PHILADELPHIA – December 23, 2020 – The U.S. Senate Finance Committee today published a detailed memorandum citing and corroborating the Middle East Forum's research that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded a designated terrorist organization. The committee denounced World Vision, a huge evangelical charity complicit in the scandal.
In 2004, the U.S. government designated the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) because of its ties to Maktab al-Khidamat, the precursor of al-Qaeda, and its financial support for Bin Laden and Hamas. MEF revealed in National Review in 2018, that World Vision had subcontracted charitable work in the Blue Nile region of Sudan to ISRA, listing ISRA as its partner without investigating or disclosing ISRA's status as a designated terrorist entity.
Once the federal government became aware of ISRA's true identity, the project was paused and money withheld. But following exchanges between government officials and World Vision in which World Vision threatened the U.S. government and attempted to leverage congressional influence, the government authorized a payment of $120,000 of taxpayers' money from World Vision to ISRA.
World Vision had a substantial history of partnership with ISRA.
As additional investigations by the Middle East Forum found, World Vision in fact had a substantial history of partnership with ISRA. If World Vision was indeed unaware of ISRA's ties to terrorism, then at the very least, it persistently failed to vet its partners, as legally required of all USAID contractors.
The Senate Finance Committee's investigation reached similar conclusions, noting that "based on the evidence presented, we conclude that World Vision had access to the appropriate public information and should have known how, but failed to, to properly vet ISRA as a subgrantee, resulting in the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organizations and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden."
World Vision, the memorandum reports, has been "borderline negligent and ignored elementary level investigative procedures, such as failing to conduct basic secondary research." It further notes that ISRA's status as a terror financing organization was a "widely available" fact, disclosed "on the internet via free search engines." Pointedly, the memorandum offers "google.com" as a citation.
World Vision, the memorandum reports, has been "borderline negligent" in ensuring funds do not support terrorist activity.
Despite World Vision claiming it has improved its methods, the Senate Finance Committee expresses "reservations concerning World Vision's ability to avoid situations similar to the ISRA – Blue Nile Recovery Program incident in the future."
The Senate report concludes that World Vision failed to ensure "funds acquired from the U.S. government or donated by Americans do not end up supporting terrorist activity." It warns: "World Vision's attempt to shift the blame to the federal government for their own inability to properly vet a subcontractor" was "particularly concerning."
As a charitable franchise that "regularly generates more than $1 billion in revenue annually," World Vision should have known that humanitarian partnership with designated terror charities will "inevitably fund terror activities." Until World Vision can demonstrate a "more robust and fundamentally sound system of screening and vetting," the Finance Committee warns, it forfeits the "public's trust that contributions made to World Vision are not funding illicit organizations."
Separately, in Israel, a leading World Vision official currently awaits trial on terror finance charges. World Vision persists in claiming it is unaware of any wrongdoing.
MEF staff Sam Westrop and Cliff Smith, whose investigative work first uncovered the scandal, note: "We're pleased that Chairman Grassley and the Senate Finance staff found our research useful to expose this wretched incident. It is vital that the subsidy of terrorist activities under the guise of benevolence not be tolerated, and certainly not subsidized by the American taxpayer."
The Middle East Forum promotes American interests in the region and protects Western civilization from Islamism. It does so through a combination of original ideas, focused activism, and the funding of allies.
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