1st Add: Includes September 11 Fund news release statement.
(CNSNews.com) - A charity fund established to help victims of the Sept. 11th attacks made a grant of $171,000 to a group defending eight individuals being held in connection with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
The grant from the September 11th Fund, which is affiliated with the United Way, was given to the Legal Aid Society, a group that is aiding in the legal defense of eight suspects detained in Brooklyn, N.Y. as a result of the government's investigation into the terrorist attacks.
"Instead of helping out the victims, they're actually helping out potentially suspected terrorists," said Dan Rene of the legal watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC).
"With all the questions about the fund-raising on behalf of victims, this is a very shocking development," said Rene. "I think a lot of people will be very outraged."
One official with the September 11th Fund refused to comment, and other officials did not respond to repeated inquiries. Representatives from the Legal Aid Society were also unavailable for comment.
In its Oct. 3rd announcement, the September 11 Fund stated the grant to the Legal Aid Society will be used to "provide immediate direct legal services to the thousands of lower-income individuals working in or near the World Trade Center (including cleaning staff, waiters, messengers, vendors, etc.) who were directly affected by the terrorist attack."
According to Rene, the September 11th fund announced on October 3 the $171,000 grant to the Legal Aid Society was ostensibly to "provide emergency civil legal assistance to low-income attack victims."
Ken Boehm and Peter Flaherty of the NLPC wrote in a letter today to the September 11th Fund, "At a time when the public is questioning why so few of the victims have received aid they desperately need from groups that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, it is disturbing that the Legal Aid Society rushed to provide free civil help to the detainees."
The letter continued, "We believe the public will be outraged, and justifiably so, to learn that funds from the September 11th Fund are going to support a group which is apparently providing civil legal help to those jailed on violations of immigration law in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks."
The government has not released the identity of the eight men being detained on immigration violations. The men are in solitary confinement in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
The United Way and Hollywood celebrities have come under fire in recent days because of questions regarding the financial distribution of the September 11th Fund. Actress Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who participated in fund-raising efforts, have previously called for a greater accounting of where the money has gone.