Eight House committee leaders have written to Obama administration officials asking about reports the administration is considering an Egyptian request to release blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from prison.
“If these reports are true, such considerations would be extremely disconcerting as release of this convicted terrorist should not happen for any reason,” the letter from U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., Peter King, R-N.Y., Hal Rogers, R-Ky. , Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Kay Granger, R-Tex., said. Each chairs a significant House committee.
The query was prompted by a story published Monday by The Blaze and discussed by talk show host Glenn Beck. A Blaze staffer said an unnamed Obama administration told him Abdel-Rahman’s release was being “actively considered.”
Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for plotting a series of bombing attacks on New York tunnels and landmarks. And he is considered the spiritual influence behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people. His imprisonment has become an obsession for some in Egypt, with new President Mohamed Morsi promising to lobby Washington for Abdel Rahman’s release when he meets U.S. officials.
It was Abdel Rahman’s imprisonment, and not alleged offense to an anti-Muslim video, that triggered violent protests outside the American embassy in Cairo last week, U.S. intelligence officials say.
A Department of Homeland Security report cited postings on an Arabic web forum “inciting Egyptians to target the U.S. Embassy, indicating the U.S. Embassy shouldn’t remain in Egypt” unless Abdel Rahman is freed, FOX News reported.
“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,” said the letter, which was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The blind sheikh should remain in federal prison.”
Spokesmen for the Justice Department and National Security Council say that is what is going to happen.
“The blind sheik is going to serve out his life sentence,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said on Wednesday. “There are no discussions about transferring him. These reports are wrong.”
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd dismissed the Blaze report as “utter garbage. The Blind Sheikh is not being transferred to Egypt nor is he being released. He is serving life sentence in federal prison. Suggestions that there is discussions to transfer or release him are absolute garbage and completely false.”
But the New York Post reports that King, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, “confirmed the request is being considered.”
Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted Abdel Rahman, told the Blaze he was skeptical about the denials.
“I think the plan has been to agree to the Blind Sheikh’s release, but not to announce it or have it become public until after the election,” McCarthy said. “That is consistent with Obama’s pattern of trying to mollify Islamists. Obviously, they did not want this information to surface yet… but sometimes a situation can spin out of control.”
Read the full House letter here.