Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - The Emergency Supplemental Request for Iraq and Afghanistan
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REP. MARK KIRK (R-IL): Thank you, Madame Chair. Thank you for putting a hold on the Palestinian funding. I think the political consensus for that has collapsed.
We've just noticed that hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. funding has gone in this direction. And we've gone from Abbas being the president of the Palestinian Authority to being the governor of the West Bank to being the mayor of Ramallah. And now probably he's effectively the alderman for East Ramallah, is about the area that he's controlling.
And I don't know what the word in Arabic is for rathole, but it does appear that the usefulness of this taxpayer funding is disappearing.
I do want to commend you though, on the Merida Initiative, as a former inmate of the State Department in WHA. And looking at what President Calderon is going through, there's obviously a phenomenon in each one of our districts.
In my suburban district, stretching to 40 miles from the city of Chicago, we have 3,000 documented drug gang members who have nothing to do with the city of Chicago. And I'm beginning to see Mara Salvatrucha (terceras and ?) MS-13 logos now, which is obviously being recruited out of the Central American prisons, but also Mexico. You are an expert on Central American policy, et cetera, and I think that is a particularly well-timed initiative.
I'm worried about the request for 53 million bucks for the North Koreans. I think I'm the only member of Congress who's been to every province there. And when they stiffed Chris Hill on the December 30th deadline, doesn't seem that, you know, we can -- Congress can revisit that later. You guys play good cop with the North Koreans, saying that we asked for the money and we'll play bad cop saying, since you haven't done anything to warrant that funding, you know, when you have a full nuclear declaration, you know, fax it to us. I've dealt with the North Korean mission in New York, you know -- send it on down and then the Appropriations Committee can quickly act, because obviously it's quite important.
The question I wanted to raise with you is regarding the integrity of the U.S. foreign aid system as a whole and especially in the Mideast. We read in March of 2007 -- The Washington Times wrote that USAID assistance had been provided to the Hamas-controlled Islamic University in Gaza. I wrote to the inspector general, asking him to investigate the matter. In December, the IG reported back -- this is the IG report -- that U.S. embassy Tel Aviv was responsible for vetting and approving funding for Islamic University in Gaza, eight separate approvals. The most recent approval of U.S. taxpayer funding going to the university was in February 2006, which was after Hamas had won the Palestinian election and with the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, serving on the board of trustees of the institution itself.
Obviously we all know Secretary Albright designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization in October of '97 -- a considered judgment, because Hamas is responsible for the death of -- for the murder, I should say, of 26 American citizens. Secretary Rice has obviously renewed that foreign terrorist designation.
So we see the $22 million request for you when the IG itself has reported that the State Department vetting system is unable to stop funding to organizations in which board members and trustees are official and public members of foreign terrorist organizations. And so I'd just ask, how do we clean this up?
MR. NEGROPONTE: Yeah. First of all, we have worked on cleaning it up, Congressman. Secondly, I believe that the last assistance that you're referring to, February of '06, would be sort of a matter of days after the elections that took place in the West Bank and Gaza. So perhaps that was something that was already in the works before Hamas won the election. I'm not certain, I just --
REP. KIRK: Obviously -- no, obviously (it's heightened ?) because the reports are that Private Gilad was actually held captive at Gaza's Islamic University, and when police raided the place -- a couple of hundred AK-47s and then five Iranians teaching kids how to make plastic explosives in the U.S.-funded institution.
MR. NEGROPONTE: Yeah. But we take this issue seriously, and the other point I would like to make is that at present the only assistance that in any way touches upon the university in Gaza, the Islamic University, is a few scholarships for individuals, and those individuals have been vetted for any ties to terrorist organizations. So I think there's been a pretty significant down-scaling of any assistance which might have been given.
REP. KIRK: I'd just say I know you're working on a vetting system worldwide, which would help this committee, I think, review your funding requests.
My guess is, even if you're providing a scholarship to an institution in which Hamas is a board of trustee member dedicated to the destruction of a member of the United Nations, it's probably inappropriate that the institution receive any U.S. funding. And I would hope that we rapidly deploy the vetting system to make sure that we're not funding both sides of the conflict.
MR. NEGROPONTE: Yes.
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