Bin Laden Al Qaeda Financing Crime Essay

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R.T. Naylor has a unique, and some might say even rogue, interpretation of bin Laden and al Qaeda. While Naylor spends the entire Wages of Crime focusing on the flows of black market and blood money, he does so within a morally relativist framework. Chapter Seven of Wages of Crime is an addendum, new to the most recent edition of the book that was originally published prior to September 11. Responding to the pressing push to apply the economist’s approach to terrorist financing, Naylor understandably adds this chapter as part of his ongoing narrative on the wages of crime. Given the tenor and themes contained in the rest of the book, it comes as little surprise that Naylor reaches the conclusion that cutting off sources of terrorist financing is an unfeasible, ineffective, and perhaps even morally inappropriate method of addressing the problem of non-state actors. In an interview with Standard Schaefer for the alternative publication Counter Punch, Naylor clarifies some of his statements in Wages of Crime, inadvertently revealing the logically fallacious reasoning used in Chapter Seven of the book. For example, Naylor uses a false equivalency argument to claim the United States is targeting Muslim charities with suspected ties to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda unfairly and should also be targeting Jewish, Hindu, and Christian charitable organizations for the same reasons. These types of arguments do Naylor’s credibility a disservice, ultimately showing why Chapter Seven is one of the weakest of Wages of Crime.

Naylor admits only as much as al Qaeda depends on a diverse portfolio of financing, and that much of this financing does come from both state and non-state actors including Islamic charities. Where Naylor disagrees with most counterterrorism experts is on how to use finance as a counterterrorism tool. Some analysts do, however, agree that targeting the financial enterprises of al Qaeda in particular has proven somewhat futile. For example, Basile (2010) lists three reasons why attacking terrorist financial infrastructure fails. The first reason is that like all criminal organizations, al Qaeda’s finances are cleverly “hidden in legitimate and illegitimate businesses and disguised as commodities and cash,” (p. 169). Naylor makes this same case in Chapter Seven of Wages of Crime. Second, it is “almost impossible to stop al Qaeda” financially because the organization “learned to effectively leverage the global financial system of capital markets,” (Basile, 2010, p. 169). Again, this is a point that Naylor makes strongly in Chapter Seven.
The third factor that Basile (2010) mentions is also one that Naylor is summarily concerned with: the role of Islamic charities as money laundering venues. Now, Naylor (2004) argues that not all Islamic charities launder money or have terrorist ties and that targeting them is not politically expedient. This is a point that is important to make, and which most sensible analysts would begrudgingly agree, even while scrutinizing the books of prominent Muslim charities.

Another issue Naylor touches upon in Chapter 7, and indeed throughout Wages of Crime, is the difficult with tracking vast global financial networks. Al Qaeda, like any criminal organization, uses similar financial tactics as legitimate organizations. These tactics are often disguised as legitimate business activities, and in some cases they actually are legitimate, as when the United States CIA or Saudi Arabia offers financing directly. In fact, Naylor would do well to further update this chapter as the author does not yet fully grasp the power of the Internet in fomenting terrorist financial networking and money laundering capacities. The Internet enables “a broad reach, timely efficiency, as well as a certain degree of anonymity and security for both donors and recipients,” (Jacobson, 2009, p. 353). As such, the Internet makes it both easier for terrorist organizations to covertly conduct their business activities and/or launder money, and also easier for counterterrorism experts to track and monitor that activity.

Naylor’s premises about terrorism financing are fine. Yes, al Qaeda and bin Laden wield the same type of financial clout as any other criminal organization. Yes, it is challenging to trace all terrorist financing, particularly when political constraints are involved, from links to America’s allies to links to charities that otherwise do good work. Naylor also harps on the origins of bin Laden and al Qaeda, the sinister collusions between the United States and the mujahedeen. However, the conclusions Naylor (2004) draws about al Qaeda and terrorist financing are problematic and illogical. Naylor (2004) assumes that because following the money is difficult or politically incorrect that this entire method should be….....

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Basile, M. (2010). Going to the source. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 27(3): 169-185.

Clunan, A.L. (2006). The fight against terrorist financing. Political Science Quarterly 121(4): 569-596.

Freeman, M. (2010). The sources of terrorist financing: theory and typology. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34(6): 461-475.

Jacobson, M. (2009). Terrorist financing and the internet. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 33(4): 353-363.

Naylor, R.T. (2004). Wages of Crime. Cornell University.

Schaefer, S. (2003). The wages of terror, an interview with R.T. Naylor. Counter Punch.

Zdanowicz, J.S. (2004). Detecting money laundering and terrorist financing via data mining. Communications of the ACM 47(5):

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