Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) recently released a report detailing the findings of an investigation his staff began in February 2019 into the relationship between World Vision and the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) and the funding they received from the Obama administration. The report concluded that World Vision was unaware that ISRA was sanctioned by the US State Department in 2004 for transferring $5 million to Maktab al-Khidamat, the predecessor to Al-Qaeda that was controlled by Osama Bid Laden.
Despite being unaware of the connection and the ensuing sanctions, the Senate investigation concluded that this was a direct result of insufficient vetting procedures.
“World Vision works to help people in need across the world, and that work is admirable,” Grassley said in a statement. “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.”
This Obama-era funding of the Al Qaeda affiliate was first made public in a 2018 report by the Middle East Forum revealed that the Obama administration approved a grant of $200,000 to ISRA) despite the organization being explicitly designated as one that funds terrorism and an al-Qaeda affiliate.
ISRA was established in 1985 and came under scrutiny by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. In October 2004, its offices were raided and its operations shut down. The group was closed down after being identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) – a financial and intelligence branch of the U.S. Treasury Department – as a specially designated global terrorist organization due to its links to Maktab al-Khidamat.
ISRA raised $5 million dollars for the MK but its links to terrorism went far beyond funding. The Treasury Department report noted that ISRA officials sought to help “relocate [bin Laden] to secure safe harbor for him.” It further reports that ISRA raised funds in 2003 in Western Europe were specifically earmarked for Hamas suicide bombings. The U.S. State Department designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 1997.
With such a clear connection to terrorism, ISRA should not have received U.S. funding, but this was not the case. In July 2014, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded $723,405 to World Vision Inc., an international evangelical charity, to “improve water, sanitation and hygiene and to increase food security in Sudan’s Blue Nile state.” Of these funds, $200,000 was to be directed to ISRA as a sub-grantee.