NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Is President Barack Obama’s administration considering the release of the blind sheik convicted of plotting terror attacks here in New York City or his transfer over to Egyptian custody?
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King said he received word the release is on the table.
“We have information from people in federal law enforcement who tell us that there have been discussions about if the blind sheik were released, how it can be done,” Rep. King told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has called for the blind sheik’s release and his supporters have participated in the recent riots, but the White House, the State Department and the Justice Department have each issued statements denying there are any plans to free him.
“Let me say as clearly as I can there is no plan to release the blind sheik, there is no plan. To my knowledge we have not been approached about it recently by any senior Egyptians,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
However, Rep. King said it’s not time to take that denial as gospel.
“Weasel language. ‘There is no plan; there has been no recent contact with high level officials,’” Rep. King said. “The administration is being cute. All they have to say, all they have to say is that the blind sheik will die in an American jail.”
Andrew McCarthy, the man who prosecuted the blind sheik, said the Obama administration would never hand the sheik over to the Egyptians until after the election because it would be political suicide. However …
“I have no doubt that it’s real. I think it’s been real for months. It’s clear, based on what’s been in the Arabic press, that the Egyptians have raised this with the administration,” McCarthy said.
That said, some think the issue is being raised now by Republicans to damage President Obama.
“It’s absolutely not political at all,” said Rep. King, a Republican from Long Island. “I challenge anyone to ever find anything that I have done political when it comes to terrorism, counter terrorism, defending New York and defending the United States.”
“I don’t think it’s possible. If you look at it in the context that Israel, one of our closest allies, has asked for the release of Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of espionage decades ago, and the intelligence agencies have blocked any consideration of that, the idea that they will release the man who planned the multiple bombings of multiple locations in Manhattan is just not realistic,” CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller said.
The blind sheik is currently serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal lockup for conspiracy to wage war on the United States.
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