The administration of President Barack Obama approved a $200,000 grant to a group tied to al-Qaeda, despite the group’s designation as a terrorist-financing organization.
The Sudan-based Islamic Relief Agency was designated by the United States government as a known terror-financing organization back in 2004, due to links with Osama bin Laden and his group Maktab Al-Khidamat, the precursor of al-Qaeda.
According to the U.S. Treasury, which made the designation, the Islamic Relief Agency raised at least $5 million for bin Laden’s group. Treasury officials noted that Islamic Relief Agency officials also sought to help relocate bin Laden to a safe place.
After the agency raised funds in 2003, specifically for Hamas suicide bombings against Israel, the Treasury made the designation, including the U.S. office of the agency.
“This is an excellent example of how U.S. Government agencies coordinate their efforts to achieve the maximum impact against supporters of terrorism,” said Stuart Levey, Treasury’s Under Secretary for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in a statement at the time.
Ten years later, despite known ties to al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist groups, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in July 2014 awarded $200,000 to the Islamic Relief Agency through a larger grant to World Vision, reported National Review.
Emails and other correspondence obtained by the outlet revealed that World Vision was being pressured by the Sudanese government to get the funds to the Islamic Relief Agency, and that after around a year of back and forth between World Vision and USAID officials, $115,000 was approved.
Senior USAID official Charles Wanjue wrote to colleagues: “Good news and a great relief, really!” and an unnamed World Vision official said that the decision was a “great relief as ISRA [the Islamic Relief Agency] had become restive and had threatened legal action, which would have damaged our reputation and standing in Sudan.”
A USAID official backed up the account with Fox News, and said that the grant should not have been made.
The agency said that a review of policies has since been conducted regarding the screening of awardees.
“USAID has also updated training for our agreement officers to improve our screening of prime and sub-awardees,” the official said.
Current State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told National Review that the award happened under the previous administration.
“As this occurred under the prior Administration, the current Secretary of the State, Secretary of Treasury, and USAID Administrator had no involvement in decisions surrounding this award or subsequent license,” she said.
The news is the latest that has come out regarding the Obama administration’s dealings with terrorist groups. The administration, for instance, reportedly stopped a major investigation into Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal activities in order to complete the Iran nuclear talks.
World Vision said in a statement that the payment in question was for “legitimate humanitarian work (salaries, humanitarian aid and supplies for beneficiaries, travel etc.) already incurred.”
“World Vision explained failure to do so could have exposed it to potential legal liability for breach of contract, resulted in the very real chance of Government expulsion from Sudan and as a consequence, the loss of a lifeline for tens of thousands of children and their families,” the statement said.
“World Vision has robust controls and screening processes in place and condemns any diversion of aid funding and strongly condemn any act of terrorism or support for those activities. We have no evidence that any of our funds have been used for anything other than urgent humanitarian work.”