Beltway Confidential

Homeland Security to lift ban on US aviation, nuke training for Libyans

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Homeland Security,Benghazi,State Department,Libya

Department of Homeland Security officials may lift a prohibition designed to prevent Libyan terrorism in order to help the government of that country build up its military capabilities, using the same reasoning that a whistleblower said resulted in lax security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

The new policy would reverse a 1983 ban on giving aviation training and nuclear science education to Libyan nationals, promulgated in the face of terrorist attacks sponsored by former dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

"The United States has normalized relations with Libya and is working to establish robust diplomatic, military, and economic ties," states the unpublished DHS document, which is described as a final rule.

"One of [the Defense Department's] goals is to initiate a program of military education and training for Libyan citizens that would be conducted in the United States.

"The education and training is targeted to include aviation maintenance, flight operations, and nuclear-related studies or training; however, this goal is currently impeded by [the 1983 regulation]."

The language of the memo echoes recent congressional testimony provided by Eric Nordstrom, the official responsible for providing security to the American personnel at the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

Nordstrom told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that his request for extra security was denied because the State Department wanted to "normalize operations and reduce security resources."

The DHS document notes that most sanctions imposed on Libya have been lifted since Gadhafi's fall and that the State Department no longer classifies the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

House Republicans oppose lifting the ban because terrorist activity in Libya has continued since Gadhafi's fall.

"We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and continue to face additional terrorist threats from Libya, yet the Obama administration is preparing to lift a longstanding ban that protects Americans and our interests," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said of the document.

The judiciary panel was given the document by a DHS source.

“In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks in Benghazi, the Obama administration ignored looming terrorist threats," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has taken an active role in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Benghazi investigation.

"It is unbelievable that this administration would again put Americans in harm’s way by lifting a decades-old security ban on a country that has become a hotbed of terrorist activity," he said. "We must work with the Libyans to build mutual trust that ensures safety and prosperity for both countries to enjoy.”

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