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Bush toughens NGO conditions

The Bush administration is toughening screening procedures for organizations that receive its assistance, in part because of concerns about Palestinian awardees.

New directives require non-governmental organizations receiving aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development to submit names, telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of staff. Furthermore, the Washington Post reported Thursday, the U.S. government would keep secret how it uses the information. Until now, the Bush administration relied on NGOs own internal checks.

The policy, announced last month and going into effect Monday, is based on congressional laws aimed at ensuring U.S. funds do not reach Palestinian terrorists.

NGOs said the program was overly burdensome and potentially violated privacy rights laws, because some staff are U.S. citizens.

“There is no evidence that USAID funds are flowing to terrorist organizations through NGOs,” InterAction, an alliance of 150 NGOs said in a letter sent Aug. 17 to USAID’s privacy officer. “The Office of the Inspector General has reported repeatedly that it has found no such diversion in exercising its oversight of programs in USAID’s sensitive West Bank/Gaza portfolio. Nor has it reported finding such diversions elsewhere. Neither has any other competent authority.”

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