Thursday, August 23, 2007

The CLOSING of a Previously OPEN Society

Foreign Aid Groups Face Terror Screens
By Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, August 23, 2007; A01
The Bush administration plans to screen thousands of people who work with charities and nonprofit organizations that receive U.S. Agency for International Development funds to ensure they are not connected with individuals or groups associated with terrorism, according to a recent Federal Register notice.
The plan would require the organizations to give the government detailed information about key personnel, including phone numbers, birth dates and e-mail addresses. But the government plans to shroud its use of that information in secrecy and does not intend to tell groups deemed unacceptable why they are rejected.
The plan has aroused concern and debate among some of the larger U.S. charitable organizations and recipients of AID funding. Officials of InterAction, representing 165 foreign aid groups, said last week that the plan would impose undue burdens and has no statutory basis. The organization requested that it be withdrawn.
"We don't know who will do the vetting, what the standards are and whether we could answer any allegation," said an executive for a major nongovernmental organization that would be subject to the new requirements and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to harm his organization's relations with the government.
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This is truly bizarre.
It's understandable that the government wants to know who is running these organizations, since some similar groups have previously been found to fund terrorist groups.
What is not understandable is a shroud of secrecy. We are (or used to be) an open society. It is our strength. The Bush administration has turned us secretive and been unable to prove sufficient reason for that, other than their reason for everything--9-11.
McCarthyism, 50 years after the proven dangers of Senator Joe McCarthy's irresponsible allegations against the innocent.
We are currently witnessing government by unsubstantiated allegation from the truly incompetent.



* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Washington at Work, check out Opinion-Columns.com