WASHINGTON – The State Department said Friday it is looking into how a self-professed member of a banned Egyptian terrorist organization was issued a U.S. visa and traveled to Washington this week for meetings with senior Obama administration officials.
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the "circumstances of this particular case" were being reviewed. She declined to discuss specifics, citing privacy laws, but said the department is trying to better understand how and why Hani Nour Eldin was granted a visa and held meetings with officials at the White House and State Department.
Eldin, a recently elected member of Egypt's parliament, was one of six Egyptian legislators invited to visit Washington by the Woodrow Wilson Center think tank for discussions about the current political situation in Egypt. However, Eldin has also identified himself as a member of Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group, which the State Department has designated a "foreign terrorist organization."
Members of such groups are ineligible for U.S. visas and barred from entering the United States.
Eldin could not be reached for comment Friday as he and the rest of the group were returning to Egypt. But he confirmed his membership in Gamaa Islamiya in an interview with The Daily Beast website, which first reported on the matter.
Applicants for U.S. visas undergo a significant vetting process to determine whether they intend to return to their home country or could pose a threat to the United States.
Nuland said that like other applicants, all members of the Egyptian delegation went through a full set of screenings.
"Those screenings do depend, however, on the integrity of the information that's available to us at the time we do screen," she said. "This particular case is one that we are now looking into."
In addition to the discussions at the Wilson Center, Eldin's delegation held meetings with Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, and William Burns, the deputy secretary of state, according to administration officials.