Thursday, August 30, 2007

Administration backs off screening contractors for terrorist ties

What in the world is going on in Washington?

"Plan for Terror Screening of Aid Groups Cut Drastically," by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post:

The Bush administration has decided to sharply scale back its plan to screen U.S. foreign aid contractors around the globe for potential terrorism connections, deciding instead to begin with a pilot program involving aid recipients in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip before expanding it worldwide.

The decision, announced Tuesday at a meeting of U.S. officials and representatives of nonprofit groups, was made after lawmakers and several large aid organizations said that the global screening requirements were onerous and unwarranted. An official of the U.S. Agency for International Development had earlier promised to defer the program, which initially was to have taken effect Monday.

The global screening program, initially described in a July 17 Federal Register notice, would have required that all nongovernmental organizations seeking funds from the agency provide detailed information about key personnel, including phone numbers, birth dates and e-mail addresses.

That information was to have been reviewed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to ensure that there were no connections with individuals or groups associated with terrorism or threats to national security. It would have affected thousands of individuals in nonprofit groups, charities, religious organizations, colleges, universities and private corporations.

At the presentation Tuesday, USAID officials said they would initially carry out a "pilot vetting program" with recipients of grants and contracts in the West Bank and Gaza, according to materials presented at the meeting and made available to The Post by a contractor organization on the condition that it not be identified.

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