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Snow says U.S. finance system can handle terror

Mon Aug 2, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - U.S. financial institutions are far better prepared to weather a terrorist incident and could carry on if something comparable to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks occurred, Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Monday.

"We've made enormous strides in hardening the infrastructure of America and putting in duplicative backup facilities, in setting up communications systems within the private sector and between the private sector and the government sector," Snow said on CNBC television.

"We can never be satisfied but our financial institutions are a lot more secure and a lot safer today than was the case two years ago," Snow added.

The U.S. Treasury chief made the rounds of television stations on Monday, trying to sound a reassuring note after financial institutions in three cities were identified as targets of terrorist plots.

Beefed-up security was evident outside the New York Stock Exchange, in front of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in downtown Washington and outside Prudential Financial Inc.'s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey.


Snow emphasized that efforts were being made to protect the financial system -- a prime target of terror groups -- not only from bombs or other physical attacks but also secure from cyber attacks aimed at crippling their computer systems.

"We are doing everything possible ... to make sure that we are pre-empting the terrorists and securing and hardening the infrastructure both from explosive devices and from cyberspace threats," Snow said. "it's awfully important that we continue to be vigilant, keep our guard up, but not be driven away from our daily activities."

Despite publication of the threats, the New York Stock Exchange, other financial institutions and the World Bank and IMF operated normally on Monday.

In a statement, the Treasury Department said it was "in close, continued and ongoing cooperation with the department of Homeland Security, other federal, state and local financial regulators, the international financial institutions and the private sector" on protective measures.

Earlier on Bloomberg television, Snow said there were contingency plans for how to keep markets operating in the event of attack, including by adding liquidity or cash to the nation's financial system.


"There would be lots of communications and there would be a ready response," he said, including the ability to shift trading away from the New York Stock Exchange if it was too damaged to keep operating. "Our financial markets, including the exchanges, have enormous amounts of adaptive capacity to respond to that sort of situation."

Snow avoided a direct answer when asked whether there was a plan to head off a potentially damaging run against the dollar in the event of a terror attack. "The G7 (Group of Seven) meets regularly and would certainly be a vehicle for responding if any such need, speculative as it is, should arise," Snow said.

Finance ministers from the G7 -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan -- meet regularly and can act in a coordinated way to buy or sell currencies and so affect their value.





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