Republicans on Capitol Hill are furious over the Obama administration’s handling of a purported Hezbollah commander, who was connected to the killing of five U.S. soldiers in 2007 and now is set for release by an Iraqi court.
The most recent GOP lawmaker to express frustration and to demand answers from the administration is Florida Rep. Allen West, who on Wednesday sent a letter to President Obama questioning why Ali Musa Daqduq was turned over to Iraq in December 2011.
West dismissed the argument by Obama officials that they were forced under a Bush administration agreement to release Iraqi citizens upon exiting in December 2011, saying Daqduq was in fact a Lebanon citizen.
“You had options when dealing with this terrorist,” wrote West, a 22-year Army veteran. “When you were elected president, the American people expected you to provide leadership.”
West suggested Daqduq should have been transferred to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he could have been tried before a military commission. He also called Daqduq’s release an “utter betrayal” to American soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. officials think Daqduq, while helping train insurgent groups, plotted and orchestrated the attack in the Iraqi city of Karbala that resulted in the deaths of the soldiers.
West’s letter follows one sent by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 10 – three days after the Iraq court cleared Daqduq of criminal charges and ordered his release.
The letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggests the administration waited until Daqduq was in Iraqi custody before filing murder, terrorism and other charges. It also states the administration intentionally kept information from Capitol Hill lawmakers, who learned about the purported charges and Daqduq’s ordered release through New York Times stories.
“Eight pages of charges ... appears to indicate that either the administration was purposefully withholding information from Congress or it had not done the due diligence required to file charges,” states the letter signed by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking GOP lawmaker, and the seven other GOP lawmakers on the committee.
A senior administration official told Fox News the U.S. strongly opposes his acquittal but respects the independence of the Iraqi judiciary. The official also said Daqduq remains in custody and that U.S. officials continue to work with Iraqi officials to pursue all legal options.
The official restated the administration's position that it was legally obligated under the 2008 security agreement to transfer Daqduq into Iraqi custody but only after assurance he would be held accountable for his crimes.
The Jan. 20, 2007, killings reportedly occurred when a convoy of SUVs that looked like one belonging to U.S. forces cleared several checkpoints to reach a government compound that include an American security team. Once inside the base, the vehicle occupants, in U.S. uniforms, fatally shot one soldier and kidnapped four others, who were later killed. Daqduq was reportedly captured about a month later in Basra.