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Judicial Watch • DHS Snubs Obama, Keeps Ban on Libyans Training as Pilots in U.S.

DHS Snubs Obama, Keeps Ban on Libyans Training as Pilots in U.S.

DHS Snubs Obama, Keeps Ban on Libyans Training as Pilots in U.S.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

President Obama’s own Homeland Security Secretary has snubbed him by refusing to go along with his outrageous plan to lift a decades-old ban on Libyans attending flight schools and training as nuclear scientists in the United States.

As unbelievable as it may seem, the commander-in-chief and his State Department schemed to lift the prohibition despite strong congressional opposition. In fact a final regulation was recently approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Judicial Watch wrote about it just weeks before the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including first diplomat to be killed overseas in decades, were massacred so the timing could not have been worse.

The ban was implemented in 1983 after a wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans. The African nation continues to be a hotbed of terrorism and in fact, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was recently evacuated because violence between rival militias has created a deadly environment. Many other foreign governments have also shut down their embassies in Libya because the violence has spread throughout the entire country.

Nevertheless, President Obama and the State Department discounted congressional opposition to let Libyans train as pilots, airplane mechanics and nuclear scientists in the United States. This despite the fact that many of the 9/11 hijackers—mostly Saudi nationals—received their training in American flights schools because our government allowed it. At a Congressional hearing earlier this year, a top Homeland Security official revealed that the Hillary Clinton State Department first requested the Libyan ban lift in 2010. Three years later, the official, Alan Bersin, told Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano agreed to begin the process to amend the regulations relating to Libya.

But a group of Republican lawmakers were determined to halt the dangerous plan one way or another. They even introduced legislation, which quickly earned bipartisan support. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents 51,000 pilots from dozens of U.S. and Canadian carriers, has also strongly opposed lifting the prohibition on Libyans. In a letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, the group’s president notes that Libya is so dangerous the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits U.S. airlines and commercial operators from entering Libyan airspace.

Furthermore, the letter says, any person entering the U.S. for flight training undergoes a mandatory thorough background check which requires reliable data from foreign governments. “Given the political instability in Libya and the transitory nature of the government, ALPA is concerned that information relevant to a background check on Libyan nationals would be unreliable if not entirely unavailable,” the letter states. The ALPA also takes a dig at the administration’s assertion that the U.S. and Libya have normalized their relationship, writing that safety and security concerns must never be set aside to build diplomatic ties.

Something evidently clicked for Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who rebuffed his boss by assuring Congress that he would keep the Libyan ban. At a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week Johnson confirmed that he would not lift it at this time, “given the current environment.” The lawmakers behind the effort to keep the status quo issued a joint statement praising the decision and Johnson’s common sense over Obama’s foolish plan. “Given the ongoing terrorist activity in Libya, there is no reason that the Obama Administration should have ever contemplated lifting a decades-old ban on Libyans coming to our country to train as pilots or nuclear scientists. The fact is that Libya’s government remains unstable today and the country is becoming more dangerous as rival rebel groups battle each other for control of Libya’s cities.”



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