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U.S. Screening on Foreign Projects Roils Aid Groups

U.S. Screening on Foreign Projects Roils Aid Groups

WASHINGTON — A new federal screening program designed to ferret out terrorists working for government-backed nonprofit organizations is drawing sharp criticism from groups that say the vetting is overly intrusive, undermines their mission, and may endanger the lives of their employees.

The Partner Vetting System, run by the United States Agency for International Development, requires for the first time that nonprofit organizations collect detailed personal data — including biographical information and bank account numbers — on each officer, board member and vital employee associated with aid projects funded by the United States. That information is then shared within the United States government.

Officials process the data through classified intelligence and law enforcement databases to determine whether the individual or organization has connections to a terrorist group.

The program, which was authorized by Congress and went into effect June 27, will initially operate in five countries — Kenya, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Philippines and Ukraine — but could be expanded, officials said. The government has operated similar screening programs in Afghanistan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for years.

Though there have been no documented examples of United States aid ending up in the hands of terrorists or terrorist organizations, officials say the program is needed.

Source: U.S. Screening on Foreign Projects Roils Aid Groups