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Panel I of a Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee - Terrorist Financing, Money Laundering and the 9/11 Commission Report

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service August 23, 2004 Monday







REP. PETER KING (R-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Congressman Hamilton, it's always great to have you back. You-first of all, you have to be commended for the great job you did as vice chairman, but also for the tremendous amount of time you're putting in this month, going from committee to committee. I would think, after all the years you spent in Congress, you wouldn't be that anxious to come back. But we certainly benefit from your wisdom.

Mr. Hamilton, in your statement today and, I believe, also in the report, you mention the fact that there was no substantial source of domestic financial support for the 9/11 attacks. From your investigations, you were able to determine whether or not there is a threat today, though, or real concern that there is domestic funding now for future attacks, or whether or not the al Qaeda supporters in this country are able to raise money domestically?

MR. HAMILTON: We've not found any evidence of that, that they're raising money from domestic sources.

REP. KING: Also, you mentioned in your statement-and we've seen evidence of it-is that the financial services community has been cooperative as far as dealing with the federal government and providing information.

There's a concern that some of us have, though, that perhaps the federal government is not giving enough information back to the financial institutions, which they could use to learn more or perhaps spot things they wouldn't be able to spot otherwise. Do you think the government is implementing the Patriot Act sufficiently as far as giving data back to the financial community?

MR. HAMILTON: We heard a lot about that feedback problem, and we think it's a genuine one.

You're right, of course. We agree that the financial institutions-domestic financial institutions have been very cooperative. A lot of that, I believe, really works because of personal relationships that have developed between the government and the private sector. And it's a very important fact.

But the lack of feedback from the government to the financial institutions-we heard a lot about that in our interviews with banking personnel. And what does not seem to be present is a systematized, formalized way of getting that information flow working. It depends too much, I guess, on informal arrangements, not enough in a systematic way.

There may be reasons for that. I know they've tried very hard, for example, to develop a model of terrorist financing. That's not yet been developed, because it's very, very hard to do.

But in-that being said, I think problem-steps are being taken to address the so-called feedback problem. We encourage that. We'd like to see that institutionalized as well.

REP. KING: Mr. Hamilton, if you could perhaps just clarify the record-you were asked before a multi-part question, and in there, there was a statement which I think has not been corrected, where it was suggested that somehow the Bush administration was responsible for getting the Saudi royal family, members of the family, out of the United States. Wasn't it the finding of your commission that that was done by Richard Clarke, and it never went any higher than him, and that nobody at any higher level in the administration was ever contacted on that issue?

MR. HAMILTON: That's correct, Mr. King. A contact was made by the FBI to Richard Clarke about Saudi citizens leaving this country. And we looked into that very, very carefully. This occurred within hours after the 9/11 attack, and Mr. Clarke was very, very busy at that time in making decisions every hour. And he asked the FBI if they had investigated the backgrounds of these people. The FBI said they had, and Mr. Clarke gave his approval to let these flights go ahead. And so far as we are aware, the decision went no higher than Mr. Clarke. And we found no evidence that any flight of Saudi nationals departed airspace before it was reopened; that was one of the charges.

We found no involvement of U.S. officials at the political level-I do not include Mr. Clarke being at the political level-in the decision making. We believe that the FBI screening was satisfactory. We subsequently-after the fact and with a much larger list, we ran the names against our lists and found-and made extensive interviews. And so the independent check of our database found no links between terrorism and the Saudis who departed the country. Now this too is an ongoing investigation, and we give you what we were able to find or not able to find, and those were the conclusions.

REP. OXLEY: The gentleman's time has expired.

REP. KING: There's absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever?

REP. OXLEY: The gentleman's time has expired.

Gentleman from California, Mr. Sherman.


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