Fox News' Catherine Herridge Looks at IRI's Staff Being Barred from Leaving Egypt
BRET BAIER: The U.S. is trying to get Egypt's attention by yanking on the purse strings a bit. The new leaders of that country continue to prevent some American aid workers from leaving. Chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge, has an update.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CHIEF INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As thousands converged on Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark the one- year anniversary of the day of rage that pushed President Hosni Mubarak from power, the Obama administration threatened to cut military aid unless Democratic progress was tangible.
The issue came to a head because at least six Americans including the son of transportation secretary, Ray Lahood, are barred from leaving the country. In a phone interview, Sam Lahood told Fox News they're safe, but –
VOICE OF SAM LAHOOD, INTL REPUBLICAN INST: My mindset has kind of changed since the travel ban was put in place where we're kind of expecting the worst, because there hasn't been a lot of movement. Nothing has really changed.
HERRIDGE: And the state department confirmed that.
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We are continuing to work on this collection of issues as we discussed yesterday. We do not have progress since yesterday. I am sorry to report.
HERRIDGE: In a phone call last Friday, President Obama warned Egypt's de facto leader, Field Marshal Tantawi, that the month-long criminal investigation of Sam Lahood' group, IRI, and other democracy building organizations would need Congressional requirements were unmet and the aid would be blocked.
Since 1979 in the peace treaty with Israel, the U.S. has given Egypt an average of $2 billion a year in economic and military aid. Roughly 80 percent of the total aid going to Egypt is in the form of military grants and other help. Under new legislation, Secretary of State Clinton must certify that the Egyptian government is supporting the transition to a civilian government before the money is released.
NULAND: I'm not going to get in to the specific back and forth with the Egyptian government, but they certainly are well aware of the certification requirements that the Congress has placed.
HERRIDGE: IRI was one of 17 organizations raided by Egyptian authorities in December. Lahood said dozens of these groups from the U.S., Europe, and Egypt are affected.
LAHOOD: There's 300 organizations reportedly that are involved in this investigation. This is much bigger than just IRI or myself.
HERRIDGE (on-camera): Sam Lahood told Fox he and his colleagues are essentially trapped in Egypt. A judge there alleges that they work for an unregistered group and took a salary. Lahood said a trial on those charges if it came to that could last a year -- Bret.
BAIER: Catherine, thank you.
HERRIDGE: You're welcome.