This Week in AML

The Growing Connection Between Domestic and International Terrorism

Domestic and international terrorism are growing challenges. This week, Executive Vice President John Byrne, and Creative Director Elliot Berman of the AML RightSource staff talk about an announcement by the US Department of Justice of the second guilty plea by a member of the "Boogaloo Bois" to conspiracy to provide material support to Hamas. John and Elliot explore the growing connection between these two global problems.


The Growing Connection Between Domestic and International Terrorism TRANSCRIPT


Elliot Berman: Hi, John, how are you this week?

John Byrne: Hi, Elliot, how's it going with you?

Elliot Berman: Things are okay, things are okay. How about you?

John Byrne: Yeah, things are good. It's I think as we've already talked about many times in 2021, this year has focused on domestic terrorism and two things I wanted to chat with you about is I saw a press release from DOJ that a second member of the so-called “Boogaloo Bois”,  pled guilty to conspiracy, but conspiracy to provide material support, to HAMAS, which, given their antisemitism doesn't surprise me, but sorta does surprise me.

Did you see that?

Elliot Berman: I did see that and It reminded me of some conversations you and I have had over the last six months or so about not only the continued increase in domestic terrorism, but the growing connection between domestic and international terrorists. And that's each of those buckets of terrorism, obviously very troublesome, but to see them starting to get together and work together just takes the threat and heightens it that much more.

John Byrne: Yeah. In this particular case, according to the release he pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations to your point, international terrorism. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and this was investigated jointly by Bureau of alcohol, tobacco firearms (ATF) and the FBI's joint terrorism task force. But like you said, the connection, it can't be ignored. It's just, it's not, again, not incredible, but in a way, is the good news, I guess, is there are statutes, so he pled guilty to violating one of them.

So that's, good, but I also noticed that Attorney General Garland testified this week for appropriations, for DOJ, and his very first statement in his in his oral statement to the committee was that his budget supports his commitment to addressing both international and domestic terrorism.

Elliot Berman: Yes. And that's he's made statements about that before we've seen strong statements from various elements of law enforcement and the department of justice. That is a priority. And it's good to see that there is alignment, budget related things and public statements because you really need budget support to make a lot of those public statements actually come true.

John Byrne: He's asked for an increase of 45 million for the FBI for domestic terrorism investigations, and interestingly 40 million for US Attorneys to manage what he calls “increasing domestic terrorism caseload”. So again, not good news, but positive that the US Attorneys both need the funding. And obviously they're going to be bringing more cases in an area that, again, we've talked about many times is more and more such a major problem for our country.

Elliot Berman: Indeed. I just want to circle back to the DOJ release about the Boogaloo Bois issue. You mentioned that ATF was involved, and part of the reason there was that the activity involved manufacturer of components for illegal firearms to be sold to HAMAS. And again, as you mentioned this investigation was very multi-faceted from FBI field office, the joint task force, and ATF.

I think we'll continue to see that federal and state level law enforcement will be combining on these investigations because they're complicated, and where the first piece comes from that gets them on the trail can be a lot of different things. It wasn't indicated here that it was a SAR, but we know that many of these things do start with a SAR or a phone call from a financial services company or someone else out in the public.

John Byrne: And final points are related to what you just said. We've talked to some of our peers in the financial world and obviously they're charged with dealing with, so many policies and procedures, and when it comes to domestic terrorism some banks are being proactive.

Other banks are being cautious depending on what their lawyers tell them. And it's interesting, at least anecdotally. I've heard from several that internal counsel in some cases says, “we want to hold back, potentially filing a SAR because it could be first amendment rights”, which again, we're both lawyers - that's insane because if you think that transactional activity was suspicious, a there's a safe harbor that we're both well aware of that protects you and [B] I think you'd be hard pressed to make a first amendment case if it has to do with violence. You know, you can make those general statements if you like -I don't mean you. I mean they can, but I think we're going to hear more. I'm curious what our clients, what the community is going to be saying about this six months to a year from now, because the pushback that some are getting from council in my view seems to be a little off center.

And since the FBI, DOJ, US Attorney’s are going to be focusing more and more on domestic terrorism. Our colleagues have to do the same and obviously be careful about what they do, but also not be hesitant because of potential issues, that really seem to me, to be a stretch.

Elliot Berman: I agree. But it is a complicated area and there isn't a great deal of law in terms of guidance. So, it is putting these counsel in the position of trying to look into the very murky crystal ball. But I agree with you. I think that being thoughtful and practical is important, but overly conservative is probably not the track to take.

John Byrne: So more to come from both of us on this as we go through 2021.

Elliot Berman: Yeah, John, I want to remind you of something brand new for you and I, and that is that this podcast is now available through Spotify. So our entire catalog of this weekend, AML and AML conversations, in addition to being available in the other sources that we've talked about over the last a number of months is now available on Spotify in their podcast section.

So for those of you who continue to pass our name around, or if you're new to us, that's a great source that you can find us every week.

John Byrne: Oh, that's excellent. And since we are doing some plugs, I know we're going a little bit over time. I want to remind people that we have a whole site off of our website, dedicated to our project, “Empowering Together: Women in AML” is a whole series of interviews with key leaders in the AML/Financial crime prevention space. So if you get the opportunity, take a listen, look at some of the content, including some of what we think are excellent interviews about career pathing and sponsoring and mentoring - all sorts of things like that.

Elliot Berman: All right, John, you have a great weekend and I will talk to you next week.

John Byrne: Take care.

Elliot Berman: Yep, bye-bye.