In a late January announcement of key staff for the Department of the Treasury, newly sworn in Secretary Timothy Geithner elected to retain Stuart Levey as Under Secretary of the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (OTFI) office.
The Charity and Security Network monitors U.S. and foreign government activities and a wide range of news sources to identify developments in national security policy that impact American charities and foundations. We collect and disseminate this information - with a focus on its impact on civil society and nonprofit organizations.
On. Feb. 4 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 559, the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act, that would create a process for individuals placed on government watch lists to challenge their classification. The bill is a response to overbroad and inaccurate lists that have denied many innocent Americans of basic benefits and rights, including flying on commercial planes, getting credit or jobs.
Two months after the December 2008 shut down of a Pakistani charity, the fate of people served by hospitals, schools and refugee camps in areas hard hit by an October 2008 earthquake is uncertain.
Lloyds TSB, one of London's most prominent banks, was pressured into discontinuing financial services to Interpal, a UK based nonprofit, due to ongoing allegations in the UK and the United State's designation of the charity as a terrorist related organization. Despite two investigations (1996 and 2003) finding no evidence of wrongdoing by the UK Charity Commissions, which monitors and regulates UK based charities, Interpal remains a target of sanctions for terror-related financing.
On Feb. 17, 2009 a Swedish court in Malmo acquitted the head of a charity of charges that he financed terrorism through a charitable group. Khalid al-Yousef, the leader of al-Aqsa Spannmal (Grain Foundation), faced a six year jail sentence if convicted. It has also been reported that $150,000 in donations raised by the charity which had been frozen by the United States and Britain will be returned.
In the last Charity and Security Network Newsletter, we noted that the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Bush administration, Stuart Levey, was retained by Treasury officials. While this raises concerns about the potential for developing sensible counter terrorism finance policies, it might not be a long lasting situation.
The rising numbers of attacks against global aid workers is threatening their safety and the humanitarian work they provide in many of the worlds' turbulent areas. Government action that intrudes into the operations of nongovernment organizations has contributed to the problem, according to experts. In the U.S. a proposal to require United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant applicants to collect and submit personal data on program partners threatens to exacerbate the situation.
On Feb. 27, 2009, ten advocacy groups filed a friend of the court brief in federal court in Ohio that expressed their support for due process rights for nonprofits accused of supporting terrorism. Filed in the case of Kindhearts Charitable Humanitarian Development (Kindhearts) v. Paulson, the brief focuses on the widespread negative impact overbroad counterterrorism rules have on charitable operations. The filing follows two pre-trial court rulings in the case that are favorable to due process rights for nonprofits.
A Feb. 27, 2009 report by the United Kingdom's Charity Commission into the activities of Palestinians Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) concluded the charity is not funding or supporting groups sponsoring terrorism. The Commission ordered improvements in procedures for choosing and overseeing local charity partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Lebanon. It also recognized the importance of charities that conduct aid related activities in "high-risk" areas of the world and acknowledged the dangers they face.
On March 23 the Obama administration announced appointment of three top Treasury officials: Neal Wolin as Deputy Secretary, Lael Brainard as undersecretary for international affairs, and Stuart Levey to continue as undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The Levey appointment raises concerns about possible continuation of Treasury's hostile policies toward charities during the Bush administration.