February 26, 2008
Government Accused of Overreaching Over Increased Scrutiny of Islamic Charities
On February 23, 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Government continues its close scrutiny of Islamic Charities operating under the belief (with little direct evidence) that these charities are collecting donations and funding terrorism. The article discusses how Counterterrorism officials believe that Islamic charities are staying one step ahead of the Government as it searches out those charities that are sustaining the infrastructure of terrorists groups, and that following the first group of charities swept up in 2001 and 2002, a new set of charities are at work moving funds and donor files from one group to another.
Scholars and other critics disagree, according to the article. Critics point out that in "the last six years little evidence has emerged directly connecting charities to individual acts of terrorism." Below is a fuller excerpt of the story, highlighting the critics' concerns that most of the alleged evidence is unaccessible even to those charged with wrong-doing:
Officials say the moves against the organizations have aroused anger and opposition among many American Muslims and some civil-liberties advocates -- creating what counterterrorism officials acknowledge is a public-relations problem.
For one thing, critics have chided the government for keeping much of its evidence of terrorist connections secret and resorting to nonterrorism charges, such as tax and money-laundering violations, to put the leaders of some charities out of business.
Prosecutors say, though, that they won't abandon tactics that have brought results. "We incapacitate the bad guys," said Justice's Mr. Wainstein. "It might not be the sexiest way of doing it, and if we get criticized, so be it."
One big problem, some front-line prosecutors said, is that intelligence can show signs of terrorism support, but it is difficult to obtain the kind of unambiguous evidence that will stand up in court to prove money ended up with terrorists overseas. "Once it hits a foreign bank, it is gone to us," said one federal prosecutor who asked not to be named.
See Wall Street Journal for complete story. See also, earlier January 13 Nonprofit Law Prof Blog posting on Convictions of Islamic Charity Leaders.
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