David Harris presents Public Service Award to Stuart Levey

David Harris presents Public Service Award to Stuart Levey

Presentation of the
AJC Distinguished Public Service Award
Stuart A. Levey
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence

David A. Harris
Executive Director, AJC
Washington, D.C., May 6, 2009

Nearly five years ago, a new government position was created – Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The first occupant was Stuart Levey, a Harvard-trained attorney who had spent 11 years in private practice prior to joining the Justice Department in 2001.

Did the new Treasury Department position make him, or did he make the position?

The facts speak for themselves.

As Andrew Cochran, writing for Counterterrorism Blog, said: “Stuart Levey has earned the respect of many in the [counterterrorism] community as the single most effective and important civilian official in the effort to detect, halt, and prevent terrorist financing.”

Last November, the New York Times Magazine published a full-length article, by Robin Wright, entitled “Stuart Levey’s War.”

The title, of course, was no accident. It was inspired by the comment of a U.S. official quoted in the article: “Stuart Levey’s war is like ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’ It’s the most direct and aggressive stuff we’ve got going. It delivers.”

Yes, deliver, it has.

As Robin Wright wrote, “Levey’s pitch was simple: Banks were only as reputable as their clients’ practices. And the reputations of banks that did business with Iran were at risk as long as Iran financed extremists and pursued missile and nuclear technology. More basically, he argued, Iran had bad banking habits, with little oversight to prevent money laundering. It had even begun asking foreign banks to remove traces of a transaction’s ties to Iran, a practice known as ‘stripping.’ Levey’s idea was to press banks not to do business with Iran until it complied with international standards.”

Quietly and ever so persistently, Stuart Levey and his team – which, in the interests of full disclosure, includes a member of the Harris family – identified the banks, marshaled the evidence, and traveled overseas repeatedly to enlist international support for blacklisting the culprit Iranian banks.

Not surprisingly, Iran has sought ways around this tightening financial noose. And its nuclear efforts continue, not to mention its support for terrorist groups.

But Stuart Levey has been doing his utmost to narrow Iran’s options, create unavoidable stumbling blocks for Iran’s leaders, and make Tehran’s defiance of the will of the international community ever more costly.

While Iran may not have thrown in the towel yet, its life has unquestionably become far more complicated thanks to his visionary – and determined – efforts.

In AJC’s frequent travels in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to discuss the Iran threat, Stuart Levey’s name is widely known and admired by top-tier officials.

Okay, let me slightly amend that.

His name is indeed widely known and, in many circles, much admired.

But there are some who no doubt wish he’d go back to private practice and let them off the hook to pursue their profitable, if unholy, business with Iran.

Now normally, as you know, when a new Administration takes office in Washington, especially of a different party, the housecleaning is pretty complete.

But, fortunately, not in the case of Stuart Levey.

Though appointed by the Bush Administration, he was urged to stay on in his present post by the Obama Administration.

And we could not be more delighted.

Some of you will recall that at last year’s AJC Annual Meeting, Stuart spoke powerfully about his work. We applauded him then.

This year, we invited him back. We did so not only to applaud once again his tireless leadership, so critical to national and global security, but to honor him with our prestigious Distinguished Public Service Award.

No one today in the public realm is more deserving of this recognition than Stuart, for he exemplifies the noble qualities of public service.

Said Theodor Herzl in another context, “If you will it, it is not a dream.”

Stuart made his position what it is—he willed it—and the impressive results speak for themselves.

Stuart, as we say in our Jewish tradition, “May you go from strength to strength.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted that members of Stuart’s family, including his parents, wife, daughters, and nephew, have come from near and far to be present for this award presentation. May I ask them to stand and be recognized.

And now, I invite the recipient of the 2009 AJC Distinguished Public Service Award to come to the podium.

Stuart, let me read the inscription on the award:

Presented to
Stuart A. Levey

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence

With wisdom, you have confronted extremism. With the rule of law, you have pursued evildoers. With honor, you have served our nation. With tireless devotion, you have made our world safer.

Washington, D.C., May 2009
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