By Pete King
The Al Qaeda-linked terrorists who took hostages in Algeria reportedly demanded that we release the so-called blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, in return for the lives of the captured Americans. This is the latest turn in a story that began 20 years ago and that hits close to home.
In February 1993, Islamist terrorists struck the World Trade Center. A bomb blasted a crater 100 feet wide and several stories deep, nearly toppling one tower into the other. A thousand New Yorkers were wounded, and six were killed. Among the dead was my neighbor, Monica Rodriguez Smith of Seaford, L.I.
Smith was seven months pregnant when she was murdered -- on the day before she was to begin maternity leave from her job at the Port Authority. Her killers were radicalized by the imam of Brooklyn's Al Farooq Mosque, the Egyptian-born blind sheik.
Rahman was arrested for plotting more attacks. He became the first man since the Civil War convicted of seditious conspiracy to wage war on the U.S.
In a message from his New York jail cell, he ordered the 1997 massacre of 62 tourists in Luxor, Egypt. A note left in the eviscerated body of one victim claimed responsibility on behalf of "Omar Abdel Rahman's Squadron of Havoc and Destruction."
Osama Bin Laden relied on a religious ruling issued by Rahman (again from an American prison) to justify 9/11. Some hijackers were even told that the plan was to seize airline passengers to trade for the blind sheik's release.
Rahman now serves a life sentence at a federal medical center in North Carolina. His treatment there is far better than the death penalty he deserved.
Last June, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, promised a cheering crowd in Cairo to do his best to free Rahman. That same month, Hani Nour Eldin -- a radical associate of the blind sheik and an Egyptian legislator -- was improperly granted entry to this country by the Department of Homeland Security.
At a White House meeting with Egyptian legislators, Eldin pressed the case for Rahman's release. Rather than flatly refuse this request, Obama administration officials referred Eldin to the Justice Department.
On Sept. 11 last year, Rahman's son helped lead a mob over the walls of our embassy in Cairo. They burned the American flag and waved an Al Qaeda one.
That same day, the "Imprisoned Omar Abdel Rahman Brigades" razed the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya. Thugs dragged the body of our ambassador Chris Stevens through the streets and killed three other Americans.
Also that day, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a demand for Rahman's release.
These outrages should have stiffened the Obama administration's spine. Instead, later that month, federal sources told me that our government had drafted contingency plans to transfer the blind sheik to Egypt. I joined with congressional leaders to ask that Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Clinton brief us about these reports. Yet no brief was forthcoming.
Instead, spokespeople for the White House and the State and Justice departments have offered lawyerly statements: There are no current discussions between senior government officials about transferring Rahman. These caveats are designed to obscure previous plans while preserving flexibility.
Morsi has renewed calls for Rahman's release, promising to raise the issue with President Obama during his March visit to Washington. And now the Algerian terrorists have added their names to the list of those pressuring Washington to free him.
Weakness is provocative. Refusing to publicly shut Morsi and al-Zawahiri down encourages our enemies' hopes that Rahman may be freed and tempts terrorists to commit kidnappings.
Enough is enough. Obama himself needs to state, firmly and finally, that Rahman will die in an American prison.
King is a congressman from Long Island.