against each other, rout them out of their safe
hiding places, and bring them to justice."
Also participating in the briefing were Secretary of the Treasury Paul
O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Following is the transcript:
(begin transcript
Office of the Press Secretary
September 24, 2001
Remarks by the President, Secretary of the Treasury O'Neill and
Secretary of State Powell on Executive Order
THE PRESIDENT: 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
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
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
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.
Q: Mr. President, when will you publish the paper, which Secretary
Powell mentioned yesterday, outlining some of the proof that you have
of the involvement of bin Laden and al Qaeda and others?
THE PRESIDENT: The Secretary said that he'd be glad to talk about the
paper. Let me first tell you that I gave a speech to the nation last
Thursday in which I spent a great deal of time talking about the al
Qaeda organization as the first terrorist organization that we're
going to deal with. And the reason I did is there is a lot of
classified information that leads to one person, as well as one global
terrorist organization.
But for those of you looking for a legal peg, we've already indicted
Osama bin Laden. He's under indictment for terrorist activity. Our war
is against terrorism. Those who would conduct terrorist acts against
the United States, those who sponsor them, those who harbor them,
those who challenge freedom wherever it may exist.
And, Mr. Secretary, if you'd like to make a comment on that.
SECRETARY POWELL: I just might point out that he has been under
indictment for the bombings of our embassy. And as we gather
information, and as we talk to our friends and allies around the
world, and as we get more cooperation, more information is coming in
with respect to his activities and the activities of this network.
Most of it is classified, and as we look through it, we can find areas
that are unclassified and it will allow us to share this information
with the public, we will do so. That would be our intent. But most of
it is classified.
But there's no question that this network, with this gentleman at the
head -- if one can call a terrorist a gentleman, just for purposes of
illustration -- this guy at the head of this network -- the chairman
of this holding company of terrorism, is the one who is responsible.
And as we are able to provide information that is not sensitive or
classified, I think we will try to do that in every way.
Q: Mr. President, how much cooperation are you getting from Russia?
And is Saudi Arabia going to allow us to use its air base, or aren't
you allowed to talk about it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I had an hour-long discussion -- nearly an
hour-long discussion with President Putin on Saturday. He was very
forthcoming in his willingness to work closely with the United States
in our efforts to battle terrorism. I was very pleased with my
discussion, Helen. I found him to be a person who -- first of all,
understands the vision that we've entered into a new conflict in the
21st century.
You need to know that when I was on Air Force One and ordered alerts
-- increased alert status for our troops, President Putin was the
first call I got. And he made it clear that he would stand down their
troops. In other words, to me it was a moment where it clearly said to
me, he understands the Cold War is over. In the past, as you well
know, that had the President put the -- raised the DEF CON levels of
our troops, Russia would have responded accordingly. There would have
been inevitable tension.
Along those -- the reason I bring that up is that Vladimir Putin
clearly understands that the Cold War is over, and that the United
States and Russia can cooperate. We can cooperate with a new strategic
arrangement. We can cooperate in the battle against terrorism. We
talked about a lot of areas of the world. We talked about the Central
Asian republics. And as you know, they have been forthcoming in their
statements about their understanding of a potential campaign. And I
told him I appreciated his willingness to work with us in that area.
And so it was a very constructive dialogue. He also understands that
terrorist activity is going to require a -- to fight terrorist
activity is going to require a broad front, and that his nation, like
ours, is subject to terrorist attack.
As far as the Saudi Arabians go -- and, again, the Secretary can
comment on this, he's had more recent contact with them than I have --
but they've been nothing but cooperative. Our dialogue has been one of
-- as you would expect friends to be able to discuss issues. And my
discussion with the Foreign Minister, as well as the Ambassador, have
been very positive. And there's been no indication, as far as I'm
concerned, that the Saudis won't cooperate once they understand
exactly our mission.
SECRETARY POWELL: That's exactly right, Mr. President. They have not
turned down any requests that we have presented to them.
Q: Mr. President, are you asking Congress for the power to waive
military restrictions on countries -- on all countries that help us,
including those we've considered as rogue nations? And, if so, why?
THE PRESIDENT: No, you're -- I think you're referring to -- first of
all, we've waived the sanctions on Pakistan and India, as related to
the Glenn Act. But I think you're referring to a report that we were
going to ask for a blanket -- blanket exceptions, or blanket waivers
for -- and the answer is no, we're not. That's an erroneous report.
Q:  -- just case-by-case now, is that idea, like --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, where given the -- where the law allows, I will
do it case-by-case. But we don't intend to ask Congress for a blanket
waiver, as reported in one of the journals.
Q: Mr. President, last week you condemned the Taliban regime, and said
that if they did not comply with your demands, they would share the
fate of the terrorists. That raises the question, what is your
administration and other coalition members planning to do to maintain
stability and order in Central Asia? Are we supporting this exiled
King, the northern insurgence, some U.N. administration? What are our
goals there, if the Taliban are to be removed?
THE PRESIDENT: Terry, I -- first of all, we were mindful that every
action could have a consequence. And as you know, we have spent a lot
of time and effort and focus on Pakistan. I just talked about the
waiving of sanctions with Pakistan and India. We believe that will
bring stability to that part of the world. We have talked to other
friends about how to make sure that the Musharraf presidency is a
stable presence in that part of the world.
In terms of activities within Afghanistan, I'm not going to talk about
those. I will not jeopardize our mission in any way by talking about
military or in-country plans. We have a responsibility as an
administration to speak as candidly as we can to the American people,
but without jeopardizing life. And so, therefore, we will be willing
to discuss that very important question at an appropriate time, and
now is not the appropriate time.
Q: Mr. President, to put some perspective into all of this, how much
-- can you tell us a rough estimate of how much the al Qaeda network
is worth domestically, and perhaps and/or worldwide?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think in my statement I made it clear that we
don't anticipate many assets to be frozen here in the United States,
and that most of the assets will be overseas. And one of the jobs that
the Secretary of Treasury is going to do is to help us identify the
size of the organization's balance sheet.
I can't give you a rough estimate right now.
Q:  -- hundreds of millions?
THE PRESIDENT: But let's put it this way -- enough to fund terrorist
activity that threatens freedom. And there are -- take, for example,
the non-governmental organizations. They run a fair amount of money
through their organizations, and we're beginning, as you can tell from
the list we've laid out, or will be able to tell from the list, that
we're beginning to set priorities of those most egregious and their
serving as fronts for terrorist activities. I don't know the full
amount of their cash flows, but one dime of money into a terrorist
activity is one dime too much.
And we know that these organizations cannot function if we're able to
-- the way they want to -- if we're able to chop off their monies. And
we intend to do so. And we've got a big task ahead. In Europe, for
example, there are probably going to need to be some laws changed in
order for those governments to react the way we expect them to. That's
why I said in my comment, while we now -- while the Secretary of
Treasury now has the option of providing some draconian measure, we
will look at it in on a case-by-case basis. We expect there to be a
complete and full effort to join us in affecting terrorist
organizations in all ways, shapes and forms.
The reason why we held this statement in the Rose Garden is it helps
the American people understand we are waging a different kind of war.
It is a war that is going to take a while. It is a war that will have
many fronts. It is a war that will require the United States to use
our influence in a variety of areas in order to win it. And one area
is financial.
We know there are some banks, for example, that provide easy access
money for terrorist organizations. We will deal with them. And if we
can't deal with them individually, we will call upon our friends to
deal with them.
One of the interesting things that the Secretary can tell you -- both
Secretaries will tell you -- is a lot of nations and their
representatives have asked, how can we help; what can we do to join
the effort. Some nations will feel comfortable providing troops. Some
nations will feel comfortable providing intelligence. Some nations
will only feel comfortable helping us wage the battle on the financial
front. And that's fine by us, because we understand how important it
is to stop the flow of funds.
Q: Mr. President, one question on the economy. How concerned are you
about consumer confidence right now? People are afraid to fly, they're
not traveling. And are you, at this point, concerned that the economy
has already dipped into a recession?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm -- I haven't seen -- I'm not a statistician,
but I've got enough anecdotal evidence to tell you there are people
hurting, and there are a little too many layoffs. And any time
somebody loses a job in America, I'm concerned.
And I'm concerned about the shock this has had on our economy, and I'm
concerned about, obviously, the effect of the airlines, for example,
the weakness in the airline sector has had on the economy. That's why
I signed the bill as soon as Congress passed it, to provide some
non-recourse loans to the airlines, to keep them up and running right
But I want to assure the American people that the fundamentals for
growth are very strong. That which made us unique in the world existed
prior to September -- that existed prior to September 11th exists
today. We're still a nation of entrepreneurs and small business
vitality. We're still a nation of innovation. We've got a very good
tax structure.
There is no question the attacks have affected America, but I think
when the investors sit back and take a hard look at the fundamentals
of the economy, they'll get back in the market. I think that consumers
will realize life is going on. I think people appreciate the fact that
our government has come together to act in a very significant way, to
provide monies where necessary, for -- whether it be to help rebuild
New York or whether it be to provide a financial basis for airlines to
stay in business. We'll come out of this, and we'll come out of it
See, these terrorists thought they could affect the United States.
They thought they could diminish our soul. They just strengthened our
country. And while the numbers aren't going to look too good in the
short-run, we'll be a stronger nation as a result of this. And they've
miscalculated. They made a terrible mistake. They thought somehow they
could affect the psyche of our country. They're wrong.
And not only that, we'll prove them wrong. They have roused the ire of
a great nation. And we're going to smoke them out of their caves, and
get them running. And we're going to use every means at our disposal
to do so. And this is going to require patience and focus and
discipline on behalf of the -- by the American people and by my
No, I understand six months from now we'll be sitting around talking
about some statistic, or something -- maybe there will be an argument
in Congress about some issue or something like that. But the American
people have got to understand that when I held up that badge, I meant
it: this war on terrorism is my primary focus. Of course I'm concerned
about people being laid off. Of course I'm concerned about the pieces
of legislation that may be stalled.
But we are talking about a campaign against people who hate freedom.
And the legacy that this administration and this generation can leave
for future generations is a legacy that is so vital for the
underpinnings of this nation and others who love freedom.
And so I -- we're a great nation, and the world has seen how great we
are. And you bet there are problems with our economy short-run, but
not long-run. And you bet there's a concern about whether or not we'll
be able to wrap up every financial instrument used to fund terrorism.
But make no mistake about it, we're going after them all. And we'll
win, we're going to win. Terrorists are going to realize they can't
face down freedom. Terrorists are going to realize they made a big
mistake, they miscalculated America. And I think they miscalculate a
lot of our allies and friends, too. There is a determined will, and we
accept the challenge in this administration.
Thank you all.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State.  Web site:

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