White House visit by a terror-linked Egyptian pol violated federal law, Rep. Pete King tells Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

Jul 26, 2012 Issues: Counterterrorism

Napolitano conceded that it 'was a fair point to make,' but the Egyptian was deemed to not be a security threat

NY Daily News -- by Joseph Straw

WASHINGTON — Federal agencies skirted the law in allowing an Egyptian with self-professed terror ties to visit the White House to lobby for the release of an imprisoned terror boss, Rep. Pete King charged Wednesday.

Hani Nour Eldin — an avowed member of a group deemed by the feds to be a terror outfit — was elected to Egypt’s parliament following last year’s Arab Spring uprisings.

His tenure ended June 14 when the Egyptian judiciary dissolved the body, but he had already landed a slot on a diplomatic junket to the U.S. last month that included a White House visit.

Eldin was subjected to three layers of vetting before he could get a U.S. visa, enter the U.S. and then gain admittance to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers Wednesday.

But investigators from the State and Homeland Security Departments either ignored Hani’s own Facebook page or didn’t check it at all.

There he states his membership in Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamist militant group designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

Federal law requires that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security sign off on waivers before issuing visas to members of designated federal terrorist organizations, and notify Congress. The agencies did not give Congress the heads-up, King said at a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, which he chairs.

Napolitano told King that Eldin was found to pose no security risk, but she called King’s concerns about process “a fair point to make.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that a review found “that procedures were followed,” but would not comment further citing visa privacy protections.

Eldin got an audience with senior officials at the White House on June 19, and asked them to transfer Omar Abdel Rahman to Egyptian authorities.

The blind ex-New Yorker was spiritual leader to both Gama'a al-Islamiyya and the men who carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

He is serving a life sentence in federal prison for his role in a failed plot to detonate explosives at New York landmarks in the early 1990s.

Eldin “was told the answer is ‘No,’” said King (R-L.I.).

As democratic reform sweeps the Middle East, Washington must be far more careful as it welcomes newly-elected foreign politicians into its halls of power, King warned.

“We could have hundreds of people in this situation over the next several years coming in who may not all brag on their Facebook page that they’re a member of a foreign terrorist organization,” King said.

Napolitano argued that the issue is complicated when groups designated as terror organizations enter the political mainstream of U.S. allies like Egypt.

New Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi vowed last month to push for Rahman’s release, but he, like Eldin, has also struck a moderate tone.

Both men have pledged to honor the 1979 Camp David Accords that established peace with Israel.