WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Texas politicians made public details of an investigation into a terrorism suspect while it was still in progress, potentially jeopardizing the inquiry, three sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick released details from documents that were still under court seal, the sources said. A spokesman for Governor Abbott had no immediate comment. Patrick’s office was not available for comment.
The suspect, Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan, 24, appeared in court on Friday accused of providing material support to Islamic State overseas. He entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee in November 2009 and lived in Houston, according to a court document.
Abbott and Patrick are both Republicans and their party has been fiercely resisting Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the next year, arguing that they pose a security risk to the United States. The Obama administration has rejected that assertion.
One of the sources said investigators believe Abbott and Patrick may have learned confidential details of the investigation from the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Texas. The group’s members include local and state law enforcement officers. There was no immediate comment from the task force.
The sources said the politicians’ statements on Thursday night disclosing a terrorism suspect’s arrest forced federal authorities to wrap up their inquiries and rush out public statements and court papers on the case earlier than planned.
Hardan was already in custody at the time, but interviews of potential witnesses were still being conducted when the disclosures were made, the sources.
The U.S. Justice Department also unveiled federal charges against another Iraqi refugee on Thursday, accusing Sacramento resident Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab of traveling overseas to fight alongside terrorist organizations and lying to U.S. authorities about it.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Julia Harte; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, James Dalgleish and Ross Colvin