The Senate Committee on Finance today released a letter its chairman and ranking member, Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus, had sent on Dec. 22, 2003, to the Internal Revenue Service. In it, they asked for a long list of specifics ("Form 990s and Form 990 PFs, including the donors list for both types; Form 1023s, the charities' applications for tax exempt status, and any and all materials from examinations, audits and other investigations, including criminal investigations") about charities, foundations and tax-exempt organizations, groups or entities that have been designated or listed by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control since September 11, 2001. It is worth noting this list of twenty-five, for it offers an authoritative guide to U.S. Islamist groups which, in the senators' words, "finance terrorism and perpetuate violence" (I have rearranged their order to make it alphabetical):
Al Haramain Foundation
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF)
Global Relief Foundation (GRF)
Help the Needy
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF)
Human Appeal International
Institute of Islamic and Arabic Science in America (IIASA)
International Islamic Relief Organization
International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) or Internal Relief Organization(IRO)
Islamic African Relief Agency and/or Islamic American Relief Agency
Islamic Assembly of North American
Islamic Association for Palestine
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Islamic Foundation of America
Islamic Society of North America
Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA)
Muslim Student Association
Muslim World League
SAAR Foundation and all members and related entities
Solidarity International and/or Solidarity USA
United Association for Studies and Research (USAR)
World Assembly of Muslim Youth
The Washington Post interviewed committee staffers and outside experts and found that "the scope of this request is unusual because of its breadth and because it is part of a wide-ranging terrorism-related investigation." It also quoted one committee aide explaining the purpose of the inquiry: "We want to look into where all their money comes from. Is it from foreign embassies? Does money come from obscure individuals in the Persian Gulf? We're the only ones that can look at this."
Comment: These twenty-five groups cover a remarkable range – Iranian- and Saudi-sponsored, student and adult, charitable and academic – but the absence of certain well-known political Islamist groups is conspicuous. Here's betting its only a matter of time until their names join this list of infamy. (January 14, 2004)
Feb. 29, 2004 update: This matter could not be a very high priority for the Internal Revenue Service. Over two months have gone by since the committee's Dec. 22, 2003, letter went off, but a Reuters dispatch today indicates that the IRS "has not yet supplied" the requested information.
Oct. 13, 2004 update: The FBI today raided Islamic American Relief Agency offices in Columbia, Missouri.
Oct. 17, 2004 update: Turns out that the IARA (or, more exactly, its earlier incarnation, the Islamic African Relief Agency United States Affiliate) was incorporated in 1985 by none other than Eric Vickers, the man who went on to lead the American Muslim Council some years later.
Nov. 15, 2005 update: The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Charles Grassley (Republican of Iowa) announced that the investigation is closing down without plans to issue a report, forward any findings to law enforcement agents, or hold hearings or propose new legislation. "We did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law enforcement is already doing. If something in the future does cause new concern, we will continue the investigation."
Dec. 6, 2005 update: Not so fast – it's not over yet. Grassley issued a statement today that although the Senate Finance Committee is done reviewing the IRS Service records it requested, that "does not mean that these groups have been cleared by the committee." Grassley said the committee "will continue to gather information and examine the operations of the charities," thereby reversing his Nov. 15 statement that the committee "did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law enforcement is already doing."
Dec. 8, 2005 update: Islamic Society of North America's secretary-general, Sayyid M. Syeed, responded to this turn of events by calling it "very strange. Either they should come up with something as quickly as possible or they should not keep something like this hanging. It is quite damaging. It is not right." Arsalan T. Iftikhar of CAIR called the Senate Finance Committee statement "completely contradictory" to its announcement last month and described it as the "reinitiation of a fishing expedition." A more benign interpretation is that the committee made a mistake in releasing its Nov. 15 statement and has now rectified matters.
Dec. 12, 2005 update: For a full analysis of this imbroglio, see the work of William A. Mayer and Beila Rabinowitz in PipeLineNews.org.