LENS Essay Series: “Money Makes the World of Terrorism Go Round”

Today’s post introduces another addition to the LENS Essay Series, and this one is by my super-smart research assistant, Duke Law 2L Nicole De Brigard.  Her essay is entitled “Money Makes the World of Terrorism Go Round” and examines what may be one of the most effective ways to counter terrorist threats: go after their finances.

Nicole is an original, innovative thinker so she doesn’t just give you a primer on the law or offer critiques, she also proposes solutions.  Check out the abstract below but be sure to read her full essay here.


Upon thinking of terrorist organizations, one may conceptualize violent attacks, extremist ideologies, member radicalization, or deadly weapons. The commonality amongst these terrorist functions is that they all need money to exist. Rather than focusing on terrorist functions, the United States’ counterterrorism efforts should focus on terrorist financing––the enabling source of terrorist organizations.

Although the United States has established a Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) legal framework, the substantive law is an inadequate response to the unique––and evolving––threat of terrorist financing. From the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2021 (AMLA), CFT efforts have been couched within financial legislation that rely on the formal financial system to target money laundering. Although the AMLA is a partial response to the CFT framework’s deficiencies, several issues remain unaddressed, such as the financing of domestic terrorism and the increasing use of cryptocurrency in terrorist financing.

This paper proposes an innovative CFT framework specifically and solely tailored to the complexity of terrorist financing. This framework prioritizes a global approach, provides a preemptive response to the sourcing of terrorist funds, and responds to the informal loopholes that terrorist organizations use to process funds outside of the formal financial system.

About the Author

Nicole De Brigard is a 2L (J.D. 2023) at Duke University School of Law, where she is a Staff Editor for the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law. Nicole is from Fort Lauderdale, FL, and graduated from the University of Florida in 2020 with a B.A. in Political Science and Criminology. During her 1L summer, Nicole interned at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C. For her 2L summer, Nicole will work as a Summer Associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York City. 


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