Persisten disputas interagencias en guerra contra el terrorismo

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. programs to help countries choke off terrorist funds are hamstrung by turf battles, leadership squabbles and confusion over available funding, the investigative arm of Congress said on Tuesday.
For example, the study by the Government Accountability Office said the U.S. Treasury and State Departments could not even agree on who was in charge of training and assistance abroad.
Several government departments disagreed strongly with the report, saying it overstated discord and failed to portray the overall effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts. Letters from the departments were included in the report.
The GAO study focused on US steps to help other countries curb the flow of illicit funds and protect their financial sectors from abuse, an important part of the U.S. government’s broader war against terrorism. More than $200 million in suspected terrorist funds have been seized.
«The U.S. government lacks an integrated strategy to coordinate the delivery of counter-terrorism financing training and technical assistance to countries vulnerable to terrorist financing,» the GAO report said.
Justice Department officials cited in the report said «roles and procedures were a matter of disagreement.» The study also said that «due to disagreements over leadership and procedures, some energy and talent of staff are wasted trying to resolve interagency disputes.»
It also said various officials said funding for such training and assistance was inadequate, although a lack of clarity made it hard to determine the actual amount allocated to these efforts.
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and one of the lawmakers who commissioned the study, told Reuters he was very concerned by the GAO’s findings and «stunned» that four years after the September 11 2001 attacks «turf battles» were undermining the financial fight against terror.
«There is a ship afloat without a captain,» said Grassley, who chairs the Senate finance committee.
Lawmakers had previously expressed concern about the government’s overall terrorism financing strategy and seemed uncertain about who was in charge.
A law passed last year called on the government to provide a status report by September 2005 evaluating anti-terrorism financing efforts — «including identifying who, if anyone, has primary responsibility for setting priorities.»
A Treasury spokesperson said on Tuesday the status report had not been submitted yet, adding, «We are working on the report and remain focused on getting a thorough, quality response to Congress as soon as possible.»
In letters attached to the GAO report, the Treasury, State and Justice Departments expressed strong reservations about some of the findings.
The State Department, for example, said there was no need to «develop and implement an integrated strategic plan» because such a plan already existed.
The Treasury’s letter said the report focused on inevitable differences of opinion within the government and «fails to give due credit to the relevant departments, and the USG (U.S. government) as a whole, for the successes that have been achieved through unprecedented interagency coordination.»
Sen. Grassley said a 2003 GAO report had revealed similar shortcomings, but «we find out two years later … that we still have the problems and nothing was done on the recommendations.»
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved

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