Today, we mark the 20th anniversary of September 11th, 2001. With 33.2% of the world’s population under the age of 20, approximately one in three people have no memory of the events of that tragic day and how those events profoundly changed the world as we know it. With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the most substantial overhaul of the AML regime since the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1970, the compliance space was one of the areas most transformed to and spurred to action in a post-9/11 world.
Aside from human capital and intelligence, the aforementioned legislation is likely the single greatest tool in the fight against illicit finance. While some might question the utility of their filings, the vitalness of BSA data was underscored by insights from FinCEN’s BSA Value Project, which launched in 2019. Notably, in addition to disclosing that every single FBI subject name is run against the BSA database, the BSA Value Project revealed that one in five FBI international terrorism cases rely on BSA data, and a subsequent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested that approximately 35% of law enforcement surveyed, across 6 key agencies, utilized BSA-related reports in criminal investigations specifically related to terrorism. As the September 2020 GAO report highlighted, BSA reports are proving increasingly invaluable to law enforcement with an overwhelming majority (74%) indicating they had “no comparable alternative information source that was as efficient as using BSA reports.”
As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Taliban again control Afghanistan and its vast territory and resources. Splinter groups of al Qaeda operate on numerous continents, including in Afghanistan. And in the time since 2001, terror organizations have evolved to operate increasingly in the real economy, utilizing tried and true tricks typically deployed by money launderers and drug traffickers to both raise and obfuscate their funds and fuel their ideology. Countermeasures to detect, disrupt and dismantle terror organizations and global criminal syndicates are as important as ever. And just as these organizations have evolved, so too must our application of intelligence, data and technology. As outlined in ‘The 9/11 Commission Report’, the money-movement methods employed by the hijackers would’ve been difficult to detect in a pre-PATRIOT Act world. While it may be perceived as burdensome, the additional reporting requirements set forth by the PATRIOT Act, and subsequent legislation, is an attempt to ensure the calls to 'Never Forget' result in a world where the flow of illicit finance is constrained and events like 9/11 would never occur again.