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Rep. King and Napolitano spar on Eldin visa

Hani Nour Eldin

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the DHS secretary are at odds over a visa granted to an Egyptian diplomat for a visit to Washington last June.

During the “Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape” hearing on July 25, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the committee, pressed DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for further explanation on why a visa to visit the U.S. was granted Hani Nour Eldin, who, said King, is a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization, Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group.  King said Eldin’s association with the group hadn’t been mentioned to Congress.

King had posed basically the same question to Napolitano in a June letter, when he said the Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that someone who belongs to a designated foreign terrorist organization must be granted a waiver from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and that Congress must be notified prior to a visa being granted. 

Eldin is a recently-elected member of the Egyptian parliament and was granted a visa to visit the U.S. by the State Department prior to his June visit to the nation’s capital. Gama’a al-Islamiyya has been tied to “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, who is now a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for planning the 1995 attacks on the World Trade Center and other New York landmarks.  Eldin has acknowledged his membership in the organization on his Web page.

King said that with the Arab Spring, Eldin may not be the only new middle eastern government representative that might be coming to the U.S. on official business. He called for a more transparent process “where congress and people would know who was being let in.

During the hearing, Napolitano told King that an Egyptian politician had been vetted three times before his visit, including once by DHS and another time by the Secret Service and wasn’t deemed a threat to security.

She noted that Eldin’s group had been determined by the State Department. She agreed with King that “we will continue to have visitors that the State Department thinks are useful to have a discussion with.”

She also said Eldin’s admission on his Web page had to be taken with more nuance, taking into account the group’s current activities and political contexts.

In a statement issued after the hearing, King said Eldin, who visited the White House, the National Security Council, and Congress, wasn’t granted a waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  King also said Eldin requested the transfer of the jailed Rahman to Egyptian custody.

 “It does not appear that either the letter or the spirit of the law was complied with,” said King.