Conservative Media Baselessly Claim Obama Will Release Convicted Terrorist

››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

Dismissing evidence to the contrary, conservative media this week claimed the Obama administration is considering releasing Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the Blind Sheikh," who was convicted of planning terrorist attacks against the U.S. Even after administration officials denied accusations that Abdel-Rahman may be released, right-wing media continued to push the claim.

NY Times: Abdel-Rahman Sentenced In 1996 For Plotting A "War Of Urban Terrorism" Against U.S.

NY Times: "American Officials ... Are Certain To Dismiss Any Request For The Sheik's Release." In July, The New York Times reported that "[i]n his first major speech last month, Mohamed Morsi, the new Egyptian president, pledged to seek the release of a notorious Egyptian terrorist from a North Carolina prison." That terrorist, the Times noted, is Omar Abdel-Rahman, who "was sentenced in 1996 for plotting a 'war of urban terrorism' against the United States, beginning with the bombings of tunnels and landmarks in New York City." The Times further reported that according to Michele Dunne, an Egypt expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington research institution, "American officials ... are certain to dismiss any request for the sheik's release."  [The New York Times, 7/9/12]

Conservative Media Speculated That Obama Will Release Abdel-Rahman

The Blaze: "Source: State Department Considering Talks To Transfer 'Blind Sheikh' To Egypt." In a post on The Blaze headlined "Source: State Department Considering Talks To Transfer 'Blind Sheikh' To Egypt," contributor Erica Ritz wrote, "The U.S. State Department is actively considering negotiations with the Egyptian government for the transfer of custody of Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as 'the Blind Sheikh,' for humanitarian and health reasons, a source close to the [sic] Obama administration told The Blaze":

The U.S. State Department is actively considering negotiations with the Egyptian government for the transfer of custody of Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the Blind Sheikh," for humanitarian and health reasons, a source close to the Obama administration told TheBlaze.

The Department of Justice, however, told TheBlaze that Rahman is serving a life sentence and is not considered for possible "release."  Previous calls to the State Department were referred to the Department of Justice and so far, the State Department has neither confirmed nor denied the report.

[...]

A veteran intelligence analyst and researcher for TheBlaze said he met with an official within the Obama administration who told him that 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.  His source asked not to be identified.

When asked if the transfer of the convicted terrorist was being seriously considered, the intelligence analyst said yes, according to his source, who stressed that the move, if executed, was not intended to take place or be announced until after the presidential election. [The Blaze, 9/17/12]

Breitbart.com: "US State Dept. Considers Releasing Blind Sheikh To Egypt." In a post headlined "US State Dept. Considers Releasing Blind Sheikh to Egypt," Breitbart.com contributor AWR Hawkins claimed the State Department "is actively negotiating" a transfer of Abdel-Rahman:

The US State Department is actively negotiating with Egyptian President Morsi's government about transferring Omar Abdel-Rahman from US custody to Egyptian custody.

Rahman, also known as "the Blind Sheikh," is currently serving a life sentence in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But Egypt is pushing for his release for "humanitarian and health" reasons.

The Department of Justice says the possibility of release is ruled out by the fact that Rahman is serving a life sentence. But an unnamed official within the Obama administration has said the custody exchange is being considered regardless. [Breitbart.com, 9/18/12]

Pamela Geller: "High Treason: Obama's State Department Considering Talks To Release WTC Bombing Mastermind 'Blind Sheikh' To Egypt." Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, in a post headlined "High Treason: Obama's State Department Considering Talks to Release WTC Bombing mastermind 'Blind Sheikh' to Egypt," wrote that it is "monstrous" for the State Department to consider talks to release the sheikh. Geller added that "[o]n its face, such a release would be inconceivable," but "this is Obama we are talking about, who never misses an opportunity to denigrate, demoralize and betray this country." She concluded that Obama's "sympathies lie with the Muslim Brotherhood, not the American people," and linked to The Blaze's post on the sheikh. [Atlas Shrugs, 9/18/12]

Fox's Peter Johnson Jr.: State Department "Giving Consideration To Allowing The Blind Sheikh To Return Home To Egypt." On Fox and Friends, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. pushed the idea that the State Department was considering a release of Abdel-Rahman, even while co-host Gretchen Carlson insisted the State Department had not confirmed the report:

CARLSON: The conservative website Breitbart.com reports that the U.S. State Department could be currently in negotiations with the Egyptians to transfer one of their citizens, a terrorist, back home. That man, you've seen before, known as the Blind Sheikh serving a life sentence for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

[...]

JOHNSON: So have we sowed the seeds of our own prosecutions? It's outrageous on the face of it that people in America would be prosecuted in Egypt for making a movie, no matter how offensive the movie, and then be subject to the death penalty in Egypt. So, when you put these two stories together, even giving consideration to allowing the Blind Sheikh to return home to Egypt after being part of that terror, which was the run-up to 9-11 and then at the same time have Americans subject to the death penalty in Egypt for making a movie in the United states, it shows how topsy-turvy the world has become and how, unfortunately, ineffective our foreign policy is at this point. [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 9/19/12, via Media Matters]

The Administration Responded, Calling The Claims "Utter Garbage"

Department Of Justice Spokesman Dean Boyd: "The Assertion That The Blind Sheikh May Be Transferred To Egypt Is Utter Garbage." In a statement to The Blaze, Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd strongly denied suggestions that Abdel-Rahman might be released or transferred:

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, has responded to TheBlaze:

"The assertion that the Blind Sheikh may be transferred to Egypt is utter garbage. The Blind Sheikh is not being transferred to Egypt nor is he being released.  He is serving life sentence in federal prison.  Suggestions that there are discussions to transfer or release him are absolute garbage and completely false." [The Blaze, 9/17/12]

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland: "There Is No Plan To Release The Blind Sheikh." FoxNews.com quoted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland as saying "there is no plan to release the blind sheikh":

Several Republican chairmen of top House committees wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referencing a Breitbart.com report claiming the State Department was "actively negotiating" with Egypt's president about transferring the blind sheikh to Egyptian custody.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied the report.

"Let me say as clearly as I can there is no plan to release the blind sheikh, there is no plan. To my knowledge we have not been approached about it recently by any senior Egyptians," she said Wednesday. [FoxNews.com, 9/19/12

National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor: "There Are No Discussions About Transferring Him." National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is quoted in the New York Post as confirming that "[t]here are no discussions about transferring" Abdel-Rahman:

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said last night, "The blind sheik is going to serve out his life sentence. There are no discussions about transferring him. These reports are wrong."

"The blind sheik is going to serve out his life sentence. There are no discussions about transferring him. These reports are wrong." [New York Post, 9/20/12]

Nonetheless, Conservative Media Continued To Speculate That Abdel-Rahman Will Be Released

Rush Limbaugh: "I Guarantee" Obama Would "Return Omar Abdel-Rahman After He Wins The Election." On his radio program, Rush Limbaugh brushed aside "denials" of the report to "guarantee" that Obama would "return Omar Abdel-Rahman after he wins the election":

LIMBAUGH: The Muslim Brotherhood guy, President Morsi, from day one, after his election to the presidency Egypt, he said number one objective is to have the U.S. release the Blind Sheikh. Omar Abdel-Rahman. And apparently there was a report a couple days ago that a deal had been struck to release Rahman back to the Egyptians after the election. Now, there's some denials that have gone back and forth, but you wanna bet that if Obama wins he does that? I guarantee he'll do it. You don't think so? You don't think, you don't think he'd return Omar Abdel-Rahman after he wins the election? When he has more flexibility? Of course he will! And he'll do it under the guise of furthering normalizing relations, with, just like the Brits, the Brit liberals gave up the Libyan guy, there's no question, I don't think, that Obama will, make that, make that deal. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/19/12]

Ralph Peters: "If Obama's Reelected I Suspect We're Going To See A Lot Of Things We Don't Like." On America Live, Fox News strategic analyst Ralph Peters said it was "plausible that elements of the State Department would be at least talking about" releasing Abdel-Rahman and implied Obama might do so if reelected:

PETERS: Megyn, how much hard evidence is it going to take for this administration to realize that appeasement does not work? I have no doubts there were talks. Now, whether or not the administration was going to release this murderer, this mass murderer, we don't know that, but you know this should have been a slam dunk no, we're not talking about it, done. But this administration lives in a fantasy world, where if you just keep appeasing radical Muslims, keep ceding to their demands, keep repressing freedom of speech in the West, that somehow, some magic how, everything will be fine.

MEGYN KELLY (host): Wait a minute. But, does it seem plausible to you that Barack Obama, in an election year, would be negotiating the release of a terrorist, and not just any terrorist, but a terrorist convicted of trying, of bombing the World Trade Center?

PETERS: No, it does not seem plausible that Obama himself would be doing it, but it certainly seems plausible that elements of the State Department would be at least talking about this, talking back and forth, and certainly in an election year the President would be cautious. But if Obama's reelected I suspect we're going to see a lot of things we don't like. At this point he's not going to release the Blind Sheikh because it's become a scandal, the way they would have done it would be to just do it, send the guy to Egypt, it's a fait accompli. [Fox News, America Live, 9/19/12]

NY Post: "The Obama Administration Is Weighing The Release Of Blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman." An article in the New York Post claimed the administration is "weighing the release" of the Abdel-Rahman, according to officials. The article noted that the White House, State Department, and Justice Department issued statements denying "any deal is in the works," but then quoted Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant US attorney who prosecuted Abdel-Rahman, as saying, "There's no way to believe anything they say. I believe there may already be a nod-and-wink agreement in place." From the Post

The Obama administration is weighing the release of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman -- the spiritual adviser to the 1993 World Trade Center bombers -- in a stunning goodwill gesture toward Egypt that has touched off a political firestorm, officials said yesterday.

The Egyptian government "asked for his release," an administration source told The Post -- and Rep. Peter King (R-LI) confirmed the request is being considered.

The White House, State Department and Justice Department each issued statements denying any deal is in the works, but, "There's no way to believe anything they say," said Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant US attorney who prosecuted Abdel-Rahman. "I believe there may already be a nod-and-wink agreement in place." [New York Post, 9/20/12]

Fox's Steve Doocy: "It Sounds Like In The Back Channels They're Actually Talking About Doing It." On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy acknowledged that the State Department denies reports of a transfer, but nevertheless insisted "it sounds like in the back channels they're actually talking about doing it":

DOOCY: Keep in mind, it was, I think, two or three days before the embassy in Cairo was stormed where there was a rant that went out about the Blind Sheikh, the guy responsible for the nine -- rather the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  A guy who has been in prison in North Carolina for a number of years. Well now, as it turns out, we're learning more, that it sounds like behind the scenes with the State Department and others, there's the guy right there, Omar Abdel-Rahman, it sounds like because the country of Egypt and in particular President Morsi has asked for this guy's release, you know give him back to us, it sounds like in the back channels they're actually talking about doing it. Peter King has confirmed to Fox the request is being considered. The White House, State Department, they all deny it, and yet it looks like they're moving toward it.

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): He was going to blow up all the tunnels in New York City, that plot was thwarted, he also had a role in the '93 terrorist attacks, he's all over the 9/11 hijackers, and an inspirational leader even today to those fighting in the battlefield against our guys in Afghanistan. And when we heard the State Department official talk yesterday, they said there are currently no plans. Currently no plans? You should just come out and say, of course, under no circumstances are we going to take this blind terrorist out of North Carolina in a high security prison and let him back to Egypt.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Well it reminds everyone so much of al-Megrahi. Remember when he was released, the Lockerbie bomber, he was released from the prison because he was supposedly going to die, even if that's an excuse, from cancer within months, and then he ended up going back home to his country and living for three to four years. And recently passed away. And there was a huge outcry for that. So this would seem implausible that this would actually happen, but, we'll have to wait and see.

DOOCY: And in particular when you look at the guy who prosecuted him, a fellow by the name of Andrew McCarthy, he's told the Post, quote, "There's no way to believe anything they say," referring to the administration, "I believe there may already be a nod and a wink agreement in place." However, we should point out that the White House does currently deny it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/20/12]

Fox's Johnson On State Department Statement That "There Is No Plan To Release The Blind Sheikh": "I Don't Know What That Means." On Fox & Friends, Johnson attempted to cast doubt on the State Department statement that "[t]here is no plan to release the Blind Sheikh" by saying, "I don't know what that means":

JOHNSON: We know that Mr. Morsi has asked for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, who is responsible for killing six Americans at the World Trade Center, wounding a thousand, and plotting to blow up other major things in New York.

KILMEADE: Now, US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, he's not doing that any more, he was part of the team that put him behind bars, said that he believes the process is in the works to get him out. Now State Department said this when asked, Are you about to let out this terrorist who's now in a maximum security prison serving a life sentence in North Carolina? Listen.

VICTORIA NULAND [video clip]: There is no plan to release the Blind Sheikh. There is no plan. To my knowledge we have not been approached about it recently by any senior Egyptians.

KILMEADE: Senior Egyptians and no plan, significant?`

JOHNSON: If you look up weasel words, in the dictionary, you could run that tape right next to it. I don't know what that means. Instead of saying, listen, there is no way in heck that this guy is ever getting out of jail, he's going to die in jail just like Peter King said, they said well no there's no plans, we haven't heard from senior Egyptians. The senior Egyptian in his inauguration speech talked about having this guy released. And if we don't think that when he meets with the President, or the Secretary of State, or senior White House Officials, Mr. Morsi's not going to ask for this guy to be released, then we've got, you know, something else going in our head. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/20/12, via Media Matters]

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