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Son Of Transport Secretary Can't Get Transport Out Of Egypt

As part of an Egyptian crackdown on NGOs, their representatives in Egypt including the son of Ray Lahood, have been kept from leaving.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 1/27/2012, 6:01 AM

American policy towards Egypt appears to be on a contradictory course.

On the one hand, Under Secretary of State, Robert Hormats, part of a delegation conferring last week with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, told his interlocutors that Washington would provide "more immediate benefits" to the Egyptians. The State Department was seeking to provide positive feedback to the Egyptians following their recent democratic election by redirecting non-urgent US assistance - earmarked for other countries - to provide the strapped Egyptian economy with an immediate boost.

This policy will have to contend with the tension that has arisen between the two countries as a result of Egyptian action against American nongovernmental organizations that have included a no-fly list preventing Americans from leaving Egypt.

The most prominent name on the list is Sam LaHood, the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A former State Department official, the younger LaHood has, since 2010, been the director of the International Republican Institute's Egypt program. As reported by Politico, when LaHood tried to fly out of Egypt on Saturday, he was barred from doing so.

At the end of last month the Egyptian government raided the NGOs, seizing equipment, American currency, and shuttering offices. The Egyptian government claims that these organizations are operating illegally because they have never been registered, something the organizations have been trying to do for years, only to encounter deliberate bureaucratic sabotage..

The controversy reached the highest level when President Barack Obama brought up the issue in a telephone call to Egyptian Military Council head Mohammed Tantawi.

As a result of the impasse, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy wrote Hillary Clinton complaining about State Department officials who tried to downplay the issue, and hinting that this could have an impact on US aid to Egypt.

The organizations involved were attempting to help Egypt in its transition to democracy, based on experience gleaned from Chile, Indonesia, Poland and other countries that had made the transition.

The top State Department human rights official, Michael Posner, who is visiting Cairo as part of a regional tour, told reporters that the Egyptian government action raised concerns and it could affect US aid to Egypt.