WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday night, President Bush addressed the nation in an effort to persuade Congress to pass a bill to reduce the risk to major financial institutions and to safeguard American families and businesses. On Thursday, he met with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama and other congressional leaders to build a consensus plan for bailing out our financial system. The potentates on the Potomac now are pondering the price tag for saving Wall Street. Unfortunately, corrupt officials in other nations' capitals are also hard at work -- undermining what's left of the U.S. dollar by printing and distributing their own versions of American currency.
Counterfeiting another nation's legal tender is not only a crime but also an act of aggression. During World War II, Adolf Hitler produced British bank notes to destabilize the U.K. Mao Zedong used phony money to undermine Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government through inflation. The Soviets created passable replicas of African and European monetary instruments to damage local economies. But no one ever has engaged in the kind of economic warfare against the United States as effectively or on such a scale as is being waged now by the regimes in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Tehran, Iran.
For more than five years, remarkably accurate duplicates of U.S. $100 bills have been circulating overseas. Called "supernotes" by our Treasury Department, Secret Service and FBI, they are printed on cotton-fiber paper with intaglio printing presses, the same type used by the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving. The source of these nearly flawless notes is hardly a secret.
On Jan. 26, 2006, in a White House news conference, President Bush asserted, "We are aggressively saying to the North Koreans don't counterfeit our money." A Congressional Research Service report two months later concluded, "At least $45 million in such supernotes of North Korean origin have been detected in circulation, and estimates are that the country earns from $15 to $25 million per year from counterfeiting." Later that year, Hezbollah -- a wholly owned subsidiary of the repressive regime in Tehran -- began flooding Lebanon with supernotes. Thanks to Iran and North Korea, there may be billions in "phony Franklins" floating around the world. The bills also have turned up here at home.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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