GOP blast Obama for allowing Libyan pilots to train in US

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill Overnight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq Congress votes to override Obama for first time MORE (R-Va.) chided the Obama administration for trying to lift a ban on Libyans coming to the U.S. to attend flight school or to study nuclear science.

“It is unbelievable that this administration is willing to put Americans in harm’s way by lifting a decades-old security ban on a country challenged by instability,” Chaffetz said on Monday. “This makes no sense. None.”

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The lawmakers said the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a regulation that allows Libyans to come to the United States for aviation and nuclear training programs. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson could now sign that approved regulation.

“The Obama administration is turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in Libya today by carelessly forging ahead with its plan to allow Libyan pilots and nuclear scientists to study in the United States,” Goodlatte said. “I urge Secretary Johnson to stop this dangerous plan from taking effect.”

The ban was put in place in the 1980s after the Lockerbie bombing, where Libyans were responsible for a terrorist bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103, killing nearly 250 people.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it decided to review the ban after the Libyan revolution.

"The United States is committed to working with Libya to build its sovereign institutions and are working closely with the government to bring stability to Libya," said DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee. "As part of this effort, the U.S. is reviewing U.S. policies that have been in place since before the Libyan revolution to see how they might be updated to better align with U.S. interests, while maintaining the highest standards of security."

Lee said all of the potential students would still be subject to a "robust and thorough" security screening before entering the United States.

The three lawmakers pointed out that just two years ago the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked and four Americans were killed, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens. 

“Less than two years ago, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked by terrorists, leaving four Americans killed,” Goodlatte said. “Given the ongoing volatility in Libya, it is unconscionable and completely irresponsible that the administration plans to lift a longstanding policy that protects Americans and our national security from threats in the region.”

House Republicans are still investigating that attack, but Democrats say the GOP is trying to use the act of terrorism for political gains.

— This article was updated at 4 p.m.