Diplomatic Crisis Deepens over Charged Americans

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WASHINGTON -- Critics say last year's Arab Spring should be called instead the "Arab Nightmare." Egypt is just one example.

The long-time U.S. ally now appears to be playing a hostile game of chicken, with American pro-democracy workers caught in the middle.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary when former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bowed to political pressure and stepped down.

But critics charge that Mubarak's repressive regime is alive and well, perpetuated by the ruling Egyptian military.

What's the potential fallout from this diplomatic crisis? CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck discussed the reasons for the government's actions and predicted how it would end, on "The 700 Club," Feb. 8.

It's still engaged in regular and frequent clashes with civilians. And now it's taken the fight to the United States.

Nineteen Americans working to promote democracy and human rights are facing trial in criminal court. Among them is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The non-governmental organization's workers are charged with being behind the anti-government protests in Egypt, part of a conspiracy to create unrest.

The U.S. denies the charges.

"We do not believe there is any basis for these investigations, these raids on the sites that the NGOs operate out of, the seizure of their equipment," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

The real reason, according to an Arabic human rights group, is to exact revenge on organizations that report on military abuses since it took control.

"If you compare between the human rights situation before the revolution and after the revolution you will find that the violation increased," explained Abu Seada, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

But the fallout has major financial consequences for a nation that has been America's strongest Arab ally for decades.

More than 40 House lawmakers signed a bipartisan letter to the Pentagon and the State Department calling the raids and investigations "an attack on Egyptian civil society at large."

They put the Egyptians on notice that they could lose more than a billion dollars in annual military aid and $250 million in economic aid.

"This issue will make it increasingly difficult for congressional supporters of a strong U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship to defend current levels of assistance to Egypt, especially in this climate of budget cuts," the letter read.

The feelings are the same in the Senate as well. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., called the charges, "ridiculous, trumped-up charges."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., described the incident as a "slap in the face to Americans who have supported Egypt for decades."

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, as a result, "We should examine every aspect of America's relationship with Egypt."

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