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Mon May 16 08:42:23 MDT 2005
USAID, Soros Accused of Skirting Needle Exchange Laws
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
May 12, 2005
(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Agency for International Development has
allegedly supported needle exchange programs in Central Asia, an
apparent violation of federal law, according to documents obtained
by Cybercast News Service. At least one member of Congress says
the foreign aid agency violated congressional intent by giving
taxpayer dollars to groups like George Soros' Open Society
Institute, which support needle exchange programs.
Needle exchange programs are part of a strategy called "harm
reduction," the contested hypothesis that a certain percentage of
society will engage in high-risk behaviors like intravenous drug
abuse, regardless of education and interdiction efforts. The
theory is embraced by Soros and numerous drug legalization ad
vocates, but has been rejected by both the United Nations'
International Narcotics Control Board and the Bush
Administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who serves as chairman of the
House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug
Policy and Human Resources - believes USAID needs to explain its
"Not only is USAID exercising bad judgment by supporting the
facilitation of so-called 'clean needle programs,'" Souder told
Cybercast News Service, "but the agency may be violating U.S.
Government policy, which prohibits the purchase of materials used
in conjunction with a needle exchange program."
The USAID Mission to the Central Asia Republics (CAR) denied
Souder's allegations in a response to congressional inquiries.
"[T]he Mission concludes that there is no reasonable basis to
support allegations of misuse of taxpayers' dollars in its drug
demand reduction and HIV/AIDS prevention activ ities," the USAID
document stated. "Instead, the Mission suggests that inquiries
were raised to create a policy debate about whether USAID should
be prohibited from funding private organizations that conduct
needle exchange or harm reduction activities as part of an overall
strategy to combat HIV/AIDS among IDUs (injecting drug users) and
other high risk groups."
Every appropriations bill passed by Congress includes conditions
on how federal agencies may spend taxpayers' money. For example,
funding laws for public health purposes contain prohibitions to
the effect that, "None of the funds provided under this Act or an
amendment made by this Act shall be used to provide individuals
with hypodermic needles or syringes so that such individuals may
use illegal drugs ..."
USAID records show that the agency guided its grant recipients to
spend federal f unds in such a way as to free private dollars for
the purchase of "clean" needles and syringes for intravenous drug
A USAID document entitled "Guidance on the Definition and Use of
the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund and the Global
HIV/AIDS Initiative Account" explains the process:
"USAID is committed to supporting effective strategies to prevent
the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic by injecting drug users.
However, [United States Government] policy is not to use federal
funds for the purchase or distribution of injection equipment
(needles and syringes) for injecting illegal drugs. Therefore,
USAID funds may not be used to purchase the commodities to be used
in either a needle/syringe exchange program or research programs
on needle/syringe exchange," the handbook states.
"Many other activities targeting IDU and HIV/AIDS reduction are
acceptable in a USAID funded program," the document continues.
The USAID guide lists several activities for which U.S. dollars
may be used, including "providing factual information about the
medical risks associated with the sharing or re-use of needles,
syringes, and other drug equipment" and "educating about the risks
of injecting drugs and sharing needles." The handbook then
explains how grant recipients should go about seeking alternative
funding to cover the cost of prohibited services without
jeopardizing their taxpayer money.
"While USAID implementing agencies may cooperate with other donors
and governments that fund those activities not permitted to be
funded by USAID," the pamphlet explains, "in these cases, the
USAID funds must be segregated and coded separately."
In another document, a draft report entitled "USAID/CAR Strategy
on HIV/AIDS Prevention in Central Asia," USAID praised various
Soros enterprises for promoting their agenda in that part of the
"An important role is played in the region's HIV/AIDS prevention
efforts by the Soros Foundation/ Open Society Institute, which
supports methadone treatment and harm reduction programs at needle
exchange sites. It is important to mention controversial aspects
of the needle exchange programs due to the belief among prominent
U.S. lawmakers that needle exchange may encourage drug use," the
report states. "For instance, because of such controversy, USAID
is prohibited from providing direct support for such programs."
Critics believe an email exchange between Assel Janayeva, "harm
reduction coordinator" for the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan and
Kerry Pelzman of USAID proves the government agency is using the
private foundation to facilitate needle exchange programs, which
it is forbidden from funding with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The
electronic conversation begins with Janayeva submitting the Soros
Foundation Kazakhstan's "final report" for the USAID/CAR-funded
"Expanding and Enhancing HIV Prevention in Central Asia" project.
Pelzman responds to the report:
"Thank you f or submission of this report. Unfortunately, it needs
to be considered a draft rather than final," Pelzman explained.
"[T]he report should address only those activities funded by
USAID. My understanding is that there was extensive and clear
communication between USAID and OSI regarding the sensitivities
around any appearance of USAID support for harm reduction and
particularly needle exchange.
"While I appreciate that the activities were related, for any
reader the appearance at this point is that USAID financed needle
exchanges," Pelzman continued. "This is completely unacceptable.
Some of the description in the text is fine; the problem is the
extensive references to needle exchange ..."
Pelzman's email then lists several examples of language USAID
wanted left out of the report:
"During the 33 months of its extended term (December 2001 to
October 2004), the initiative helped fund 34 harm reduction
projects in the region's five countries."
"Arguably, the most significant and enduring accomplishment of the
USAID/CAR-OSI project was the initiation of dialogue between
governments and civil society on issues around HIV prevention,
safer sex and safer drug use."
... For example, a pilot needle-exchange project in a Kyrgyzstan
prison was deemed effective, and the program subsequently was
extended to all national prisons by an official governmental
"The Project provided support to 20 programs throughout Central
Asia that work directly with IDUs (injecting drug users). These
programs provide a wide range of services to this population,
including information and education resources promoting positive
behavior change as well as access to needle and syringe exchange
services and clean injection paraphernalia ..."
"Over 2003, 'Sotcium' distributed 319,787 needles and syringes and
collected 239,395, the highest number of needles and syringes
exchanged in the country.
The report later states that, "No USAID funds were used for the
purchase of needles or syringes. OSI, however, contributed US
$538,000 for needles and syringes."
Pelzman's email concluded that, "The text leaves the distinct
impression that USAID is establishing needle-exchange programs
throughout CAR (Central Asia Republics), while leaving the
'dirty-work,' i.e., the actuual [sic] purchase of needles and
syrynges [sic] to OSI. It is unclear from the text whther [sic]
USAID funds are used for the purchase of "clean injection
Erin Finnerty, whose email address indicates that she works in the
Soros Foundation headquarters in New York, responded to Pelzman's
"Please be assured that we will use it to revise the report to
USAID's satisfaction," Finnerty wrote.
Soros defended himself Monday on National Public Radio, two weeks
after Cybercast News Service reported that his Open Society
Institute and its subsidiaries had received more than $30 million
from U.S. taxpayers between 1998 and 2003.
"The Open Society Foundation has the same objectives as the State
Department, except we concentrate more on promoting democracy than
the State Department," Soros told NPR. "On the other hand, there's
also quite a vocal political group that is out to persecute me
personally and indirectly the foundations."
In a statement to Souder's subcommittee, USAID called claims that
it is skirting the intent of U.S. law, "non-credible.
"This Mission, and the federal employees who work here, have
faithfully executed the Administration's policy," USAID stated in
its response to congressional criticism. "Non-credible allegations
of wrongdoing and misuse undermine the critically important work
of the Mission in a very challenging region."
But critics in Congress said the email exchange and the other
"incriminating" documents are all the proof they need that USAID
and Soros' foundations are embracing a response to drug abuse that
is destined to fail.
"[W]hen evaluating drug control policies, we must look beyond the
intent of a program and look to the results," Souder said in an
earlier statement on the issue. "We should always apply a
common-sense test: Do the policies in question reduce illegal drug
Souder said needle exchange programs, and the overarching
philosophy of "harm reduction," of which they are a part, do not
pass that test.
"Harm reduction" does not have the goal of getting people off of
drugs," Souder concluded. "Instead of addressing the symptoms of
addiction - such as giving (addicts) clean needles, telling them
how to shoot up without blowing a vein, recommending that addicts
abuse with someone else in case one of them stops breathing - we
should break the bonds of their addiction and make them free from
needles and pushers and pimps once and for all."
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