In a strongly worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, eight members of congress have demanded that a request to release Omar Abdel-Rahman from federal prison be rejected. Abdel-Rahman, known as the “blind sheikh,” inspired the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and is serving a life sentence for his role in a plot to conduct assassinations and destroy bridges, tunnels and other landmarks in New York City.
It is believed that the unrest blanketing much of the Middle East last week was inspired at least in part by the demands that the Blind Sheikh be released, and that any consideration of such a request was inspired by an effort to quell the widespread anti-American fury.
The letter sent by Representative Pete King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and seven other key members of congressional leadership warned of the consequences of appeasing terrorism through such a blatant act of submission:
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 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 a lack of resolve by the United States and its President.
In addition to Rep. King, the letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers; House Committee on Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon; House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Chairman Frank Wolf; and House Appropriations Subcommittee on State of Foreign Operations Chairwoman Kay Granger.
The administration has not yet formally responded to the letter, according to Rep. King’s communications officer.
The full text of the congressional letter follows.
September 19, 2012
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Clinton,
We are concerned 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. If these reports are true, such considerations would be extremely disconcerting as release of this convicted terrorist should not happen for any reason.
The blind sheikh inspired the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, ordered the 1997 massacre of Western tourists at Luxor, Egypt, and issued the Islamic religious ruling that Osama bin Laden relied upon to justify the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. He is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary, for seditious conspiracy to wage war upon the United States, based on his role in a 1993 plot to conduct assassinations and destroy bridges, tunnels and other landmarks in New York City. The blind sheikh was the first person convicted under this statute since the Civil War. Nonetheless, the newly-elected government in Egypt has indicated that his release is amongst its top foreign policy priorities.
While considerations regarding the blind sheikh’s release would be disturbing in any context, they are particularly alarming given recent events. The 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks was marked by the assassination of America’s ambassador to Libya and an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. The violence in Egypt has been attributed, in part, to that government’s demands for the blind sheikh’s release.
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 blind sheikh should remain in federal prison.
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.
We request a briefing this week by representatives from each of your Departments on the accuracy of recent reports and the status of any negotiations with Egypt. We look forward to your immediate response.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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