Lawmaker: Ax aid to Tunisia for denying access to suspect

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Tuesday called on the Obama administration to end aid to Tunisia since that country had refused for several weeks to grant the FBI access to a suspect in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. 

The suspect, Ali Harzi, was captured in Turkey and sent back home in October. Tunisian authorities have charged him with belonging to a terrorist organization.

ADVERTISEMENT
FBI agents in Tunisia were denied access to him for five weeks before finally meeting with him late last month, at which point he refused to talk to them.

“These unnecessary and unfounded delays are inexcusable and demonstrate that Tunisia is no friend or ally of the United States,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “How is it possible that Tunisia is receiving more than $300 million in taxpayer dollars while simultaneously obstructing FBI efforts to investigate the death of four Americans?”

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

2201 C St. NW Ste. 7276

Washington, DC 20520


Dear Secretary Clinton,

Three months ago today, the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in a terrorist assault.  Yet three months later, no one has been held accountable for this attack.  That is why I write you again to urge you to immediately cut off all U.S. foreign assistance to the government of Tunisia – including any funds associated with the Millennium Challenge Corporation – in response to Tunisia’s two-month obstruction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) efforts to interview the only known detained suspect from the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Ali Harzi. 

As you may know, Harzi was identified as an alleged conspirator in the attack on the U.S. consulate, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including J. Christopher Stevens, the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.  According to press reports, Harzi, a Tunisian national, was detained on the Turkish border in the weeks following the attacks and subsequently transferred to his home country.  

Unfortunately, upon Harzi’s return to Tunisian custody, the FBI was blocked from interviewing Harzi, under any conditions, for nearly two months.  During that period, an FBI interrogation team waited on the ground in Tunisia for five weeks, before they departed earlier this month after continued obstruction.   These unnecessary and unfounded delays are inexcusable and demonstrate that Tunisia is no friend or ally of the United States. 

It is unconscionable that American tax dollars would continue to go to a country that refuses to allow the FBI to investigate this terrorist attack.   As I wrote in my October 31 letter to you (enclosed), since January 2011 the U.S. has committed more than $300 million “to support Tunisia’s transition [to democracy], focusing heavily on technical and financial assistance to Tunisia’s economy and private sector.”  How is it possible that Tunisia is receiving more than $300 million in taxpayer dollars while simultaneously obstructing FBI efforts to investigate the death of four Americans?

Tunisia has had two months to facilitate an interview between Harzi and the FBI, and has repeatedly failed to do so.  The FBI wasted five weeks with a team on the ground in Tunisia waiting for access.  It is time for the State Department to send a strong signal to Tunisia by cutting off American assistance until access is provided. 

Should you fail to cut off this aid, I will take appropriate legislative action to end U.S. aid to Tunisia.  

Sincerely,


      Frank R. Wolf

      Member of Congress