A new Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) report raises more questions than answers regarding the circumstances behind the approval of a visa for a known member of a group identified by the State Department as being a member of a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
In June 2012, Egyptian Hani Nour Eldin visited the United States as a member of an Egyptian parliamentary delegation to meet with U.S. government officials and business leaders. During the course of those meetings, Eldin raised with then Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough the issue of the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, from federal prison for humanitarian reasons.
Eldin’s presence at all these meetings is peculiar because in 1993 he admitted to being a member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Gama’a al-Islamiyya is an Egyptian Islamist group first designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. Gama’a al-Islamiyya has been linked, though indirectly, to the assassination of Anwar Sadat. In the 1990s, the group was linked to a string of terrorist acts, including the murder of Egypt’s speaker of parliament and a 1995 attempted assassination of Hosni Mubarrak.
In 1993, Eldin was arrested after members of Gama’a al-Islamiyya got into a shoot-out with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. In a 1993 article that accompanied the arrest, Eldin denied his involvement in the shoot-out but proclaimed he was a member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
As such, the strictest reading of State Department protocols means that Eldin should have been denied a visa. After hearing complaints from New York Republican Congressman Peter King, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General did an audit of DHS efforts to screen members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The heavily redacted unclassified report absolves DHS of any wrongdoing in this matter, and only recommends three cosmetic improvements to the process:
We determined DHS has policies and procedures for admitting members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations into the United States, and collaborating with other departments and agencies when screening members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and issuing inadmissibility waivers. DHS did not determine any derogatory information on Mr. Eldin prior to admitting him, and DHS followed established procedures for allowing Mr. Eldin into the United States. However, we identified operational challenges that may reduce the effectiveness of DHS’ visa security processes. We are making three recommendations to enhance DHS’ efforts to screen members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The Department concurred with all recommendations.
According to the report, Eldin was determined not to be a member of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, but the reason behind this determination isn’t explained, and may very well be part of the redacted portion of the report.
In an email exchange with Front Page Magazine, DHS OIG only said cryptically that the scope of their audit didn’t include determining whether or not Eldin was a member of a Foreign Terrorist Organization and pointed out that such determinations aren’t only made by DHS but also by the State Department. The DHS OIG audit only looked into the performance of DHS in this matter.
If the State Department’s Office of Inspector General was also investigating the matter, such information would not be released to the press until the investigation was over.
Front Page Magazine reached out to the offices of Congressman Peter King, the House Homeland Security Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee because all three received a copy of the audit, but all declined comment for this story.
In a 2012 article for the Daily Beast when this story first broke, a State Department spokesperson told Eli Lake that the State Department had no information that suggested that Eldin was a member of a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
In the same 2012 article by Eli Lake (which was referenced repeatedly in the report), Lake proclaims, “Terrorists aren’t supposed to get visas. But Hani Nour Eldin was apparently invited to D.C. this week to meet with top officials. Did no one Google him?”
More than a year later it’s still not entirely clear why a known terrorist designated as such by the State Department was given a visa and allowed to meet with high ranking officials in the White House, giving him the ability to ask for the release of the mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack. This report seems to raise more questions than it answers.
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