New York Times: U.S. Screening on Foreign Projects Roils Aid Groups

New York Times
Jul 12, 2015

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. ...

But critics, like Samuel A. Worthington, the president of InterAction, an umbrella group of humanitarian organizations, say the vast collection of information on foreign aid workers could have devastating consequences on those risking their lives in conflict zones, where they could be viewed as agents of United States intelligence organizations. ...

'We are vehemently opposed to this program,' Mr. Worthington said. 'Aid is supposed to be done separately from intelligence.' The debate, [Worthington] said, is not so much about 'vetting happening versus it not happening, it’s about how it should happen.'

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