The government’s shutdown of two Chicago-area Islamic charities after the
Sept. 11 attacks has yet to produce a terrorism-related criminal conviction
and “raises substantial civil liberty concerns,” according to the staff of
the independent commission that investigated the attacks.
Authorities froze the assets of the charities–Global Relief Foundation of
Bridgeview and Benevolence International Foundation of Palos Hills–before
any official finding that they were aiding Al Qaeda or other terrorist
The action put Global Relief and Benevolence International out of business.
But since they were shuttered in December 2001, the government hasn’t
proven in court that they were guilty of any terrorism-related crimes.
The commission staff examined the moves against the two charities as part
of a report on U.S. efforts to combat terrorism funding. The study also
reviewed in detail a case against the Al-Barakaat money-transmission
network, which fell apart because of insufficient evidence.
The report raises questions about the government’s claims of success in its
terrorism financing investigations. It also echoes concerns of civil
liberty abuses raised for years by Chicago-area Muslims and other
supporters of the closed charities.
“I’m really grateful that they looked at it with a degree of information I
never got and came up with the same conclusion I did,” said Roger Simmons,
an attorney for Global Relief. “There was no hard evidence that [Global
Relief] spent any money in support of Al Qaeda or violent activity of any
The 152-page study was posted to the commission’s Web site on Saturday
afternoon, just after intelligence officials finished reviewing it and
shortly before the panel closed its doors. The commission didn’t formally
deliberate on the report because it had not been completed by the panel’s
last meeting on July 22, a commission spokesman said..