The Republican chairpersons of the House’s top security and fiscal committees wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concern that the Obama administration may release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the “Blind Sheikh,” as part of a deal with Egyptian officials in the aftermath of the attacks the U.S. Embassy there and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Abdel Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in a federal prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
In the letter dated September 19, 2012, GOP Reps. Lamar Smith, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mike Rogers, Howard “Buck” McKeon, Peter King, Hal Rogers, Frank Wolf and Kay Granger write:
We are concerned about recent reports that the Obama administration is considering the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman. … 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 Obama administration has already said this report is false (“utter garbage” in the words of a Justice Department spokesperson). Yet these top Republicans ran with the charge anyway. So where did it come from?
It seems that the conspiracy theory started in part with a post on the Weekly Standard’s website last week, quoting a USA Today story reporting that the protests in Cairo may have been planned by a group the blind sheik formerly led.
But Glenn Beck’s website the Blaze reported on Sept. 17 that according to an anonymous source, “the transfer of the Blind Sheikh to Egypt is something that is being ‘actively considered’ by the administration as a solution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.” The Blaze also reported DOJ’s denial and did not corroborate the anonymous source’s claim.
Right-wing blog Red State then picked up the story on Sept. 18. Yet Obama administration officials continued to say the story is false. “To my knowledge, it hasn’t come up,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on that day. On Sept. 19, a reporter pressed the issue, and Nuland was a bit more direct. “Let me say as clearly as I can, there is no plan to release the blind sheikh,” she said. “There is no plan.”
Despite the very direct denials, Ros-Lehtinen, Rogers, King and the other top House Republicans ran with the Glenn Beck-inspired accusation and issued the letter. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post picked up on the story today, reporting the Obama administration officials’ denials. Yet the right won’t let the conspiracy theory die.
“There’s no way to believe anything they say,” said documented conspiracy theorist and leading Islamophobe Andrew McCarthy. (McCarthy was the the former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Abdel Rahman). “I believe there may already be a nod-and-wink agreement in place.” Read more
ThinkProgress intern Nate Niemann contributed to this post.