Wikileaks Exposes Trove of Insight on U.S. Government Counterterrorism Rules and Charities

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October 3, 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, a searchable archive of over 250,000 unredacted U.S. State Department cables became available on the internet. The publication of the cables expanded a window on American diplomacy that first opened in November 2010 when Wikileaks and several international news organizations started publishing selected cables. The Charity & Security Network has scanned though thousands of the cables for any discussion about issues affecting U.S. charitable activities. Excerpts from cables pertaining to the following topics are below.

The range of issues covered by the latest batch of cables is extensive, ranging from Citibank’s hijacked $7 million in Sudan to Hamas’ liability for a Gaza tunnel ponzi scheme. The cables’ authors provide candid opinions and analysis about the relevant stakeholders and future prospects, and many offer glimpses into the normally private meetings (and minds) of high-ranking national representatives.
The list of topics covered is below. Click on the title to go straight to the excerpt. Bold text is our emphasis added. In each excerpt click on the date to go to the full cable text.


July 2009: "Lack of resolution within the USG regarding funding to Somalia due to US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) licensing restrictions, threatens the ability of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Office of Food for Peace (FFP) partners to continue to implement life-saving programs."
"All USAID/OFDA HUMANITARIAN partners queried reported that long-term funding delays would result in the need to lay-off more than 210 local staff members affecting support to approximately 1550 immediate family members. The resulting unemployment will increase the probability of relapse into harmful activities by youth through recruitment into piracy, Al-Shabaab, and other groups due to lack of meaningful ventures to apply their skills."
"Despite the difficult operating environment, the USG has continuously provided HUMANITARIAN assistance to Somalia since 1991. There is no known precedent for halting HUMANITARIAN assistance, even in countries known to host terrorist groups. The current HUMANITARIAN crisis in Somalia is the worst since the early 1990s and a delay or cessation in USG HUMANITARIAN assistance will further compound the crisis."
February 2010: "Under OFAC-related legal restrictions, USAID/OFDA has been unable to fund U.N. agencies that have a leading role in addressing humanitarian needs and providing life-saving assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2009 the FY 2010."
"Funding delays will negatively impact U.S. efforts to develop and implement robust contingency plans in response to a potential escalation of HUMANITARIAN needs….Additionally, a comprehensive and effective HUMANITARIAN response could play a pivotal role in influencing the ever- changing landscape in Somalia."
See: Related cable from April 2009

January 2010: "Ambassador Rice noted that once al-Shaabab is designated by the Somalia Sanctions Committee as a group subject to asset freezes and travel bans, the UN and UN member states will be prohibited from contributing to relief organizations operating in al-Shaabab-controlled areas. She noted the U.S.'s desire to include language in the upcoming AMISOM resolution renewal that would exempt donors who are providing aid to legitimate HUMANITARIAN organizations."

January 2010: "The WFP's aid suspension in southern and central Somalia was unnecessary and driven by a need to extradite itself from payments to al-Shaabab rather than by security concerns."
See: Related cable from Nov. 2009

December 2009: "Long term success in combating TERRORIST FINANCING requires a comprehensive, strategic approach that includes the following elements: (3) strong oversight of charities, including their overseas branches, to ensure that these organizations are not supporting TERRORIST and extremist elements;"


March 2006: "USAID highlighted an increased risk of disease due to worsening water quality. UNRWA and WFP expressed willingness to expand operations but will require more funding. NGOs expressed concern they would no longer be eligible for USG support due to policy constraints. All agreed that staff security was their immediate concern."
"NGOs said they faced technical, geographic, and financial constraints. Five major Palestinian NGOs account for 40 percent of the NGO clinics in the West Bank and Gaza. Four of these decline to sign the Anti-Terrorism Certification (ATC) and are thus ineligible for direct funding or sub-grants through USAID. Other NGO clinics may be ineligible to be USAID partners because of a failure to pass the security vetting review."

August 2009: "During a USG-HMG Video Tele Conference (VTC) meeting on August 14, UK officials focused on the UK's PREVENT counter-radicalization strategy expressed strong interest in collaborating more closely with the US Government to counter violent extremism. UK officials outlined several programs abroad that they believe have been effective and suggested efforts to enhance strategic communications in Pakistan."

June 2009: "U.S.-EU Terrorism Finance Workshop held in Prague explored possible measures to decrease NPO vulnerability to terrorist financing abuse.  In particular, Katherine Leahy noted that in the U.S. Treasury's experience, exploitation is the more commonly observed practice of the two, aimed at radicalizing vulnerable populations through the provision of legitimate social services."
"She noted that while the bulk of funding comes from the U.S. and Europe, many other countries remain vulnerable to exploitation. Finally, she introduced the concept of "alternative relief mechanisms" (covered in more detail in Session III), which aim to provide a vehicle for donors to give more safely to vulnerable communities."
"Ben Evans of the Charity Commission for England and Wales agreed with Leahy that the charitable sector does not generally recognize the risks it faces, and emphasized the importance of public outreach."
"Workshop participants agreed that outreach to NPOs is key, but controversial. NPOs are often offended by the implication that they could be used for terrorist purposes."
"Throughout the workshop, Poncy repeatedly underscored that any counter-terrorist financing efforts must be considered within the context of broader counter-terrorism efforts. When viewed through this lens, it becomes impossible to distinguish between the "legitimate" activities and terrorist actions of Hamas or Hezbollah, as they pursue a common purpose."


June 2009: "The private sector struggles with implementing so many government watch lists without consolidated data."


September 2009: "The role of social welfare and legal/practical difficulties that states are facing to disrupt organizations that fund Hamas and Hezbollah. (i.e. in some cases funds provided to social welfare related to these groups is just a part of a wide range of funding activity by the disrupted organization. In cases like this there is a mechanism implemented to allow continuity of the "good funding?")"

January 2010: "HMT officials told us privately they thought the Charity Commission had made a mistake in not requiring Interpal to force Mustafa to step down from its Board, and would have insisted, if they had had a voice in the report, upon Mustafa's removal. That said, HMT officials do not believe the evidence they've seen indicates Mustafa's role in Interpal alone warrants UK action against Interpal."
See: Related cable from July 2009        

April 2009: "EU belief that listed parties must be provided the rationale at the time of designation;
doubts that U.S. designation decisions can serve as a legal basis for EU designations; and
whether U.S. designation procedures adequately protect individual rights."

"UN sanctions reforms such as UNSCR 1822 notwithstanding, many Europeans subscribe to the view
that UN sanctions are conflicting with fundamental human rights."


December 2009: "Costa Rica's Perm Rep, Jorge Urbina, expressed similar remarks and congratulated the Council on improving the fairness and transparency of the 1267 regime. He said that although he would have preferred an Ombudsperson that was empowered to provide formal recommendations to the Committee on individual delisting requests, he said he was pleased with the resolution and that it was certainly "a step in the right direction"."
See: Related cable from Feb 2010

February 2010: "U.S. interagency sanctions officials met on February 3 with the European Commission's Legal Service to discuss legal issues surrounding targeted counterterrorism sanctions. Commission lawyers gave an overview of relevant changes under the EU's Lisbon Treaty, commented on procedural innovations in the UN's Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions regime, and described their strategy toward the crucial pending "Kadi II" case."
See: Related cable from April 2009

 November 2009: "On October 15-16, Belgium sponsored a Seminar on Strengthening the UN Targeted Sanctions through Fair and Clear Procedures to discuss options for reforming the UNSCR 1267 (Al-Qaida and Taliban) sanctions regime. … These States argued that the 1267 regime could collapse unless the UNSC addresses procedural insufficiencies."

January 2010: "Iraqi legislators adopted a bill regulating the status of non-governmental organizations (NGO) that will be the gold standard for civil society legislation in the region.  Refined after months of consultations with Iraqi civil society activists and with technical assistance primarily from the State/DRL-funded International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), the bill incorporates international best practices and creates a framework for a strong, independent civil society, legally authorized to partner with foreign NGOs."

February 2010: "The European Parliament is increasingly likely to veto the U.S.-EU TERRORIST FINANCING Tracking Program (TFTP, also known as SWIFT) next week. There are two aspects to this action. First, members of the European Parliament do not feel that they know enough about the operational aspects of SWIFT to make a judgment on whether the program's enhancement of security justifies potential perceived compromises of EU data protection standards. Second, the European parliament wants to demonstrate its power to affect law enforcement issues."

January 2010: "Germany has become a difficult partner with regards to security-related information sharing initiatives following the September 27 national elections, which brought the FDP into the governing coalition. The FDP sees themselves as defenders of citizens' privacy rights and these views have led the FDP to oppose many of Germany's post-9/11 counterterrorism legislative proposals"

August 2009: "Over 11,000 LTTE ex-combatants, or surrendees, have been separated from the general IDP population. They reside in 13 camps in Vavuniya District. IOM is preparing to begin socio-economic profiling of ex-combatants, as the first step of the rehabilitation/reintegration process, once funding is secured. If an OFAC license is approved, USG funds may support this first step and be available in September."

July 2009: "The GOK continues to demonstrate that it is taking meaningful steps to prevent charitable donations from becoming sources of financing for extremist groups. Despite deficient legislation, improved GOK interagency coordination and significant regulatory enhancements have produced appreciable strengthening of oversight of charitable organizations in Kuwait."