Israel may have given presidential pardons to the 1,027 security prisoners swapped for Gilad Shalit, but that doesn’t change the fact that all were convicted for terrorism-related crimes and “should be treated” as such, a bipartisan group of 39 Members of Congress told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
They urged "these convicted terrorists" should be "included in all relevant terrorist databases" and barred from entering the United States.
As long-time advocates of Shalit's release, the lawmakers said they "share the delight" of family and friends for the young soldier’s safe return and appreciate the serious sacrifices being made by the Israeli government, but that doesn’t change the fact that the American lawmakers have "nothing but contempt for the crimes committed" by the released prisoners.
The letter, initiated by Howard Berman (D-California), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and sent last Friday, was signed by 34 Democrats and five Republicans.
The first tranche of 477 prisoners was released earlier and the remaining 550 are to be freed later. The recent barrages of rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza into southern Israel could force a delay in that schedule, according to some Israeli media reports. Islamic Jihad has taken credit the recent pyrotechnics, but the Israeli government holds Hamas responsible for all acts of terror emanating from Gaza. Hamas is said to be pressing all groups in Gaza to observe a ceasefire — at least until the remaining prisoners are freed.
The Obama administration, which initially praised the Shalit deal, began having second thoughts after the list of prisoners became known, Politico reported.
“As a matter of principle, the United States opposes the release of individuals who have been convicted of crimes against Americans,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said. “We communicated our position to the government of Israel after we became aware of specific individuals who were identified as part of this release.”
The full text of letter:
October 28, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
The Honorable Robert Mueller III
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear Secretary Clinton and Director Mueller:
As Members of Congress who have long advocated for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, we share the delight of his family, friends, and nation that he has arrived safely home. The Israeli government had to make serious sacrifices to bring this national nightmare to an end, and we have nothing but contempt for the crimes committed by the released Palestinian prisoners.
As you are well aware, 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners are to be released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal between Israel and Hamas. These prisoners include the murderers of kidnapped IDF soldiers Nachshon Wachsman, Ilan Sasportas and Ilan Saadon. Other prisoners being released include the perpetrator of the Bus 405 Tel Aviv-Jerusalem attack in 1989, the mastermind of the 2002 “Passover massacre” in Netanya, the terrorist who killed 10 Israelis in Wadi Harmiyeh north of Ramallah in 2002, the terrorist who brought the suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, and several perpetrators of the lynching in Ramallah in October 2000.
In light of this event, we urge you to work across the Intelligence Community to ensure these individuals are included in all relevant terrorist databases. Each of these released Palestinian prisoners has been convicted of a terrorism-related offense and should be treated as such. All government resources must be utilized, including the Terrorist Screening Center’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) and the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), to make certain that these convicted terrorists are not granted the privilege of entering the United States of America.
We thank the Administration for its attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you regarding the steps your departments are taking to address our request.
Rep. Howard L. Berman
cc: James R. Clapper Jr., Director of National Intelligence
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism