Donovan Moves to Seize Terrorist Assets, Redirect Funds to Urban Security Programs
Staten Island, NY—May 23, 2016....Continuing his focus on anti-terror policies to defend New York City and the country from attack, Congressman Donovan today introduced legislation to seize terrorist assets and direct them to a critical homeland security grant program. The Terrorist Asset Seizure Reform (TASR) Act would confiscate the interest accruing in accounts frozen by U.S. financial sanctions. Additionally, the TASR Act would seize the frozen principal of terrorists, financiers of terrorism, and foreign terrorist organizations one year after the U.S. freezes their accounts. Donovan sponsored the legislation, with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) as original cosponsors.
Congressman Donovan said, “Terrorists take advantage of the West’s financial system to export their hateful violence. My bill puts them on notice: their blood money won’t sit in Western banks earning interest – it will go to protecting innocent life against their disgusting ideology and attacks.”
NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito said, “I’d like to thank Congressman Donovan for his unwavering commitment to the safety and security of New York City and our nation. The TASR Act that Congressman Donovan is introducing would provide New York with more funding to support the preparedness, prevention, and response capabilities of the NYPD, FDNY, and NYC Emergency Management Department. As our city remains the number one terror target in America, we would welcome the additional UASI funds to help keep NYC safe.”
Assemblyman Ron Castorina said, “I thank Congressman Donovan for his common sense leadership on this issue. While highlighting the vulnerabilities of our current financial and criminal justice systems, this bill allows us to seize money from terrorists and others that wish to do us harm, and to repurpose those funds for the enhancement of our safety and security here at home.”
Financial sanctions are used to deny enemies of the United States – including belligerent governments and international terrorists – access to U.S. financial institutions. Once the U.S. targets a country or person with sanctions, U.S. financial institutions must freeze any assets associated with their accounts and reject any future transactions.
However, U.S. banks are currently required to continue paying interest on all frozen accounts. This creates a potential windfall for the account holders should the sanctions be lifted. The TASR Act instructs the U.S. Department of the Treasury to confiscate the accrued interest on all frozen accounts – those held by nations and by individuals – each year. The TASR Act goes a step further in targeting groups for which no legitimate reason to return frozen assets will ever exist: terrorists, financiers of terrorism, and foreign terrorist organizations. For those accounts, the Department of the Treasury would confiscate the principal after one year.
The TASR Act redirects the confiscated assets to a critical homeland security grant program: the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). High-risk cities nationwide fund anti-terror efforts through the program. Last year, for example, New York City received $180 million to prepare for and protect against terror attacks, including to purchase equipment to protect against a dirty bomb attack.
President Obama’s budget for next fiscal year proposed slashing UASI funds in half. Earlier this year, Congressman Donovan – who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications – heard testimony from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the consequences of the proposed cuts.