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A new investigative report reveals that the Barack Obama Administration conducted improper transactions with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), an organization sanctioned for its links with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley recently released a report detailing the findings of an investigation his staff launched in February 2019 into the relationship between World Vision and ISRA.
According to the investigation, World Vision was unaware that ISRA had been sanctioned by the United States since 2004 after channeling approximately $5 million to Maktab al-Khidamat, Al-Qaeda’s predecessor. However, the report also points out that the lack of knowledge would have been because the NGO did not do enough research.
“While it may not have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list or that it was on the list because of its affiliation with terrorism, it should have. Ignorance cannot be enough of an excuse. World Vision’s changes in screening practices are a good first step and I hope it continues to make progress,” said the Senate Finance Committee Chairman.
According to the report, World Vision submitted a grant application to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out its Blue Nile Recovery Program on January 21, 2014. The program sought to provide food security, sanitation equipment and health services to the areas most affected by conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile region.
USAID awarded World Vision a grant of $723,405 for the program. The following month, ISRA agreed to provide humanitarian services to parts of the Blue Nile region for World Vision. The two organizations had also collaborated on several projects in 2013 and 2014.
World Vision discovered that ISRA was sanctioned after the evangelical non-profit humanitarian organization discussed a partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on a separate humanitarian project in Sudan. In conducting a routine background investigation of World Vision and its partners, IOM discovered ISRA’s sanctioned status and contacted the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Compliance Team to confirm it.
After receiving confirmation from OFAC, IOM declined World Vision’s offer of cooperation, the report said.
On November 19, 2014, the NGO sent a letter to OFAC requesting clarification on the status of ISRA and requesting that, in the event that ISRA was sanctioned, it be granted a temporary license to terminate the contract. Two months later, the Treasury responded, confirming that ISRA is sanctioned and rejecting the request for a license to work with the organization, as that would be “inconsistent with OFAC policy.
“Based on the evidence presented, we conclude that World Vision had access to adequate public information and should have known how, but was unable, to properly vet ISRA as a sub-beneficiary, resulting in the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organizations [sic] and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden,” reiterated Grassley.
“Moreover, while we find no reason to doubt World Vision’s claim that ISRA used all of the funds for humanitarian purposes, that money inevitably helps its terrorist activities,” he concludes.
For its part, World Vision appreciated the Senate’s recognition that there is no evidence that the NGO knew that ISRA is related to terrorism and added that “terrorism runs counter to everything that World Vision stands for as an organization and we strongly condemn any act of terrorism or support for such activities.
The Obama Administration’s endorsement
After OFAC spoke out against the relationship between the two organizations, World Vision submitted another application for a license to conduct transactions with ISRA to pay $125,000 for services rendered, so as not to face legal consequences and possible expulsion from Sudan.
Following the application, the Obama Administration’s State Department recommended that OFAC grant the license. The nonprofit was granted a license to pay ISRA the money owed. Following this, it was also sent a “warning letter” to inform it that its collaboration with ISRA appeared to have violated the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations.
World Vision has a four-star charity rating on the Charity Navigator website and total revenues of over $1 billion per year.
But the situation with ISRA is not the only incident in which World Vision’s leaders have been accused of sending charity funds to terrorists. In 2016, Israeli police arrested the manager of World Vision Gaza, Mohammad El Halabi, for providing support to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.
Israel said El Halabi had infiltrated World Vision to channel tens of millions of dollars to Hamas using fake charity projects. In response, the NGO closed its Gaza office.