- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

A 1995 federal task force investigation identified 80 U.S.-based charities suspected of diverting cash to Islamic terrorists overseas before the probe was shut down by the Clinton administration, federal officials said.
Investigators believe millions of dollars were funneled out of the United States to fund terrorist operations, paying for training, equipment, weapons and safe haven.
"Closing down the 1995 investigation was purely a political decision," said one federal agent who asked not to be identified. "The administration was concerned the Saudis would be embarrassed. There was no doubt the Saudis were involved."
The 1995 task force was established by the Treasury Department and involved officials from several agencies. It was asked to examine hundreds of domestic and international charities to determine their sources of income and where the money they collected was being sent.
President Clinton had signed an executive order in January 1995 declaring a national emergency with respect to acts of violence by terrorists that threatened to disrupt the Middle East peace process. The order also prohibited U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with, or making donations to, questionable charities.
But, according to the authorities, political pressure to protect the Saudi government once the task force probe intensified resulted in a State Department push approved by the Clinton White House to halt the investigation.
The Saudi government has vigorously denied using front organizations to fund terrorists, calling the accusations "simply nonsense."
Julie Payne, spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton, did not return calls for comment.
President Bush issued a new executive order on Sept. 23, just days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, calling on federal authorities to block charitable donations by U.S. persons to any organization identified as terrorist-related.
The Bush order, which expanded the geographic scope of previous orders intended to disrupt terrorist financing, also instructed the Treasury Department to investigate terrorist money-laundering leads working with local FBI anti-terrorism task forces.
Under the new marching orders, federal agents raided 14 Islamic businesses in Virginia on March 20, seizing two dozen computers, along with hundreds of bank statements and other documents. Records in the ongoing probe, known as "Operation Green Quest," have been sealed and no arrests have been announced.
In the raids, investigators focused on several Islamic-based charities in Virginia, a network purportedly controlled by the Saar Foundation, an organization created by Suleiman Abdul Al-Aziz al-Rajhi, a descendent of one of Saudi Arabia's richest families.
The Saar Foundation has been linked to Khalid bin Mahfouz, former financial adviser to the Saudi royal family and ex-president of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia. French intelligence agents have named Mr. Mahfouz as a key associate of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Warrants served by agents in the Virginia raids targeted, among others, the International Institute of Islamic Thought and MarJac Investments, both in Herndon, and the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va. They are believed to be associated with a now-defunct Florida think tank known as the World and Islam Studies Enterprise.
The World and Islam Studies Enterprise was named by the State Department as a front organization that raised funds for militant Islamic-Palestinian groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

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