UPDATE: USAID has now responded. See the bottom of this blog post.
In July 2018, after an eight month investigation, a successful lawsuit against the government, work with an investigator in Khartoum, and poring through many thousands of pages of documents, Islamist Watch published an article in National Review revealing that the Obama administration handed over $115,000 to a Sudanese Al Qaeda charity after confirming that it was a designated terror charity.
According to the U.S. Treasury, Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) - also known as the Islamic African Relief Agency - was designated as terrorist organization in 2004 because of its involvement with Osama bin Laden and his organization Maktab al-Khidamat (MK), the precursor of al-Qaeda.
Our discovery that Obama administration officials had approved the transfer of taxpayers' money to a terrorism-financing organization was picked up by Al Arabiya, Fox News, i24 News, Breitbart, the Daily Mail and newspapers from around the world. Our work even received a "true" rating from the political fact-checking website, Snopes.
Around half a million people shared our investigation on social media, and millions more read the details of our report and watched coverage of our findings on Fox News and i24 TV channels. Our discovery has even led members of Congress's Committee of Oversight and Government Reform to open an investigation into the decision of Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to award the grant.
When we released our report, USAID published a statement, declaring that:
At the time, although dismayed by USAID's failure to prevent a designated terrorist organization from receiving taxpayer funds, we were at least pleased that USAID appeared committed to ensuring such blunders would not occur again.
Screening should have revealed that ISRA was on the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. … USAID also created new guidance for our officials who manage awards to strengthen the screening of recipients/sub-recipients. …USAID also updated trainings for award managers to stress the importance of screening both prime and sub-awardees.
We were slightly surprised, then, to see a new USAID document published just a few weeks ago, in which USAID lists the very same designated terrorist organization as a "partner." The document comprises a review and praise of "30 years" of USAID's "Child Survival and Health Grants Program." Including the Islamic African Relief Agency in its list of partners, USAID writes: "We salute all the heroes of this program at all levels…"
We hope ISRA's inclusion in USAID's list is nothing more than a bureaucratic error. But given USAID officials' previous readiness to bestow money and sympathy on ISRA, we could not be absolutely certain.
So now we have written to USAID to find out more. When we hear back, we'll update this blog post with its response.
A spokesperson for USAID told the Forum: "Including the Islamic African Relief Agency in the list of our partners was an error, and we have since corrected the report. To be clear, the Islamic African Relief Agency is not USAID's partner, and we have no active awards with the organization."