The Latest News


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 civil society and nonprofit organizations. We collect and disseminate relevant information on our website, via our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and through our biweekly email newsletter, which contains links to a variety of news articles. To read the most recent issues of our email newsletter or to subscribe, click here

Our staff also creates news pieces on events and developments of particular interest to our members that are not covered in other news outlets. Those stories can be found below, in revese chronological order. 

Sanctions Bill Includes Counter-Terrorism Financing, Financial Access Language

August 10, 2017

An international sanctions bill primarily focused on Russia contains language devoted to countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) and supporting remittances to Somalia as well as wire transfers by legitimate entities. 

Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (HR 3364), signed into law by President Trump on August 2, incorporates two bills that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in late December, in the final hours of the 114th Congress, HR 5594 (National Strategy for Combating Terrorist, Underground, and Other Illicit Financing Act) and HR 5607 (Enhancing Treasury's Anti-Terror Tools Act), with some modifications, in Subtitle C of the bill.

House Subcommittee Examines Remittances

July 20, 2017

The Terrorism and Illicit Finance subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services held a hearing July 18 to examine the regulations surrounding money service businesses (MSBs), or remittances, and the important role they play in impoverished communities overseas, to learn about informal remittance systems and potential terror finance exploitation of remittance networks. 

Among those testifying at the hearing, "Managing Terrorism Financing Risk in Remittances and Money Transfers," was Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America, who emphasized the important role that remittances play in sustaining at-risk communities. "Remittances give people agency over their own lives," Paul noted. Matthew Oppenheimer, president and CEO of Remitly, testified that a recent survey of their customers revealed that "nearly all are using our service to send money intended to pay for the basic needs of their family members - housing, food, water, electricity, medical care, and education - basic things we take for granted in the United States but can be unattainable for millions living abroad." 

The hearing also touched on the issue of de-risking, and whether it forces charities and remitters into less transparent, unregulated money transfer channels, thus making the anti-terror finance regime ineffective. The subcommittee will seek to find ways to streamline remittance regulations in a way that will keep legitimate funds in legitimate channels, subcommittee members said. 

In his written testimony, Paul said, "[A] strategy that aims to maximize remittances, keep them within the formal financial system, and curb illicit financial flows will achieve the twin aims of poverty alleviation and combating the financing of terrorism. To do this, remittance services must be accessible, affordable, and accountable - both to law enforcement authorities and to the families sending and receiving money." 

OFAC's FAQs Are Criticized as Misleading

June 8, 2017

A list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) recently issued by U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are intended to clarify its process whereby it removes people from its list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN).

According to OFAC, it removes hundreds of people and entities from the list each year, evidence, it says, that the list is not merely punitive but rather designed to motivate a change in behavior. A removal from the SDN list based on a thorough review that evaluations each request on its merits, applying consistent standards across all cases. Questions on the FAQ page address the entire de-listing process and include "Do I need to hire an attorney in order to file a petition for removal?" and "How long does the entire petition process take?" 

However, the questions and answers have been criticized as misleading. Although OFAC has in recent years de-listed hundreds of people and entities each year, that wasn't always the case. None were delisted in 2001 and 2002, for example, and just over 100 were delisted in 2009. In addition, despite OFAC's claim that the listings are geared to changing behavior, it seems unlikely given that the agency never reveals the specific reason for the listing. The agency also makes it difficult to hire an attorney to assist with a delisting application. A license from OFAC is required to authorize payments to a lawyer, and the license application process is lengthy and cumbersome. Most importantly, there is no relief for persons with names that are similar to a drug dealer or terrorist on the list, although financial institutions will likely refuse to deal with them. 

OFAC's de-listing procedures have long come under fire for the lack of due process and charities that are listed have the additional burden of having their funds frozen indefinitely. 

Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act Passes House, Could Affect Humanitarian Operations

May 19, 2017

In a rare bipartisan moment, the House of Representatives approved HR 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 on May 16, 2017. Passed in a voice vote, the bill would authorize the President to expand sanctions that apply to the Syrian government to the Central Bank of Syria and to foreign persons that 1) provide material support to the government or Central Bank, 2) transfer arms or weapons to the government and 3) are responsible for human rights abuses against Syrians, including targeting civilian infrastructure for attack or hindering access for humanitarian assistance. It provides a limited waiver process for groups doing humanitarian or stabilization or democracy promotion, stating that U.S. policy shall “fully utilize the waiver authority…to ensure that adequate humanitarian relief or support for stabilization and democracy promotion is provided to the Syrian people.” However, exceptions described below may limit the benefits of the waiver provision. The bill also requires the President to develop a strategy “to ensure humanitarian organizations can access financial services to ensure the safe and timely delivery assistance to communities in need in Syria.” As the bill is considered by the Senate, nonprofit organizations should ask for a closer analysis to ensure that any law that emerges does not inadvertently narrow space for humanitarian operations from what is currently authorized.

Senate Hearings Stress Value of International Aid, Highlight Nonprofit Banking Woes

May 10, 2017

Two Senate committee hearings in early May highlighted the importance of philanthropy and international aid, as well as the challenges faced by nonprofits in accessing banking services to finance that aid. 

On May 3, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral, International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy and Environmental Policy held a hearing on "Global Philanthropy and Remittances and International Development." Speakers included InterAction CEO Sam Worthington and leaders in global philanthropy. Worthington described ways the U.S. government could improve partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including recognizing NGOs as donors, and leveraging private actors to give NGOs a diplomatic space in which to operate. He noted that 70 percent of international development response in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan is performed by NGOs.