When a terrorist attack takes place on U.S. soil, a flurry of standard questions is sure to follow. Many undoubtedly wonder if the terrorist is connected to a radical jihadist group and whether they were on the federal government’s watch list before carrying out the attack. But one very important question often flies under the radar: How are they financing their attacks?
According to a new report from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), terrorists have consistently engaged in “welfare jihad,” where they trade food stamps to finance attacks both domestically and abroad. The report raises key issues to do with thwarting potential terrorists and finding ways to reduce welfare fraud.
Terrorists Exploit Welfare
The GAI found that the Boston Marathon bombers – Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev – exploited the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to help fund their attacks.
In April 2013, the brothers set off two homemade pressure-cooker bombs in central Boston, near the finish line of the city’s annual marathon. Three people were killed and several hundred others were injured. One of the brothers died during a shootout with police, and the other is currently in federal prison, awaiting execution.
The Tsarnaevs reportedly took $100,000 through public assistance, subsidized housing, and other forms of welfare. They read al-Qaeda terrorist propaganda, which taught them how to create the homemade bombs used during their attacks. In the terrorist manifesto, the brothers also learned how to “steal money from disbelievers … as a form of jihad.”
Terrorists have consistently engaged in “welfare jihad.”
The GAI report detailed other instances in which terrorists exploited the U.S. welfare system to fund their attacks.
In Indianapolis, a chain of convenience stores was purchasing food stamps from customers for 50 cents on the dollar. The leader of the group was arrested after returning to the U.S. from Yemen, where he was found guilty of funding terror groups.
In 2015, police stopped a group of men traveling through Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, who were all carrying large suitcases. After searching the suitcases, officials learned that they were carrying a “staggering” amount of money to the Middle East. They turned out to be running a “hawala” – a courier business transferring funds from place to place.
The FBI tracked down 10 hawala clients who were sending large amounts of cash from the U.S. and found that every single person was receiving welfare benefits from U.S. taxpayers.
They were committing “straight up fraud,” an FBI agent said.
Another episode saw Ali Ugas Mohamud, who lived in Texas, run a store that stole $1.4 million in funds. He was purchasing food stamps, selling them to people, and then wiring the funds to Somalia. In 2013, he was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.
In 2006, a man who owned a grocery store in Chicago, Illinois, was imprisoned for stealing $1.4 million through food stamp fraud and sending the money to aid the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Two Somali store owners in Michigan pleaded guilty in 2010 to food stamp fraud after getting caught running an unregistered currency transfer enterprise that funneled money to “terror hot spots” in northern Africa and the Middle East.
One of the most scathing examples in the report involved Waad Ramadan Alwan, who spent eight years helping jihadist groups in the Middle East murder American troops in Iraq. Alwan came to America as a “refugee” and was accepted into welfare programs. Authorities busted him after his fingerprints were discovered on a bomb, and in 2013, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for terrorist activities.
Can it Be Prevented?
Food stamp and welfare fraud are a major issue, but little action has been taken in the D.C. swamp. Although these loopholes have been known about for years, they have yet to be closed by the Department of Agriculture, which runs the SNAP program.
The only way to prevent fraud and abuse, particularly with terrorists, is to clean up regulations and tighten screening measures for all applicants. This is part of what Trump has been trying to implement with all government agencies, particularly by introducing more stringent vetting procedures.
The GAI report serves as a scathing warning that terrorists are exploiting a taxpayer-funded program to fund their operations. Some are misusing U.S. government programs to not only destroy lives but to also make a political statement. It is imperative that the U.S. not allow political correctness to halt the implementation of more stringent policies, which may help stop the next terrorist from funding their operation.