Is US Money Still Funding Palestinian Terrorist Groups?
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The United States has worked for decades to achieve a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through initiatives such as the 1993 Oslo Accords and the more recent 2003 Roadmap for Peace.
During fiscal years 1993 through 2005, the United States provided more than $2 billion in assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including nearly $275 million in fiscal year 2005, to help achieve this goal. In particular, the 2005 assistance was provided to support the president of the Palestinian Authority, elected in January 2005, and to facilitate the Israeli disengagement from parts of the West Bank and Gaza, among other things.
This assistance, primarily administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been directed mainly toward five development sectors: economic growth, water and infrastructure, democracy and governance, health, and higher education.
In recent years, the United States has taken several steps to help ensure that U.S. resources, including its aid to the West Bank and Gaza, do not support terrorist activities. On September 23, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order prohibiting the support of any organization or individuals that have been designated as terrorists. Since 2001, to implement the executive order and other antiterrorism provisions in various subsequent appropriations acts, USAID, and its parent agency the Department of State, Congress, and others, developed a number of provisions to help ensure that its assistance is not delivered to or through terrorists.
In addition, the USAID mission for the West Bank and Gaza (the mission) developed policies and procedures to implement antiterrorism provisions for the awards it administers. A clause was attached to all award agreements prohibiting the support of terrorists (antiterrorism clause) and clauses in all prime awards prohibiting the use of U.S. funds to recognize or honor terrorists (naming clause), and the provision of cash to the Palestinian Authority (cash clause).
Responding to a 2005 mandate to the Comptroller General of the United States, Congress' Government Accounting Office examined fiscal year 2005 assistance to the West Bank and Gaza to, among other things, ensure that the required antiterrorism measures were implemented.
In addition, they reviewed the financial audit reports of West Bank and Gaza contractors and grantees prepared by the USAID Office of the Regional Inspector General-Cairo (RIG) in response to a 2003 mandate and subsequent mandates. Among other things, the audits examined the awardees' compliance with antiterrorism provisions. To address these objectives, the GAO reviewed the relevant laws and executive orders and USAID's directives, internal memorandums, operating procedures, and guidance for assistance-related antiterrorism measures. They focused on USAID's implementation of procedures related to vetting and antiterrorism certification and clauses.
The mission's implementation of its antiterrorism requirements for vetting, certification, and clauses for awards active in fiscal year 2005 had certain limitations. However, the mission has taken, or is taking steps, to resolve many of these problems. Until June 2006, the mission did not routinely collect detailed identifying information on individuals, such as date and place of birth, or verify that information.
Further, analysts discovered that the mission had not established procedures, such as requesting some form of identification, to verify the accuracy of key individuals' names provided by awardees. In addition, in March 2006, although the mission added certain conditions that would trigger revetting of awardees, the mission eliminated a requirement to periodically revet certain awardees, thus reducing the chances of identifying terrorist connections with more recent intelligence information.
Data reliability issues, security weaknesses, and other problems with the mission's unclassified database, which is designed to record and track vetting results, limited it's utility for management and oversight purposes. Although the mission generally ensured that prime awardees signed the required certifications, many prime awards did not contain the required clauses and, until recently, the mission did not systematically verify that recipients of subawards signed the required certifications or that subawards contained the mandatory clauses.
To address the 2003 mandate and subsequent related mandates for financial audits of West Bank and Gaza assistance, USAID's RIG contracted with audit firms in the region. The RIG added the requirement for reviewing antiterrorism provisions to its audits in supplementary guidance in 2003. Since then, the RIG has prepared 62 reports, issued from 2004 through 2006, based on the contract auditors' reviews.
Although the mandate was addressed, the RIG's financial audits did not help the mission ensure that awardees complied with the antiterrorism requirements before awards and subawards were entered into. Also, the guidance to the RIG's contract auditors did not always reflect the mission's antiterrorism policies and procedures. The October 2003 guidance provided that all subawards should be examined rather than a sample. However, this requirement was not in the guidance to auditors for 2004 and 2005. Unless the auditors were otherwise aware of the 2003 guidance, they may not have reviewed all subawards.
Analysts from the GAO are making several recommendations to the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator to strengthen the mission's efforts to help ensure that U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza does not support terrorist activities, including addressing limitations with the mission's vetting management database and developing antiterrorism policies and procedures for all its financial agreements.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.