Terrorist Financing Staff Monograph
Al Qaeda’s Means and Methods to Raise, Move, and
There are two things a brother must always have for jihad, the self and money.
An al Qaeda operative5
Al Qaeda’s methods of raising and moving money have bedeviled the world’s
intelligence agencies for good reason. Al Qaeda has developed “an elusive network…an
unconventional web”6 to support itself, its operations, and its people. Al Qaeda has
demonstrated the ability, both before and after 9/11,7 to raise money from many different
sources, typically using a cadre of financial facilitators, and to move this money through
its organization by a variety of conduits, including hawaladars (see the discussion of
halawas, below), couriers, and financial institutions. These sources and conduits are
resilient, redundant, and difficult to detect.
Contrary to popular myth, Usama Bin Ladin does not support al Qaeda through a
personal fortune or a network of businesses. Rather, al Qaeda financial facilitators raise
money from witting and unwitting donors, mosques and sympathetic imams, and
nongovernment organizations such as charities. The money seems to be distributed as
quickly as it is raised, and we have found no evidence that there is a central “bank” or
“war chest” from which al Qaeda draws funds. Before 9/11 al Qaeda’s money was used
to support its operations, its training and military apparatus, the Taliban, and,
sporadically, other terrorist organizations. Since 9/11 al Qaeda’s money supports
operations and operatives and their families.
Since 9/11 the disruption of al Qaeda’s sources, facilitators, and conduits, primarily
through deaths and arrests, has made funds less available and their movement more
difficult. At the same time, al Qaeda’s expenditures have decreased since 9/11 because it
no longer supports the Taliban, its training camps, or an army. That said, al Qaeda still
appears to have the ability to fund terrorist operations.
There is much that the U.S. g