Testifying Before Congress
May 12, 2016
On May 12, 2016 Antiquities Coalition chairman and founder Deborah Lehr testified before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the House Committee on Homeland Security. The hearing, titled “Following the Money: Examining Current Terrorist Financing Trends and the Threat to the Homeland” explored the developing trends in illicit financial activity that may be used to support terrorist plots and operations against the United States. It focused on terrorist financing through criminal activity, charity fraud, and antiquities smuggling. Representative Peter King (R-New York’s 2nd District), Chairman of the Subcommittee, and Ranking Member Brian Higgins (D-New York’s 27th District) led the hearing.
“Culture has become a weapon of war and a fundraising tool for violent extremist organizations across the Middle East and Northern Africa,” said Lehr. “The problem is widespread across the MENA region. Many of the attacks on heritage are targeted at its economy, which is reliant on cultural tourism. A slowing economy threatens political stability, a point not lost on ISIL.”
Lehr also testified how the U.S. Special Forces raid on the compound of Daesh’s “Chief Financial Officer,” Abu Sayyaf, confirmed that the extremist group has institutionalized the trafficking and destruction of antiquities. Lehr—joined by several committee members—warned that the terrorist organization is making significant profits from this plunder.