(WATCH) Funding Terrorism

The ground war between Israel and both Hamas and Hezbollah has raised questions about the underground world of money and financing that’s behind decades of terrorism. In the year leading up to the attacks, both groups received large amounts of funding through crypto, but, as Scott Thuman reports, there’s a longstanding network that works like a multinational criminal enterprise.

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

As the Israeli army fights inside Gaza, a clearer picture is emerging about Hamas, the terror group that launched the deadly October 7 attack.

Founded in 1987, Hamas is made up of Islamist extremists, committed to the destruction of Israel, and designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997.

While its armed fighters conduct attacks, the Hamas political wing runs Gaza, and a big fundraising network brings in cash.

John Hannah, a former national security advisor for then Vice President Dick Cheney, says some of that money comes from America.

John Hannah: Oh there’s no question, there have been serious FBI investigations and court cases brought against American front organizations for Hamas, who were engaged in all kinds of illegal fundraising to support what was out-and-out a terrorist group, according to the United States government.

In 2008, a U.S.-based Palestinian charity called the Holy Land Foundation and five individuals were found guilty of providing at least $12 million to support Hamas.

Since then, the group has continued to use charities as fronts. And donations tend to rise whenever Israel takes military action, according to Dr. Matthew Levitt, an expert on terror financing at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Matthew Levitt: Most of them are not going to put up on their website, “Hey, we’re Hamas. We’re Islamic Jihad. Give us money.” They’re going to show horrific, painful pictures of a dead Palestinian child. The kind of picture that will make you and me, all of us, feel sad and want to do something to help, but that money is going to be diverted.

One of the biggest and most reliable sources of money for Hamas and another Islamist armed terror group, Hezbollah, that’s been attacking Israel from the north, is Iran.

Levitt: Hezbollah gets, the U.S. government says, between $700 million and a billion dollars — with a B — a year from Iran.

But Hezbollah also functions like a multinational corporation with a global network of operations. We went to see one such network for ourselves five years ago in South America.

Situated next to Brazil and Argentina, South America’s two biggest economies, the tri-border area has become a shopper’s dream. But cloaked in that commerce may be terrorism.

Luis Rojas was head of the country’s drug enforcement team for years. He helped track the flow of money to Hezbollah.

Luis Rojas: Its face here may be “political,” but it’s actually a strong terrorist organization, and the tri-border area is probably, possibly, its second largest global base in terms of logistics and financing.

But with a benefactor as rich as Iran and financial networks that have been developed over decades, including everything from charity to drug-running, cutting off the supply of money to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas is a long-term challenge.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Washington.

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