Faisal Shahzad’s alleged terrorist plot — which involved detonating a homemade bomb in New York City and then fleeing to Dubai — was apparently paid for in cash.
Based on news reports, Shahzad used hard currency to both buy a truck (which would eventually house the bomb) and pay for his Dubai-bound flight out of the country. Cash might seem an odd payment choice, considering the popularity of debit and credit cards: The most recent Federal Reserve data shows that noncash payments (including debit and credit cards) in the United States totaled $75.8 trillion on 2006, increasing at a rate of 3.9 percent per year since 2003.
However, experts say some terrorists have good reasons to prefer cash to payment cards. “I’m not surprised to the extent he chose to use cash, as that is the most anonymous and ubiquitous payment method out there,” payments expert Judith Rinearson, a partner with the international law firm of Bryan Cave, tells me. “It’s certainly more anonymous than prepaid cards,” for example, she says.
You’ve almost certainly read news reports on the alleged terrorist plot that took shape around the anniversary of Sept. 11, including details suggesting a link between the attack’s funding and credit cards. But it also appears that aside from being aided by credit cards, the alleged terrorists may have also been undone by plastic.
If you need proof that the war against terrorism isn’t only being fought with guns and bombs, consider the image of a U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan, carrying a credit card reader.
Illegal drug operations, terrorist groups and other criminal enterprises use money laundering to hide the movement of their funds. So after reading in the Wall Street Journal that the Supreme Court today ruled against the government in two distinct money laundering cases, my concern was that it may become harder for authorities to target terrorists and other criminals for prosecution.