By William Fisher
NEW YORK - The U.S. government’s anti-terrorist financing programmes are based on the “guilt by association” tactics of the McCarthy era and have had a widespread negative impact on U.S. charities, critics say.
That is the view of Kay Guinane, director of the Nonprofit Speech Rights Programme for OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Watch, an independent not-for-profit government watchdog group. Guinane told IPS that government actions have resulted in programme cutbacks and increased fear of speaking out on important public issues.
The organisation accused Congress of continuing “an unfortunate pattern of insufficient congressional oversight of anti-terrorist financing programmes, neglecting to address the unnecessarily harsh impacts the programmes have on U.S. charities and philanthropy.”
As an example of insufficient congressional oversight of charities’ alleged support of terrorist organisations, OMB Watch cited a recent hearing before the Senate Finance Committee in which the only witness was a government official. The witness was the under-secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, who plays a lead role in identifying charities that the Treasury Department claims are supporting terrorist causes.
OMB Watch asked the committee for an opportunity to testify, but was not invited.
The McCarthy era refers to a 1950s Cold War campaign led by then Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. McCarthy charged that communist “subversives” had infiltrated the U.S. government and were undermining national security and disclosing secret information. He accused the administration of President Harry S. Truman of sheltering such subversives rather than investigating and ousting them.
Hundreds of citizens were eventually “blacklisted” and lost their jobs. Congress made membership in the Communist Party a criminal offence, in a statute known as the Smith Act.