GAO Releases Report To Senators Collins And Lieberman On U.S. Govt Efforts To Curtail Islamic Extremism

WASHINGTON, DC– The GAO released a report today on the U.S. Government’s efforts to fight terrorism by working to curtail the spread of Islamic extremism. The report also addresses Saudi Arabia’s role in this effort. The report was requested by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman. At the request of the Senators, both a classified and public version of the report were made available today. The report states that while it is difficult to identify sources for Islamic extremism, U.S. government agencies are now monitoring and addressing the issue and have some cooperation by the Saudi Arabian government.

“Monitoring the spread of Islamic extremism is a critical component to the war on terrorism. This report tells us that the U.S. government is finally beginning to understand the importance of this issue and is taking important steps to monitor Islamic extremism throughout the world. We must continue to seek cooperation from the Saudi government on this important matter,” said Senator Collins.

Senator Lieberman said, “This report underscores the need for a long-term, well-coordinated and adequately funded strategy to address the threat posed by Islamic extremism and terrorism. Our national security, intelligence, defense, foreign policy, and foreign assistance agencies must all work together to address this threat. Furthermore, we need more concrete help from Saudi Arabia in order to ensure that Saudi actions match Saudi rhetoric.”

The unclassified version of the report, which can be found on the GAO website, says that while it is difficult to identify specific sources of funding for groups that promote Islamic extremism, the problem can be viewed as a worldwide issue. Groups and individuals within Saudi Arabia have been identified as sources of funding for groups such as the Muslim World League, but the report also identified Islamic extremism as emerging from other countries such as Iran, Kuwait, and Syria. In addition, the report states that progress has been made within various U.S. government agencies to monitor groups that promote extremism.

Highlights of the unclassified report findings include:

• There is no single factor that accounts for the rise of Islamic extremism in the Muslim world.

• Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, some agencies have been devoting increasing resources to addressing the global propagation of Islamic extremism.

• Since the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh, the government of Saudi Arabia, with some assistance from the United States, has announced and, in some cases, reportedly undertaken a number of reform efforts to address Islamic extremism, including educational, religious, legal, and political reforms.

• Despite the lack of a common definition for Islamic extremism, and partially as a result of the 9/11 Commission recommendations and the intelligence reform legislation authored by Senators Collins and Lieberman, several agencies are working to counter Islamic extremism by addressing the underlying conditions that facilitate extremism through programs aimed at humanitarian assistance, educational reform, economic assistance, public diplomacy, and governance, including the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights.

• Determining the resources that agencies have committed for these efforts is complicated by the fact that the agencies do not disaggregate data for some of their activities addressing Islamic extremism from their broader efforts or goals, such as force protection, counterterrorism, and public diplomacy.