The idea for this article was never published. It was submitted to the top two English language news outlets in Lebanon and was politely turned down, with something to the effect, “Stick to Economics.” It was subsequently turned into a YouTube video titled “Hummos Economics Episode 1 on my YouTube channel, posted Thursday December 24, 2020.
Pictures of Qard el Hassan (QH) Automatic Teller Machines (ATM), dispensing cash in dollars, have proliferated on the internet and twitter, with even some mainstream media reports reporting on it. There’s no question that QH is giving loans — but let’s look at the other part — are they also dispensing cash though ATM machines?
Before we discuss this, let’s look at what it takes to get this done.
If you’re a sanctioned outfit, you need depositors with real cash to place money in this banking system, which they can withdraw at will. You would need to invest most of these deposits in loans that produced enough of a spread to justify the costs (and pay depositors), through some type of profit that is Sharia-compliant (no interest) … unless you’re running a nonprofit operation for your own considerations. These two parts are not too difficult. If you had a sufficient flow of cash (the bigger challenge), and a corresponding demand for loans (much easier), you could get it done quite easily.
What about the technological side? You’d have to install an ATM machine with a camera (to take a picture of every customer withdrawing cash to fight fraud and theft). You’d also need a networked connection to a central database to double check that the customer has the money in his account that he’s trying to withdraw. You’d also need the plastic ATM debit cards with the computer chip that check the pin stored in another central database. These plastic debit cards, with computer chips, are actually quite complicated to make. A company like Gemalto would have to make them. This means that either QH sold Gemalto, or an equivalent company, a contract for these to be made by this European company. Of course, this company would be violating US sanctions, but even if they weren’t, it would make it very convenient for DGSE to have access to the names of all the customers.
Underground military organizations that need to keep their operations secret, and the identities of their members secret, derive their strength from operating on the low end of the technological evolutionary ladder, because if they move up the ladder, they’re no match for the likes of the NSA or GCHQ that have huge budgets and high tech gadgets specifically designed for this type of thing. For example, Oussama Bin Laden, at one point, was tracked down precisely through the triangulation of his satellite phone. Once he discovered that, he went back to communications techniques from centuries ago, using couriers and what not, which delayed his demise several years. It would not be unreasonable to assume that at least some, if not most, of the customers of QH are members of Hizbullah, or their families.
Thus, if QH is now using an ATM network with a camera taking snapshots of all its customers, and connected to a central database with all its customers, a simple tap of one of the machines by NSA or GCHQ (or others) would yield a treasure trove of information — names, pictures, addresses, account sizes, phone numbers, and other convenient identification information. With that information, they can identify passports, bug phone numbers, and track movements for every person in that database. Therefore, either they made a huge blunder in their operational security procedures or it’s highly unlikely that this story is accurate.