Revived Probe Eyes 80 Charities' Ties to Terrorism

Article excerpt


A 1995 federal task force investigation identified 80 U.S.-based charities suspected of diverting cash to Islamic terrorists overseas before the probe was shut down by the Clinton administration, federal officials said.

Investigators believe millions of dollars were funneled out of the United States to fund terrorist operations, paying for training, equipment, weapons and safe haven.

"Closing down the 1995 investigation was purely a political decision," said one federal agent who asked not to be identified. "The administration was concerned the Saudis would be embarrassed. There was no doubt the Saudis were involved."

The 1995 task force was established by the Treasury Department and involved officials from several agencies. It was asked to examine hundreds of domestic and international charities to determine their sources of income and where the money they collected was being sent.

President Clinton had signed an executive order in January 1995 declaring a national emergency with respect to acts of violence by terrorists that threatened to disrupt the Middle East peace process. The order also prohibited U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with, or making donations to, questionable charities.

But, according to the authorities, political pressure to protect the Saudi government once the task force probe intensified resulted in a State Department push - approved by the Clinton White House - to halt the investigation.

The Saudi government has vigorously denied using front organizations to fund terrorists, calling the accusations "simply nonsense."

Julie Payne, spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton, did not return calls for comment.

President Bush issued a new executive order on Sept. 23, just days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, calling on federal authorities to block charitable donations by U. …