A Senate-led investigation into the non-profit humanitarian group World Vision shows that President Obama’s administration knowingly gave tax-payer money to an Al-Qaeda affiliated terror organization.
The report finds that without proper vetting, World Vision improperly transacted with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) in 2014 with approval from the Obama administration. The ISRA has been sanctioned over its ties to terrorism since 2004 since funneling $5 million to Al-Qaeda, then led by Maktab al-Khidamat.
The Senate-led probe found that World Vision was not aware that the ISRA was sanctioned by the United States. Although Senator Chuck Grassley praised the non-profit organization for helping “people in need across the world, and that work is admirable,” he stated that “though it may not have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list or that it was listed because of its affiliation with terrorism, it should have. Ignorance can’t suffice as an excuse. World Vision’s changes in vetting practices are a good first step, and I look forward to its continued progress.”
A 2018 National Review article generated the investigation when director of the Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch, Sam Westrop, explained findings in which the Obama administration approved a “$200,000 grant of taxpayer money to ISRA.” The Obama officials had specifically authorized at least “$115,000” of the grant even after learning that ISRA was a designated terrorist organization.
The Senate report noted that World Vision had submitted a grant application to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in order to carry out its planned Blue Nile Recovery Program. Beginning on January 21, 2014, the program was designed to provide food, sanitation equipment, and health services to affected areas of the Blue Nile region of the Sudan. A $723,405 grant was awarded to World Vision to conduct the program.
In the following month, ISRA stated that they’d provide the necessary services to the affected Blue Nile region on behalf of World Vision.
Only after discussing a possible partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on a different humanitarian project in the Sudan did it learn of ISRA’s sanctioned status. The IOM performed a routine vetting of its partners, including World Vision, before engaging in the project and learned that the non-profit had given money to ISRA and contacted the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to confirm its finding.
Upon hearing of ISRA’s status as a sanctioned organization, World Vision’s legal department demanded a halt to all payments to ISRA while it conducted an investigation. Ultimately, World Vision contacted OFAC to better understand ISRA’s status as a sanctioned entity and requested that it be given a temporary license to pay them the remainder of funds owed to finish the contracted work, if they were indeed found to be sanctioned.
Within two months, the Treasury responded back to the request confirming the sanctioned status and noted that being given a temporary license would be “inconsistent with OFAC policy.”
World Vision sent yet another request for a temporary license one month later to pay ISRA $125,000 for their services rendered, unless it faced legal ramifications and expulsion from the Sudan.
OFAC ended up granting the temporary license one day after receiving an Obama administration State Department recommendation to do so. They also served World Vision a “cautionary letter” letting them know that its transaction with ISRA seemed to have violated the Global Terrorism Sanction Regulations.
According to the Senate report, they found no evidence that the non-profit intentionally tried to circumvent U.S. sanctions when it transacted with ISRA. Additionally, the report found that “We also found no evidence that World Vision knew that ISRA was a sanctioned entity prior to receiving notice from Treasury.” It continued, “However, based on the evidence presented, we conclude that World Vision had access to the appropriate public information and should have known how, but failed to, properly vet ISRA as a sub-grantee, resulting in the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organization [sic] and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.”
World Vision has since said that it “takes our compliance obligations seriously and shares Sen. Grassley and the committee staff’s objective for good stewardship.” The organization also said that it appreciates “acknowledgement that the committee staff’s report to the chairman ‘found no evidence that World Vision knew that ISRA was a sanctioned entity prior to receiving notice from Treasury. Terrorism runs counter to everything World Vision stands for as an organization and we strongly condemn any act of terrorism or support for such activities.”