In the summer of 2003, a man tried to hop a plane at Heathrow Airport in London with a suitcase full of cash. It was the beginning of the end of his secret career as a terrorist supporter and financier.
This naturalized U.S. citizen from East Africa was in the middle of an overseas trip to raise money for his American foundation. During a stop in London, he was given $340,000 in sequentially numbered $100 bills from the Libyan government. What was the money for? The Libyan government had asked for his help with a plot to kill a major world leader—a member of the Saudi royal family. Part of the money was payment for the man’s help finding two Saudi dissidents who could carry out the plot and the rest was to be used to pay those dissidents for their services. (The man had already pocketed more than $500,000 for his help.) Now, he was about to grab a flight to Syria so he could deposit the $340,000 in Middle Eastern banks and launder it back to the U.S.
But there was a catch, so to speak: British officials nabbed him as he tried to sneak the cash through Customs. He admitted he got the money from Libya and frequently traveled there. And British authorities discovered he had three passports, including a "clean" one without Libyan stamps, to hide his travels to that country. British officials had no authority to hold him, but they did the next best thing: they shared the information with us. We were waiting for him when he got off the plane in the U.S. a month later and took him into custody.
Our investigation revealed that this man had a long-standing history of support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and had a close relationship with the government of Libya, which gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of more than a decade.
The end of the story? No, just the end of one chapter. Our terrorist financier pled guilty to a series of crimes and agreed to cooperate in our ongoing terrorism cases. Already, he's given us more vital details about the foiled Libyan assassination plot. And he's providing insights into terrorist activities and money flows...adding to our growing understanding of these operations and those who support them.
It's all part of our post-9/11 approach to protecting America from terrorist attack. Today, we work every terrorism case two ways.
- We use our law enforcement strengths—from our ability to swiftly arrest and detain dangerous players...to our national and international relationships with police and security officials...to our melding of criminal and national security case information—to take terrorist operatives and supporters off the streets.
- At the same time, we work every terrorism case as an intelligence investigation. We add what we learn during the case and from any post-trial cooperation to our broader understanding of how terrorists think, plan, and operate and use it to shape strategies and pursue new avenues that might lead us to terrorists.
The result that matters most? We're better able to prevent terrorist attacks...and protect you.
Links: FBI Counterterrorism web page | FBI Intelligence Program