The Obama administration is lifting a 31-year-old rule prohibiting Libyan nationals from attending flight school or receiving nuclear science education in the United States. In defense, it claims that the United States and Libya have worked to “normalize their relationship,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.
This decision came less than two years after the terrorist attack on the U.S. foreign mission in Benghazi, and less than three weeks after American diplomats and Marines evacuated the U.S. embassy in Tripoli and fled the country in response to escalating terrorist activity in Libya.
The Department of Homeland Security is now set to sign off on the proposed reversal of the ban after having received approval from the Office of Management and Budget, according to the Free Beacon. The ban was enacted during the Reagan administration in response to a string of Libyan terrorist attacks during the 1980s.
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations by rescinding the regulatory provisions promulgated in 1983 that terminated the nonimmigrant status and barred the granting of certain immigration benefits to Libyan nationals and foreign nationals acting on behalf of Libyan entities who are engaging in or seeking to obtain studies or training in,” the amendment states, according to the Free Beacon.
“The United States Government and the Government of Libya have normalized their relationship and most of the restrictions and sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations toward Libya have been lifted,” it says. “Therefore, DHS, after consultation with the Department of State and the Department of Defense, is considering rescinding the restrictions that deny nonimmigrant status and benefits to a specific group of Libyan nationals.”
The revisions are a part of the Obama administration’s review of its policies toward Libya “to see how they might be updated to better align with U.S. interests,” DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee told the Free Beacon.
“As part of this effort, the Departments of State and Defense requested the Department of Homeland Security consider revising regulations dating from 1983 to permit Libyan nationals, and other foreign nationals acting on behalf of Libyan entities, to engage in studies or training in aviation maintenance, flight operations and/or nuclear-related fields,” Lee told the publication.
Lee added that efforts to reverse the ban would help Libyans sustain and operate their war fleets.
“This would permit the educational exchange of information with Libyan nationals so they can reconstitute, operate and sustain their fleet to address threats posed by extremist groups seeking to derail the democratic transition,” Lee said. “As is the case with students from all countries, Libyan students interested in pursuing these studies would be subject to robust and thorough security threat assessments and vetting procedures, separate from this proposed regulatory change and consistent with our mission to protect national security and public safety.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea. The Free Beacon reported:
Members of the House Judiciary Committee expressed outrage on Monday about the rollback in the law, maintaining that Libyans continue to pose a security risk to the United States, particularly if they are given access to train in the aviation and nuclear fields.
The terror threat continues and numerous news reports document recent terror-related activities coming from Libya,” the Judiciary Committee said in a statement. “Recently, the employees at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli were evacuated due to violence between rival militias near the facility.”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), accused the Obama administration of “turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in Libya today.”
“The House Judiciary Committee has repeatedly sought information about the administration’s policy reversal but political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have stonewalled the Committee’s requests and have not articulated why it is in Americans’ best interests to change policy,” Goodlatte said in a statement.
“Given the ongoing volatility in Libya, it is unconscionable and completely irresponsible that the Administration plans to lift a longstanding policy that protects Americans and our national security from threats in the region,” he said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, was particularly incensed. In a statement, he said:
The burden of proof for advocating a change in the status quo lies with the Administration. Is post-revolutionary Libya secure enough to change the rules? Why now?” Gowdy said in a statement. “What evidence does the Administration have to assert the relationship between Libya and the US has indeed normalized?
It is extremely concerning that DHS is moving forward with these plans, but has not provided information on the policy change despite repeated requests from Members.
The al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked four commercial flights on Sept. 11 and flew the airliners into the World Trasde Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon building all received their flight training in the United States.