By Kerry Picket
Fireworks on Capitol Hill happened at a Homeland Security Oversight hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, grilled Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano over reports (h/t Daily Beast) that an Egyptian terrorist group obtained visas and gained access to meet with top White House officials.
Gohmert also went after Napolitano over Mohammed Elibiary, an individual she placed on the homeland security advisory council and, according to Gohmert, gained secret security clearance via Napolitano to downloaded classified information that Congressman Gohmert says Elibiary later shopped to a reporter.
Secretary Napolitano said Rep. Gohmert's "insinuations demean the committee" and she was more concerned about the "allegations that are made against anyone who happens to be Muslim" when asked if it bothered her that classified information was obtained by Mr. Elbiary.
Napolitano appeared unaware about the recent reports regarding the Egyptian terror group that visited Washington recently. Eli Lake at the Daily Beast wrote in June:
It was supposed to be a routine meeting for Egyptian legislators in Washington, an opportunity for senior Obama administration officials to meet with new members of Egypt's parliament and exchange ideas on the future of relations between the two countries.
Instead, the visit this week looks like it's turning into a political fiasco. Included in the delegation of Egyptian lawmakers was Hani Nour Eldin, who, in addition to being a newly elected member of parliament, is a member of the Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group--a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The group was banned under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and is now a recognized Islamist political party. Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman--also known as the "blind sheik"--was convicted in 1995 of plotting attacks on New York City landmarks and transportation centers, and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.
Eldin, according to his Facebook page, was born in 1968 and resides in Suez, near the canal that unites the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. He was arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges after members of Gamaa Islamiya got into a shoot out with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. He has proclaimed his innocence in the shooting and says he was arrested because of his political activism against Mubarak.
In an interview, Eldin confirmed he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya. By U.S. law, that means he would be denied a visa to enter the country. Nonetheless, he says, he got a visa from the State Department. A State Department spokesman said, "We have no information suggesting that he or anyone else in the delegation is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group."
In October 2011, PJ Media's Patrick Poole reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety officials were asking questions about a report that Elibiary may have been given access to that contained sensitive database of state and local intelligence reports that he allegedly shopped to a media outlet:
Texas Department of Public Safety officials are asking questions following a report that Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council member Mohamed Elibiary may have been given access to a sensitive database of state and local intelligence reports, and then allegedly shopped some of those materials to a media outlet. He allegedly used the documents to claim the department was promoting "Islamophobia" -- claims that the media outlet ultimately rejected. They declined to do the story.
Earlier today, I received confirmation from a left-leaning media outlet that Elibiary had recently approached them asking to do a story attacking Texas DPS:
Yes, he approached us and gave us some reports marked FOUO [For Official Use Only] that he said showed a pattern of Islamophobia at the department. He emphasized that some of the regional fusion centers were shut down a few years ago after the ACLU complained that they were targeting Muslim civil rights groups and said that this was being directed by [Texas Gov.] Rick Perry.
Below is the transcript Q and A between Rep. Gohmert and Sec. Napolitano from committee hearing today: (bolding is mine)
0:00) ..."Gohmert is recognized"
(Rep. Gohmert :02)
"Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you madam secretary for being here. When you were here before back in October, we discussed, Gentlemen, Mr. Elibiary, and the week before he had been on-line using the secret security clearance that you had given him, when you placed him on the advisory, the homeland security advisory council, and he had used that to access the state and local intelligence community of interest classified material database and downloaded material, and we had information that he had shot that trying to claim Texas was "Islamaphobes" because they were concerned about radical Islamic. But since that time has..you told me personally at that time that you were going to look into it you weren't going to appoint someone, you were going to look into it. So, what did you find out?"
(Ms. Napolitano 1:04)
"I found out that statements that had been made in that regard are false, they are misleading, objectionable, I think they "
(Rep. Gohmert 1:14)
"Okay then madam you need to know that you have people who are lying in your department, because Texas department of public safety has been told the investigation was done, he did access the classified information with his own private computer, he did download the documents that we knew he did and the one thing they could not confirm because they didn't talk to the reporter, or the people that he shopped the story to, but they couldn't confirm that he shopped the story but are you saying before this congress, right now, that as secretary of homeland security, that it is a lie that Mohammad Elibiary downloaded material from a classified website using the secret security clearance that you gave him? Are you saying that's a lie?"
(Ms. Napolitano 2:10)
"I am saying that is inaccurate, that is correct"
(Rep. Gohmert 2:13)
"Alright what is inaccurate about that?"
(Ms. Napolitano 2:16)
"A number of things. First of all, we have several people on the homeland security advisory committee are Muslim. They have been helping law enforcement for a long time. Mr. Elibiary himself was recognized by the FBI "
(Rep. Gohmert 2:30)
"I didn't say anything about that, so if you could confine your answer to what I said and what you find misleading in it."
(Ms. Napolitano 2:37)
"One of the things I find misleading is he somehow downloaded classified documents."
(Rep. Gohmert 2:44)
"So are you saying that the state and local intelligence of community database is not classified?"
(Ms. Napolitano 2:51)
"I'm saying that he, as far as I know, did not download classified documents "
(Rep. Gohmert 2:56)
"Now one of the games that gets played sometimes by people who come up here and testify is that they had somebody not provide them adequate information so that they can come in here and say, "So far as I know, not to my knowledge,' that kind of thing, and they obscure the truth. Has Elibiary's status on homeland security advisory council changed?
(Ms. Napolitano 3:18)
(Rep. Gohmert 3:20)
"It did not bother you that he accessed information?"
(Ms. Napolitano 3:25)
"Uh, he accessed some information, what bothers me, quite frankly, are the allegations that are made against anyone who happens to be Muslim."
(Rep. Gohmert 3:34)
"Well, the allegations are not because he is Muslim. You follow me around the world, you've seen me hugging Muslim's around the world. The ones that I hug are our friends, and this administration seems to have a hard time recognizing members of terrorist groups who are allowed into the White House, you're aware of that happening aren't you?"
(Ms. Napolitano 3:56)
(Rep. Gohmert 3:57)
"So (laughs), alright the evidence speaks for itself obviously you're kept in the dark on a lot of these things
(Ms. Napolitano 4:04)
(Rep. Gohmert 4:05)
"Are you aware of what the freedom and justice party is in Egypt?"
(Ms. Napolitano 4:11)
"Representative, um "
(Rep. Gohmert 4:14)
"Are you aware of what the freedom and justice party is in Egypt?"
"Mr. Chairman, could we have
(Rep. Gohmert 4:22)
"It's a simple question that doesn't afford an interruption is she aware of what the freedom and justice party is in Egypt?"
"Would the secretary respond to the question?"
(Ms. Napolitano 4:33)
(Rep. Gohmert 4:34)
"Are you aware that Mr. Elibiary's foundation, that is now been, had their charter pulled because they failed to provide the information that the government requires to keep their 501-C3 status. Are you aware that that was before the 501-C3 status was pulled, called the freedom and justice foundation?
(Ms. Napolitano 4:57)
"Representative, I'm not going to get into a debate about some of the
(Rep. Gohmert 5:00)
"I'm asking you if you know simple facts!"
(Ms. Napolitano 5:03)
"I would like to explain, I would like to say something
(Rep. Gohmert 5:06)
"You said you're not going to get into debate, I don't want to debate this, this is just a question and answer. Are you aware of that being the name of his foundation that has now had the 501-C3 status pulled?"
(Ms. Napolitano 5:19)
"The insinuation that I "
(Rep. Gohmert 5:21)
"Can you answer the question? There's no insinuation,
"Allow the witness to answer the question."
(Rep. Gohmert 5:30)
"Yes, please answer just the question."
(Ms. Napolitano 5:35)
"Representative, with all due respect, I believe you are insinuating that I and members of my staff..."
(Rep. Gohmert 5:42)
"I am not insinuating anything, I am asking a direct question"
(Ms. Napolitano 5:47)
"Mr. Chairman "
(Rep. Gohmert 5:48)
" not answering this question. The question is very simple were you aware of his freedom and justice foundation "
"Let me say here to the gentleman from Texas, I don't think he's going to get a different answer "
(Rep. Gohmert 6:03)
"Then I would ask the insistence of the Chairman to direct this witness to answer the question as asked, it's a very simple, it's a yes or no, was she aware or was she not."
"We will give the witness the opportunity to give a final answer, yes."
(Ms. Napolitano 6:17)
"Mr. Chairman, I would just like to say for this committee which
(Rep. Gohmert 6:22)
"That does not sound like a yes or it is not a response
(interruptions) and answer that is nonresponsive " (6:31)
"Okay, the answer may be nonresponsive, madam secretary do you have anything to add?"
(Ms. Napolitano 6:36)
"Mr. Chairman I didn't know this was a court with rules of evidence, I was hoping I could explain my answer." (6:43)
"Do you want to proceed to do just that?"
(Ms. Napolitano 6:44)
"Thank you Mr. Chairman."
(Rep. Gohmert 6:45)
"Mr. Chairman my question was a yes or no question, anything but a yes or no answer and the reason there are rules of evidence is so the witnesses just don't go off on talking avoiding the issues "
"The gentleman's time has expired, but does the witness have anything to add?"
(Ms. Napolitano 7:04)
"Yes. This committee has a long and proud tradition. These kinds of insinuations demean the committee. The insinuation that I or my staff would allow someone who is a terrorist to infiltrate
(Rep. Gohmert 7:17)
"I have not insinuated that Elibiary...a very nice gentleman. I met him a couple of times, he's a nice guy, there's no type of insinuations, except that the secretary of homeland security come in here allegations
"Committee will be in order, I understand the frustration of the gentleman from Texas, but I don't believe he is going to get a different answer. The gentleman's time has expired "