An Afghan policeman stands guard as a pile of drugs is set on fire outside Kabul.
An Afghan policeman stands guard as a pile of drugs is set on fire outside Kabul. - 
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Scott Jagow: Ever since September 11, 2001, the government has tracked terrorists by following the money trail. But now, terrorists seem to be thinking smaller and spending less, which might make them harder to detect. More now from Jeremy Hobson.

Jeremy Hobson: The 9/11 attacks are said to have cost about a half million dollars to execute. The July 7 London bombings, just a few thousand.

Terror finance expert Loretta Napoleoni says such lean operations make it harder to track the terrorists.

Loretta Napoleoni: For that kind of money, you do not need funding from outside. You can actually raise the money within the cell.

And what's more, terrorists are increasingly raising money illegally.

Michael Jacobson at the Washington Institute says that makes it even harder to track them.

Michael Jacobson: In a lot of cases, it can be small, petty criminal activity that might not even rise to the level that law enforcement would necessarily notice.

Jacobson says there are no good measures of government success in cutting off funds. But two years ago, the 9/11 commission gave the government its highest grade for its efforts in combatting terror financing.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson