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This Week in AML

Continued Vigilance on Domestic Terrorism

Domestic Terrorism is a constant issue that effects all of us. Join John and Elliot this week, as they discuss the current landscape of combating terrorism, with a specific focus on the financial elements, and how each of us in the community can be a part of the solution to this critical issue.


Continued Vigilance on Domestic Terrorism TRANSCRIPT

Elliot Berman: Hi John, how are you today?

John Byrne: Hi, Elliot - good. And obviously as everybody knows this week the verdicts in Minnesota came down. There's at least some initial hope on all sorts of issues that I know the whole country has been grappling with. So that's important to note today.

Elliot Berman: Yes, indeed. And this week I saw that Attorney General Garland gave a speech in Oklahoma City commemorating the 26th anniversary of the attack there on the [Alfred P. ] Murrah building. So I thought you and I have talked about domestic terrorism a lot over the last year, and I thought it would be good [to] maybe take off from the attorney General's comments and talk about it again today. Did you see the remarks that were public?

John Byrne: Yeah, he noted that it was 26 years ago and said in his prepared remarks, that although many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh are still with us.

And then he reminds everybody that just last month, as we know, the FBI warned of the ongoing and heightened threat posed by domestic violent extremists. And I know we chatted about this as well - I saw separately, a report issued on the same day.

This is April 19th by the digital citizens Alliance - and the report, “the domestic extremist next door” goes into great lengths about the abuse of social media by militia groups. But one of the things they highlighted, which I didn't think that much about until, you and I talked and we saw the Garland speech is that April 19th, actually is symbolic for those in the militia movement.

So it was the date of the end of the Waco standoff. And then of course it was Oklahoma City. So that was why this particular organization released this report and people should take a look at it. It's a lengthy report, 50 + pages. And they do talk about how social media has been used by these individuals in these organizations.

And obviously January 6 [2021] is a perfect example of that. But they also talk about something like we have talked about, and that is the current lack of penalties under federal law for domestic terrorism. And I know there's been a lot of debate on this because some feel there’s a potential for abuse while others feel that there are other statutes that can be used.

So, I'm certainly not prepared to weigh in nor do I think I have the expertise to do that. But I do think that this highlights what you just said, and that is the heightened activity of domestic terrorism has a financial component. And obviously our community needs to be aware of that, and on top of it. [We need to] read and pay attention to anything that comes out, that sort of enhances our ability to be proactive.

Elliot Berman: Agreed. And it is a continuing challenge for the financial crimes compliance community to identify activity. As we know, going all the way back, and we talked about this before, to the 9/11 report, oftentimes whether it's foreign or domestic terrorist activity, the financial clues are not obvious because they look a lot like a low dollar what I'll call in quotes, “normal activity”. So continuing to identify topologies and share them across the community is a very valuable thing.

I too, would not take on as an expert, the whole question of whether we have enough statutes or we need more statutes, but we all definitely need continuing vigilance. And I think that's an important thing to get out of the report that you talked about and also out of the Attorney General's comments.

John Byrne: Right. And, again, going back to this, we've seen a lot of different statistics, but the FBI does typically pour over hundreds of cases of domestic terrorism and they do run across the political spectrum, though they're mostly on the far right - although not exclusively, obviously you had the shootings in 2017 of Republicans at practice for the congressional baseball game.

And I think that the notion of creating that statute is what’s going to lead to in terms of SAR reporting and all that sort of stuff. That's the debate that should happen, obviously. And as filers of that, our community should have a voice. Maybe we're not a primary stakeholder, but be part of it. I think at the end of the day, it's like you said it's, staying on top of things, staying engaged, paying attention.

So we'll continue to provide our community with reports that we think are valuable. Obviously, if you're not already signed up to the FBI alerts on their website, you should do that. This digital citizens Alliance don't pretend to know much about it, but I got it from a good group of people that I'm engaged in. That's also maybe report to take a look at, but just in general you stay on top of this.

Our friend and colleague Dennis Lormel has written extensively about domestic terrorism. I think it's going to continue to be a priority in 2021 and beyond. So we just wanted to highlight that this is a horrific week in terms of April 19th. But the more we pay attention, the better we are.

Elliot Berman: Agreed. So John, before we ring off, I want to give you a chance to do what you did a couple of weeks ago. And that's give a quick plug for our for this podcast and our other podcast series. So can you let our listeners know how they can sign up and subscribe?

John Byrne: Two ways - you can obviously go on our website and check on from time to time, but that obviously takes a little more effort, but you go on an iTunes and you can subscribe there.

And as Elliot points out, it's under the heading of AML conversations.

I'm very excited about the next one that'll be out shortly because it was a really fun interview. I interviewed Paul Camacho, who is involved in financial crime prevention at a tribal gaming property in Southern California, but spent many years at IRS. And so we talked exclusively about his passion regarding the legacy of Elmer Ivy, who was an IRS CI chief in the thirties and forties who did some amazing things.

Look for that. That'll be out shortly, but of course, subscribe, these are shorter pieces, what you're listening to today. Those other ones can go 25-30 minutes, but we hope you'll find all of that pretty compelling.

Elliot Berman: Thanks, John. And I will talk to you next week.

John Byrne: All right, Elliot, stay safe.

Elliot Berman: You too. Bye-bye.