It was supposed to be a simple meeting of Egyptian Parliamentarians meeting with senior Obama Administration figures to get to know each other after the Arab Spring uprisings toppled Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. Instead, according to Eli Lake at the Daily Beast, the State Department and The Wilson Center (a foreign policy think tank) trading blame for how a member of a known terrorist group made it into the country.
Hani Noor Eldi is a member of Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group—a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. He is a follower of the Blind Sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The State Department claims that he received a visa because,
“We have no information suggesting that he or anyone else in the delegation is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group.”
But a simple visit to Eldin’s Facebook page has him openly speaking about his membership in the group. Also in an interview, Eldin confirmed he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya. He claimed in the same interview that he was not a terrorist saying,
“I have taken the American visa from the embassy as a member of the parliament representing a political party that has been elected and is a legitimate party. I was personally not involved in any violent action or terrorism against the United States or any other country. The years I spent in prison were under the regime of Mubarak, these were political charges and there was no judicial basis for them.”
While he was in the U.S. he raised the issue of having Rahman transferred to an Egyptian prison. He said that he brought the issue up with Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, saying,
“When I raised this issue in the White House I was told it was not in their authority and all judicial issues relating to sentences must be discussed with the Department of Justice. [transferring him] would be a gift to the revolution.”
Experts have warned that with the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East the US has to walk a fine line between people who in the past have been associated with terrorists but are trying to enter mainstream politics.