Human Events Blog

The Blind Sheik controversy

A controversy is building in Washington about the possibility of releasing Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheik” who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, into Egyptian custody.  The Obama Administration keeps insisting no such plan is in the works, while other sources say Rahman’s extradition is actively under consideration.

It’s hard to trust anyone in the Obama Administration on foreign policy.  They’re still modifying their story about the Libyan embassy attack.  Up until yesterday, they were loudly and unanimously insisting it was a protest against the “Innocence of Muslims” video that spiraled out of control.  That was never true, and significant elements of the Obama Administration, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, knew it.

DHS was aware of message-board chatter calling for action against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at least two days before the attack.  These messages specifically called for the release of Rahman, “even if it requires burning the embassy down with everyone in it.”  Wasn’t the whole point behind the creation of the Department of Homeland Security to improve information-sharing between elements of our national security apparatus?

All of a sudden, the Administration’s “protest gone wild” narrative vanished in a puff of smoke, with National Counterterrorism Center director Matt Olsen telling a Senate committee on Wednesday that the deadly assault in Libya was a “terrorist attack.”  That’s the first time anyone connected to the Administration has described it that way.

Absurdly, Olsen and other Administration officials still insist there was no pre-planning or pre-meditation for this attack, which involved a hundred and fifty gunmen plus rocket-propelled grenades, precisely targeted the U.S. ambassador, and was executed on the anniversary of 9/11.  It was all supposedly an “opportunistic” attack that “began and evolved and escalated over several hours.”  CBS News just reported eyewitnesses saying there was never even a “protest” outside the Benghazi consulate at all.

If Team Obama is still pumping out disinformation about the Libyan attack, why wouldn’t they offer some… shall we say, confused messaging about releasing the Blind Sheik… especially if it’s something they want to keep on the down-low until Obama is safely re-elected?  Officials have been insisting nobody in the Egyptian government has asked them about extraditing Rahman, but the New York Post says an Administration source told them such a request has been made, “and Rep. Peter King (R-LI) confirmed the request is being considered.”

The Blaze has also been reporting that an anonymous official from within the Administration told them “the transfer of the Blind Sheikh to Egypt is something that is being ‘actively considered’ by the Administration as a solution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.”  This source said the transfer of Rahman would be timed to occur after the American presidential election.  It’s hard to be sure if this is the same anonymous source quoted by the New York Post, but that seems like a reasonable assumption.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who headed up the prosecution against Rahman, has also said he doesn’t doubt the accuracy of the report, noting the significance of Rahman’s release as a celebrity cause for radical Islamists.  McCarthy noted that the State Department has been denying that it’s considering the release of Rahman, but they’re not denying that a transfer of custody might be negotiated with the Egyptian government.  Such a transfer would probably work out the way Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s extradition to Libya, supposedly for health reasons because he was dying, turned into a hero’s welcome.  Al-Megrahi ended up outliving the Qaddafi regime, and died at home, after the new Libyan government refused to extradite him back to the U.S. or United Kingdom.

Rep. King, who chairs the House Department of Homeland Security Committee, has a history of opposing Rahman’s release, just as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, has a history of calling for it.  “I see signs for Omar Abdel Rahman and  detainees’ pictures,” Morsi said, surveying the crowd packing Tahrir Square for his inauguration in June.  “It is my duty and I will make all efforts to have them free, including Omar Abdel Rahman.”

Rep. King said this “very much confirms our worst fears” about the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt during a contemporaneous Fox News interview.  He described Morsi’s call for the release of Rahman (which, you will note, the Egyptian president characterized as setting him “free,” not transferring custody into an Egyptian prison) as a “signal to the region,” and a “challenge to the United States.”  King said we should make it clear that Rahman’s release was non-negotiable, and that if Morsi wants to keep receiving his billions in American aid, he’d better stop asking for it.

King is a signatory – along with House committee chairs including Lamar Smith of Judiciary, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Foreign Affairs, Buck McKeon of Armed Services, Hal Rogers of Appropriations, and Mike Rogers of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – of a letter sent Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The letter expresses concern about “recent reports that the Obama Administration is considering the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, better known as the “blind sheikh,” to the custody of Egypt for humanitarian and health reasons.”

The letter says such considerations “would be disturbing in any context,” but “they are particularly alarming given recent events,” namely the embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt.  “Succumbing to the demands of a country whose citizens threaten our embassy and the Americans serving in it would send a clear message that acts of violence will be responded to with appeasement rather than strength,” the letter continues, stating that the release of “Abdel-Rahman or any terrorist who plots to kill innocent Americans would be seen for what it is – a sign of weakness and lack of resolve by the United States and its President.”

The committee chairs asked for a briefing by representatives from the Justice and State Departments “on the accuracy of recent reports and the status of any negotiations with Egypt.”  Let us hope the testimony they receive doesn’t come with a November 7 expiration date.

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