Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to know why the Obama administration allowed a member of a designated terrorist organization to enter the United States unimpeded and attend meetings inside the White House with senior-level Obama administration and State Department officials.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano dated June 24, 2012, King requested answers about Hani Nour Eldin’s trip to the U.S. last week. Though Eldin is a member of Egypt’s parliament, he is also a self-proclaimed member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a U.S. designated terrorist organization since 1997, which has ties to violence in Egypt.
“Mr. Eldin’s membership in the Islamic Group is a matter of public record, and reportedly even disclosed on his Facebook page,” King wrote. “Nonetheless, Eldin met with senior Department of State and National Security Staff officials during the past week, and as reflected in media reports requested the transfer of the jailed leader of his terrorist group, Omar Abdel Rahman, to Egyptian custody.”
Rahman, also known as “The Blind Sheik,” is currently serving a life-term in a U.S. prison for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, according to NBC News.
In his letter, King acknowledged the possible existence of “legitimate diplomatic reasons” to allow a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization to visit the United States by providing a visa, including to hold peace negotiations. However, King explained, Eldin’s visit suggests “an absence of full vetting rather than a policy choice.”
King then laid out eight questions that he expects DHS to answer no later than July 3, 2012:
- What U.S. Government department or agency sponsored Eldin’s visa application, and for what reason?
- What steps did that department or agency take to trace Eldin’s background? Was it aware of his membership in the Islamic Group, or not?
- What information, if any, did the department or agency sponsoring Eldin’s visit share with the Department of Homeland Security regarding Edlin’s membership in a designated terrorist organization and his pending visit to the United States?
- What rationale did Customs and Border Protection apply to allow Eldin’s admittance into the United States? And, when entering the country, did Eldin undergo secondary inspection?
- What information, if any, was relayed to the United States Secret Service (USSS) in advance of this Islamic Group member’s appointment at the White House? Did the USSS express any security concerns about the location of this meeting?
- During his visit to the United States, did Eldin engage in any activities which might constitute material support for terrorism under 18 U.S.C 2339B?
- What policies and procedures are in place regarding interagency notifications of visits of members of designated terrorist organizations to the United States?
- What is the position of the Department of Homeland Security regarding any potential custodial transfer, or release, of Omar Abdel Rahman?
Read King’s entire letter to Napolitano here.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told NBC News on Saturday that all visa recipients are required to go through a “full set of screenings.” The agency is reportedly reviewing how Eldin was granted a visa. According to U.S. law, a member of a designated terrorist organization is supposed to be automatically denied entry into the country.
According to NBC News, Gama’a was previously Egypt’s largest militant group but was largely diminished by 2010 and was referred to as a “loosely organized network” by a State Department report. In that same report, it says Gama’a’s main goal is to replace the Egyptian government with an Islamic State.
Nuland confirmed Eldin held meetings at both the White House and the State Department as part of a gathering of Egyptian lawmakers. The delegation met with “a number of folks around town” including Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Under Secretary of Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats, NBC News reports.
The meetings reportedly focused on the protection of human rights and democracy in Egypt.
While Nuland said the matter was under review, she also added, “I’m not going to say what may result.”
(H/T: The Hill)