Amnesty International and CSIS exchange barbs

By Laurie Bennett

August 19, 2014 at 9:13am

The tensions of Ferguson have found their way to the nonprofit world.

Early Tuesday morning brought this sharp exchange on Twitter between Amnesty International and the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

CSIS tweet

The sharp response was quickly followed by an apology:

CSIS response

Even if this is an instance of a low-level staffer impetuously hitting the tweet button, these are two organizations with markedly different missions.

Amnesty International is a global nonprofit campaigning “to end grave abuses of human rights.”

CSIS is a DC-based think tank dedicated to sustaining “American prominence and prosperity as a force for good in the world.”

One can see how their objectives might clash as the world’s attentions focus not only on Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq, but on suburban St. Louis.

For the first time, Amnesty has dispatched observers to the United States, sending a 13-person team to Ferguson to watch for possible human rights violations.

Yet this is hardly the first time Amnesty has cast a harsh light on the U.S. During the George W. Bush administration it called Guantanamo Bay prison the “gulag of our times.”

The Bush White House countered that the organization’s criticism of the U.S. as a human-rights offender was “ridiculous.”

More recently, Amnesty has called on President Obama to curtail his use of drones and to cut off support to Israel’s armed forces.

Amnesty’s 11-member international board does not currently include an American. The organization does accept funding from such U.S.-based interests as Microsoft, Google, the Ford Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

CSIS draws many of its board members from the corporate world, and from the U.S. Defense and State departments. It overlaps with Amnesty in receiving financial support from Google, but its funders tend more to the right. Foundations providing grants to CSIS have included the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Allegheny Foundation and Smith Richardson Foundation.

The map below shows some of the top-level connections between CSIS and the White House:

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