Obama administration officials gave more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds to an Islamic group designated by the government for a decade as a terrorist organization, according to a report published Wednesday by National Review.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in July 2014 awarded $723,405 to World Vision Inc., an international Christian charity, to “improve water, sanitation and hygiene and to increase food security in Sudan’s Blue Nile state,” according to Sam Westrop, writing in National Review. Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.
Of the AID funds to World Vision, $115,000 was to be directed to a specific sub-grantee, the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), which is also sometimes known as the Islamic African Relief Agency and which was affiliated with Osama bin Laden and Maktab al-Khidamat (MK). The MK ultimately became the terrorist group al-Qaida.
“According to the U.S. Treasury, in 1997 ISRA established formal cooperation with MK. By 2000, ISRA had raised $5 million for bin Laden’s group,” Westrop reported. “The Treasury Department notes that ISRA officials even sought to help ‘relocate [bin Laden] to secure safe harbor for him.'”
There was a U.S. branch of ISRA called the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA-USA), which was later discovered to have illegally transferred more than $1.2 million to Iraqi insurgents and other terrorist groups.
World Vision told USAID in 2014 that ISRA was on the designated terrorist organization list — and therefore had to wait for assessment from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before they could receive the money.
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In January 2015, OFAC confirmed ISRA was a designated terrorist organization and rejected World Vision from obtaining “a license to engage in transactions with [ISRA],” according to Westrop.
“Despite OFAC’s ruling, in February, World Vision wrote to OFAC and Obama administration official Jeremy Konyndyk (who then served as director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance) to apply to OFAC for a new license from USAID to pay ISRA ‘monies owed for work performed.'”
Larry Meserve, USAID’s mission director for Sudan, said World Vision argued that if it did not pay ISRA for work it had already performed, “their whole program will be jeopardized.”
Then, on May 7, 2015, OFAC issued a license to a World Vision affiliate, World Vision International, after “close collaboration and consultations with the Department of State,” authorizing “a one-time transfer of approximately $125,000 to ISRA,” of which “$115,000 was for services performed under the sub-award with USAID” and $10,000 was “for an unrelated funding arrangement between Irish Aid and World Vision.”
In August 2015, USAID official Daniel Holmberg even told a State Department official that he had been approached by the executive director of ISRA who requested help on removing ISRA from the U.S. government’s terror list.
The frightening upshot: Obama administration officials knowingly authorized the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization on the government’s own terror financing blacklist — and this was all happening at a time that headlines regularly blared about the murderous activities of al-Qaida.
It leaves one wondering how this transaction ever saw the light of day — and what incompetence, obfuscation, or lack of leadership was at its root.