LaHood: U.S. working to resolve Egypt NGO trial

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on "CBS This Morning," Friday,. Feb. 17, 2012. CBS

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the highest officials in the U.S. government are working to resolve the detention of his son and other NGO workers in Egypt.

Sam LaHood, director of the International Republican Institute, was one of 19 American employees of non-governmental organizations indicted by Egyptian security officers, accused of inciting protests against the nation's military rulers. LaHood and five other Americans still in Egypt have been banned from leaving the country and face criminal trial.

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On "CBS This Morning," Ray LaHood said that his son and his NGO colleagues are safe, "so we're grateful for that.

"There are a lot of people in our government, really top officials in our government, working night and day to resolve this issue," LaHood told Charlie Rose. "Frankly, I don't know how it will be resolved, and so we continue to hope and pray that soon it will be resolved. But top officials are really working on this and I'm grateful for their efforts.

"I've talked to the president about this on a couple of occasions; I've talked to the secretary of defense, secretary of state, the national security adviser. I talked to [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Gen. Dempsey yesterday who was in the region a week ago meeting with military leaders, and I've been assured by all of them, they're going to do everything they can to resolve this, and I believe them."

When asked by Rose if he understood why his son is banned from leaving the country, LaHood replied, "I understand what has been written. But this is the first time that NGOs have ever really come under this kind of attack by a government, in any country. These NGOs have been working for years, Charlie, in democracy-building efforts, and they thought they were well within their right to do it. So it's a little bit puzzling to many people what's happening there."

Also during his appearance, LaHood commented on just-announced voluntary guidelines by the Transportation Department for built-in car features, including disabling text messaging and web browsing devices while the car is moving. The guidelines don't mandate features for a driver's own Blackberry or cell phone.

LaHood has been campaigning against distracted driving, which he said accounts for 10 percent of all highway traffic deaths.

"Everybody has a BlackBerry, everybody has a cell phone and we think we can use them everywhere we're at," he said. "Many people, when they get behind the wheel of a car, have a cell phone up to their ear or think they can text and drive. It's very dangerous; the statistics prove that."

Three years ago, LaHood said, only eight states had passed distracted driving laws. "Today, we have 35 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam that have passed laws.

"We've made progress, and particularly with our friends in law enforcement who are now writing more tickets for people that are on cell phones or using their BlackBerrys. But we still have a long way to go."

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