A U.S. program aimed at screening federally backed aid nonprofits for terrorist ties is drawing fire from relief charities, which say the vetting is overly intrusive and could endanger their workers, The New York Times reports.
Run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Partner Vetting System requires groups to collect biographical and bank-account information and other personal data on officers and key employees on projects that get federal money.
The information is run through through intelligence and law-enforcement databases to determine if the individual has links to terrorist groups. Similar to programs operated in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, the new screening effort was implemented in late June for projects in Guatemala, Kenya, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Ukraine and could be expanded.
InterAction, an umbrella group for humanitarian charities, said the program could create suspicion in conflict zones that aid workers are agents of U.S. intelligence. Craig Redmond, a senior vice president at Mercy Corps, said the screening "will undermine the trust that communities where we work have in us." A USAID spokesman said the agency "exercises strict measures to prohibit our resources from funding terrorists" but will "work to limit the impact of these measures" on aid groups.