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02 August 2004

U.S. Financial Sector Running Normally Despite Threat, Snow Says

Treasury secretary applauds industry's resiliency and strength

The United States' financial system opened for business August 2 and continued to operate normally despite a terror alert issued the previous day, Treasury Secretary John Snow says.

"I applaud the financial services industry for remaining open for business in the face of yesterday's reporting," he said in an August 2 statement.

The Department of Homeland Security raised the threat alert for the New York Stock Exchange and private banks in New York and New Jersey as well as for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said August 1 that the action was prompted by "very specific" intelligence reports indicating that al-Qaeda terrorist network had planned attacks on high-profile buildings in the United States housing international and private banks.

Snow said the Department of the Treasury has been working closely with law enforcement and security officials as well as international organizations and the private sector to protect the financial infrastructure from terrorist attack.

"While we must always remain vigilant against terror, we will not be intimidated and prevented from enjoying our lives and exercising our freedoms," Snow said.

Following is the text of his statement:

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U.S. Department of the Treasury
Office of Public Affairs

Statement by Treasury Secretary John Snow
August 2, 2004

Our nation's financial markets, financial institutions and financial sector continue to operate normally. I applaud the financial services industry for remaining open for business in the face of yesterday's reporting. The extraordinary commitment of the men and women who make our financial systems work is invaluable; their work demonstrates the resiliency and strength of our financial system.

The Treasury Department has been in close, continual and ongoing cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, other federal, state and local financial regulators, the international financial institutions, and the private sector to strengthen and protect our critical financial infrastructure.

Working together we have taken numerous steps including: improved communications systems and protocols between and among financial regulators and critical financial institutions, coordinated identification of potential vulnerabilities in the financial services sector and efforts to mitigate these vulnerabilities, joined with financial regulators and private sector financial services groups to present security seminars to financial business leaders in major cities all across the nation, issued guidance on business continuity planning, and conducted numerous drills and exercises to test backup systems and prepare financial professionals.

People around the world rightly have confidence in the U.S. financial markets. While we must always remain vigilant against terror, we will not be intimidated and prevented from enjoying our lives and exercising our freedoms. Our resolve is indivisible -- and unyielding. In the war on terrorist financing we have successfully disrupted and, in some cases, dismantled the financial infrastructure of terrorist operations. Working in cooperation with the international community, we have frozen more than $140 million in terrorist-related assets, designated 383 individuals and entities as terrorist supporters, apprehended or disrupted key terrorist facilitators and deterred donors from supporting al-Qaeda and other like-minded terrorist groups. In addition, the Administration has collaborated with Congress to develop a new Treasury Department structure -- the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) -- to strengthen our efforts to fight terrorist financing. America is safer today because we have made it harder and costlier for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to raise and move money around the world.

The international financial institutions -- the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in particular -- have also taken extraordinary measures to protect against the threat of a terrorist attack. The U.S. Treasury has worked closely with these institutions to help ensure that they will continue to make their vital contributions to the global economy. We applaud their dedication as they continue to operate during the raised threat level.

Federal regulators and law enforcement officials will continue to work closely with financial market participants to quickly respond to any potential market disruptions. The key financial coordinating groups which work with the financial markets in our efforts to secure the financial infrastructure will continue their activity. Among those are the President's Working Group on Financial Markets (PWGFM) chaired by Treasury whose members include the heads of four agencies: Treasury, Federal Reserve Board, SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] and CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission]; the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) which is chaired by the Treasury and comprised of federal and state financial regulators; the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC) -- the chairman of which is appointed by the Treasury Secretary; and the Financial Services Information and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC). All are in close cooperation and coordination with each other, the Department of Homeland Security, other key agencies and the private sector.

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