Senator praised for blasting 'borderline negligent' World Vision and its money flow

Senator praised for blasting 'borderline negligent' World Vision and its money flow

Senator praised for blasting 'borderline negligent' World Vision and its money flow

A terrorism watchdog is praising a U.S. senator for urging World Vision, the well-known humanitarian relief group, to follow where its money is going all over the world.

According to a recent news release from his office, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is ramping up anti-terrorism efforts. In particular, the senior senator said he is investigating instances in which "federal resources have funded, or may fund, global terrorist activities." 

Clifford Smith, director of the Middle East Forum's Washington Project, praises Grassley’s efforts for focusing on World Vision International, the non-profit organization that receives millions in taxpayers' dollars through USAID, a State Department program.    

Perhaps best known for its child sponsorships, the most recent World Vision report said 16 million children were helped in 54 countries through sponsorships last year, but the group is also working all over the globe in other projects such as food assistance and disaster relief. 

According to Smith, Middle East Forum began watching World Vision in 2018. That is when the watchdog "stumbled upon" World Vision's funding to the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), a Sudan-based organization that is recognized by the U.S. as a terrorist-funding organization.

After filing multiple FOIA requests and publishing articles on their findings, Middle East Forum caught the attention of Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee in 2020. In a report, the powerful committee concluded World Vision's system for vetting the ISRA was "borderline negligent and ignored elementary level investigative procedures, such as failing to conduct basic secondary research that is widely available to the public on the Internet via free search engines.”

Additionally, in 2022, former World Vision employee Mohammad Halabi was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli court for “funneling millions of dollars to [foreign terrorist organization] Hamas.”

The arrest and trial were marred with controversy, especially since the case dragged on for six years until Halabi was sentenced to 12 years. In a statement, World Vision condemned the "unjust verdict" against Halabi.

Smith, however, has remained skeptical about World Vision. He questioned whether the humanitarian aid organization had learned its lesson after Halabi's sentencing. 

"In light of Halabi's arrest, World vision had said that they were going to stop all funding to Gaza—which they apparently did in 2016.” However, according to Smith, there was evidence the funding restarted.

These are the concerns that continue to resonate with Grassley’s office, Smith points out.

Smith, Clifford (Middle East Forum) Smith

In the Aug. 23 news release, the senator “demanded answers from executive agency leaders and the CEO of World Vision, a non-profit humanitarian organization, about potentially alarming use of taxpayer dollars [through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies].”

The senator went on to state it is "paramount" that U.S. dollars do not "fund or encourage terrorism."

Sen. Grassley's statement last month comes after USAID head Samantha Power met with World Vision CEO Edgar Sandoval, Sr. in February, according to a State Department press release. The two discussed efforts to "advance a more inclusive development model," the statement said.

Power is perhaps most well known for serving as UN ambassador during the Obama administration. 

Meanwhile, Smith tells AFN he is “extremely pleased” to see Grassley’s office try to thoroughly investigate World Vision’s funding from the government through the USAID and other agencies.

“The funding of terrorist organizations must be shut down,” he concludes.