In June 2012, Hillary Clinton’s State Department issued a visa to enter the United States to Hani Noor Eldin — an avowed member of the Egyptian terror group Gamaa Islamiya.
Gamaa Islamiya had been designated by the U.S. as a terror organization since October 1997 during the Clinton administration.
According to U.S. law, Eldin’s request for a visa must be denied.
But not only was Eldin allowed into the U.S., he was escorted into Hillary’s State Department where he met with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Under Secretary Robert Hormats. Eldin was then received at the White House by Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s deputy national security advisor at the time, and is currently the White House chief of staff.
According to published reports, Eldin used these meetings as an opportunity to press Obama administration officials to release from federal prison the leader of his terror group, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman is serving a life sentence for his leadership role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned follow-up “Day of Terror” plot targeting New York landmarks.
(That case was prosecuted by my friend and PJ Media colleague, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.)
Those meetings resulted in serious Obama administration discussions about transferring the blind sheikh back to Egypt, then under control of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. Morsi had vowed to pressure the U.S. for the blind sheikh’s release while Eldin was in Washington, D.C.
The blind sheikh’s transfer was only stopped when members of Congress began asking about the deal. The possibility of his transfer was publicly denounced by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who presided over the blind sheikh’s trial as a federal district court judge.
When Congress asked about Eldin’s visit to the U.S., then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano vowed that more foreign terrorists would be allowed in for such situations.
Questions were initially raised about how Eldin was allowed in the country and the details of his visit to Washington, D.C. when the story broke from reporter Eli Lake, who interviewed the terror group member. Eldin had no problem admitting he was a member of the banned Gamaa Islamiya:
It was supposed to be a routine meeting for Egyptian legislators in Washington, an opportunity for senior Obama administration officials to meet with new members of Egypt’s parliament and exchange ideas on the future of relations between the two countries.
Instead, the visit this week looks like it’s turning into a political fiasco. Included in the delegation of Egyptian lawmakers was Hani Nour Eldin, who, in addition to being a newly elected member of parliament, is a member of the Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group — a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The group was banned under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and is now a recognized Islamist political party. Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman — also known as the “blind sheik” — was convicted in 1995 of plotting attacks on New York City landmarks and transportation centers, and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.
Eldin, according to his Facebook page, was born in 1968 and resides in Suez, near the canal that unites the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. He was arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges after members of Gamaa Islamiya got into a shoot out with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. He has proclaimed his innocence in the shooting and says he was arrested because of his political activism against Mubarak.
In an interview, Eldin confirmed he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya. By U.S. law, that means he would be denied a visa to enter the country. Nonetheless, he says, he got a visa from the State Department. A State Department spokesman said, “We have no information suggesting that he or anyone else in the delegation is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group.”
The State Department blamed the visit on the U.S. government-funded Wilson Center, which then turned around and blamed the State Department:
While in Washington, Eldin also visited the Wilson Center, a think tank that specializes in foreign policy issues. A State Department spokesman said the delegation was “invited to Washington by the Wilson Center. I refer you to the Wilson Center for any additional information on their visit.”
A spokesman for the Wilson Center, however, said the delegation was selected by the State Department. “We can’t speak to the background of Eldin,” said Drew Sample the media relations coordinator for the Wilson Center. “The Wilson Center was one of the places on the delegation’s Washington visit. We did not invite these people, the State Department arranged the visit.”
With Eldin openly admitting his affiliation with Gamaa Islamiya to members of the D.C. media, and even noted his membership on his own Facebook page, the State Department’s press briefing by Victoria Nuland on the affair became reminiscent of a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy routine:
QUESTION: Yeah. How did a guy who’s a member of a foreign terrorist organization get into the country and have meetings with – in the White House and at the State Department?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know – I mean, I can’t speak about the specifics of the visa adjudication of any individual case. What I can say is that anybody issued a visa goes through a full set of screenings. Those screenings do depend, however, on the integrity of the information that’s available to us at the time that we do screen. And this particular case is one that we are now looking into.
QUESTION: Well, how – it’s on the guy’s Facebook page. It doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to find out. I mean, what kind of screening is there? Does anyone do a Google search on names? I mean, it seems like this is pretty basic stuff. I mean, was – you seem to be saying this was a mistake.
MS. NULAND: Again, we are looking into the circumstances of this particular case, and I don’t have anything more.
QUESTION: So when you say it’s under review, does that mean that he could be deported?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to what may result from a review; simply, to say that we’re trying to better understand this particular case.
QUESTION: You’re trying to better — you’re trying to find out if, in fact, he is a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization?
MS. NULAND: No. I’m saying we are reviewing the case of the visa issuance.
QUESTION: Do you know that this man is a member of a foreign terrorist organization?
MS. NULAND: Well, he has himself made such statements in the last day or two to the press, right? So that — we are seeing the same reports that you are seeing.
QUESTION: No, no, I understand that. But I think that it goes beyond that, and that it goes – I mean, he was a self-admitted member of this organization well before he was invited to come to the United States as part of this delegation. And it just – I don’t know; I’m just a little bit confused as to how a thorough screening would not have turned up his membership in this group given that it is literally on his Facebook page. Can you explain that?
MS. NULAND: Again, I said we are looking into it, and we are.
A spokesman for the terror group then told CNN that the purpose of Eldin’s White House visit was to press for the blind sheikh’s release:
But according to Tarek Al Zumor, a party spokesman and founding member of Gamaa Islamiya, el-Din pressed American officials for a transfer into Egyptian custody of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence in the United States for a conspiracy conviction in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The request mirrors the demands of Gamaa Islamiya members in Cairo who have protested in Tahrir Square, seeking the sheikh’s release.
Coincidentally, at the same time that Eldin was in Washington, D.C. lobbying for the blind sheikh’s release, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gave a speech in Cairo pledging to work for the blind sheikh’s freedom.
The following September when reports of discussions about the transfer of the blind sheikh were possibly in the works, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey pointed to Eldin’s Washington, D.C. visit as the launching point for the effort in a Wall Street Journal editorial:
The first hint of something fishy came in June, when Hani Nour Eldin, a member of the terrorist group that carried out the Luxor slaughter and who had himself spent 11 years in Egyptian jail on terrorism charges, was granted a visa to come to the United States, where he visited the White House and urged that Abdel Rahman be transferred to Egypt. Members of Congress immediately raised questions about how such allowances were made for a member of a designated terrorist organization.
The assistant secretary of homeland security for legislative affairs, Nelson Peacock, responded in a July letter. It suggested that no warning flags had been raised during the processing of the Eldin visa, but the letter acknowledged that, as a member of a designated terrorist organization, Hani Nour Eldin would have needed a waiver from someone in authority to get a visa.
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) then demanded that the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general investigate how that waiver was secured and explain what role the department would play in any transfer of Abdel Rahman. Acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards answered on Sept. 10 with a letter promising that the department would conduct the requested review “and add it to our FY 2013 workplan” (for which no deadline is announced).
It is unclear who in Hillary Clinton’s State Department issued the waiver for Hani Noor Eldin or what else the Homeland Security inspector general discovered, but precedence required the secretary of State and the secretary of DHS to sign off on such a waiver.
Mukasey noted the denials from the Obama administration’s about any discussions of the blind sheikh’s transfer were carefully couched and were contradicted by the Egyptian Embassy:
A congressional staffer I spoke with last week recently called the Egyptian Embassy in Washington and asked to speak with the official in charge of the request to release Abdel Rahman. This call elicited not a denial but rather the disclosure that the matter was within the portfolio of the deputy chief of mission, for whom the caller was invited to leave a message.
Then there are the statements of U.S. officials on the subject, which all have sounded excruciatingly lawyered. Asked before Congress in July whether there is an intention “at any time to release the Blind Sheikh,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano responded: “Well, let me just say this. I know of no such intention.”
The State Department’s spokesperson last week, after the ceremonial “let me be clear,” said that there had been no approach on this topic “recently” from any “senior” official of the Egyptian government—an elucidation laden with ambiguity and certain to send chills up the spine of anyone familiar with Abdel Rahman’s record and President Morsi’s inclinations.
Obama administration officials were openly unrepentant about Eldin’s admission to the United States.
When Rep. Peter King, then chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano about the matter in July 2012, she not only defended Eldin’s visit but vowed that more terrorists could possibly be admitted to the U.S. in similar circumstances.
Did Hillary Clinton play a direct role in allowing Hani Noor Eldin — a known member of a designated terror group — to visit the U.S., meet with senior State Department officials, and visit with Obama’s deputy national security advisor? As part a plan to lobby for the release of the terror group’s imprisoned leader, who was responsible for acts of terrorism inside the United States?
If only we had a media willing to ask the Democrat presidential candidate such questions.
Previous installments of the Clinton Chronicles: