How to Fight Financial Terrorism

North Korea -- Pyongyang is pictured here -- remains a center of illicit finance.


Illicit finance is the lifeblood of many groups and organizations acting directly to the interests of global security.  Here, Juan Zarate, a former assistant Treasury Secretary and deputy national security advisor with a special focus on combating illicit finance, unpacks this complex issue — and the knot of risks that surround it.

ON THIS DAY IN 2007 . . .

Three thieves stole Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Suzanne Bloch from the Sao Paolo Museum of Art. The painting dates from the end of Picasso’s blue period; its subject was a now-forgotten luminary of the intellectually and aesthetically rich Parisian cafe society Picasso inhabited — a famed interpreter and Wagner. The portrait is regarded as something of a transitional work — in it, the rudiments of Picasso’s abstraction seem set to emerge from. Its own merits are considerable, especially the way it captures the intense, moody face of its subject.

The painting was, fortunately, recovered completely undamaged soon after its theft in a suburb of Sao Paolo. The painting was worth well north of $10 million by 2008 prices, a reminder that the theft of great art is big business.


Forget John McTiernan’s workmanlike, art-themed 1999 remake. The Norman Jewison original production — dating to 1968 — is the real masterpiece here. The story of a ruthless insurance investigator (Faye Dunaway) hired to track down $2 million stolen from a Boston bank and the bored businessman who masterminded the crime (Steve McQueen), The Thomas Crown affair is a brilliant, stylish work of late-60’s American cinema. The plotting is sparse but intricate; the Dunaway-McQueen chemistry is powerful.

It’s as much an homage to the great French new wave crime films — especially Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless — as it is to the classic American heist caper.


The Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard has a cult following among American readers (he was one of the most respected and acclaimed writers in his own country, a powerful irony considering the endless vitriol he heaped on it). It has almost no plot — it comprises the reflections of its narrator, Atzbacher, on his relationship with the music critic Reger as they meet in Vienna’s Kunsthistoriches Museum. Atzbacher and Reger’s thoughts on art, politics, social life, class, and — above all — the degraded nature of life in modern Austria — form a jagged, propulsive read. The novel’s setting, the museum’s Bordone Room, before Tintoretto’s White-Bearded Man, makes for an unsettling backdrop.