Biden State Department faces lawsuit over records about funding Palestinian Authority

The Biden administration reinstated funding to the Palestinian Authority.

Updated: January 17, 2022 - 6:49pm

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The Biden State Department is facing a federal lawsuit after so far failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents on aid given to the Palestinian Authority.

Watchdog group Protect the Public's Trust (PPT) announced the lawsuit Monday, stating, "Despite repeated efforts at outreach by PPT… State [Department] refuses to indicate when it will begin producing records." 

The watchdog is specifically seeking records of meetings "related to the decision to re-initiate funding to the Palestinian Authority either directly or through the UNRWA," also known as United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The group also requested internal and external communications related to the funding. 

The Trump Administration "ended many sources of foreign aid that benefited the Palestinian Authority," PPT writes. The Biden administration reinstated the funding. The new funding may be in violation of the 2018 Taylor Force Act, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act.

PPT reached out to the State Department three times about the FOIA. The agency responded that the estimated FOIA response date would be Dec. 16, 2022, but ultimately the State Department did not complete the request at that time, citing a FOIA backlog and COVID-19. 

"The American public depends on transparency, never more so when matters of law and the lives of their countrymen and allies abroad may be at stake," PPT Director Michael Chamberlain said. "Sitting on timely information, while millions of additional taxpayer dollars possibly flow to activities prohibited under the law, flies in the face of the commitment government agencies owe to those they serve. Protect the Public’s Trust will continue our work to ensure agencies live up to their legal obligations and this starts with greater transparency."

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., added to the Taylor Force Act by introducing the Taylor Force Martyr Payment Prevention Act in December 2021. The bill's goal is to stop "martyr payments" from the Palestinian government.

"Radical Islamic terrorists shouldn’t be rewarded for killing innocent people, and banks should be held responsible for processing any sort of 'martyr payments,'" Cotton said in December. "Our bill will build upon the Taylor Force Act to ensure Palestinian terrorists don’t benefit financially for committing these senseless murders."