New US counterterrorism NGO working to expose terrorist financing worldwide

Fran Townsend, the president of CEP, served as an adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism for former US president George W. Bush.

September 23, 2014 02:19
2 minute read.

Islamic State captures millions of dollars, gold bars in Iraq . (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

A new counterterrorism NGO led by international leaders and former diplomats called the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) debuted on Monday.

It seeks to target the growing threat from Islamist groups on multiple fronts, one of which is exposing their financing networks.

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Fran Townsend, the president of CEP, served as an adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism for former US president George W. Bush. She told The Jerusalem Post that her organization will do what governments typically have a difficult time doing: countering the extremist narrative and propaganda in the media, which are used to gain new recruits.

The organization will “compliment what is already being done by the government,” but focus on the “bad guys who do all sorts of things that governments are not so well equipped” to deal with, said Townsend.

“Jihadists are putting out propaganda” and we will provide information so that journalists and academics can more easily deal with this threat, she said.

There is currently no entity filling in this gap, countering the horrific human rights abuses and the killing by these groups of more Muslims than any Western government has done, Townsend asserted.

In addition, a key goal would be “uncovering and connecting the dots of financing” these groups, something she said is similar to the activities of another organization she is involved with, United Against Nuclear Iran.

United Against Nuclear Iran, founded in 2008, has led a private sanctions campaign, including legislative initiatives aimed at “ending the economic and financial support of the Iranian regime by corporations, firms, entities, and individuals,” according to its website.

Townsend also said that the new organization would try “to reach individuals that are involved in providing support to these groups and try to convince them to stop.”

Establishing CEP has been in the works for more than a year and its debut is timed just as the threat from Islamic State has metastasized along with other conflicts involving the terrorist groups of Hamas and Boko Haram.

“This is the future of foreign policy: Where a government cannot act, fails to act, or falls short, there is a role for a private, non-profit group to help hold accountable those who support extremist groups,” said Mark Wallace, CEO of the organization and a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

“We do not have armies to command, but we can help degrade extremist organizations by exposing their networks of financial support and bringing to bear enormous public and private-sector pressure,” he said.

CEP will use social media, regulatory, economic, and counter-narrative campaigns to combat support for these groups and create a database of their supporters and financial networks.

“There is a responsibility for private groups – CEP being the most effective example – to organize in opposition to extremists and publicly scrutinize the previously unknown financial architecture that frames and drives violent extremism around the world,” said Dennis Ross, the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior White House official dealing with the region.

CEP is based in New York and will have personnel working out of Washington and Brussels.

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