Administration Criticized on Farrakhan’s Trip to Libya, Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration was criticized Tuesday for not acting more aggressively to investigate Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for possible violations of federal laws during his trip to Libya and Iraq.
With hundreds of the minister’s followers lined up outside the hearing room, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said he thought Farrakhan violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act as well as laws prohibiting foreign countries from trying to influence U.S. elections.
As the hearing opened, Leonard Farrakhan Mohammed, the chief of staff of the Nation of Islam, stood up and asked, ``Can I ask a question?″
``This is not a town meeting,″ said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee.
Moments later, a woman in the back of the crowded room shouted, ``I can’t hear back here.″
Smith called for order and said anyone else disrupting the hearing would be ejected.
Outside the room people complained they had waited for hours only to be denied access. People began lining up in the morning for the hearing that started in midafternoon.
``I hope we are not going back to the McCarthy era when in practice we stopped supporting the precepts of the Constitution,″ said Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., referring to the widely condemned tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., during his anti-communist crusade in the 1950s.
``If this hearing is a thinly-veiled excuse to do a little Louis Farrakhan bashing, we ought to get it up front,″ she said. ``Louis Farrakhan is not above the law, but neither is Louis Farrakhan beneath the protection of the Constitution.″
In addition to Libya and Iraq, Farrakhan traveled to Iran and Sudan. All four nations are on the government’s list of nations that support terrorism.
Earlier this month the Justice Department had two letters concerning his trip to Libya and meetings with Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi hand-delivered to him in Chicago. U.S. citizens are barred from traveling to Libya on their American passports and from spending U.S. funds in the North African country.
``We see Louis Farrakhan flagrantly meeting with the worst dictators and tyrants of the world, stating on the record that he’s accepting money from those dictators who are sworn enemies of the United States and yet he was able to come back to this country without even being asked one question,″ said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was the leadoff witness and King asked him if he thought the administration was enforcing laws that might apply to Farrakhan.
``My answer is no,″ said Barr.
King said that when Farrakhan returned to this country no U.S. official checked his passport to see if it showed he used it to enter Libya. The Libyans usually let U.S. citizens evade the law by not requiring them to use their passport.
In response to demands that he register as an agent of Libya, Farrakhan has said he’s an ``agent of God,″ not of Libya, and that he should not have to register with the American government as a foreign agent.
Some accounts said Gadhafi pledged $1 billion to Farrakhan’s group, but after Farrakhan left Libya, the country’s government news agency said no donation was made.