House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said Tuesday that he plans to move forward with a series of hearings to examine the threat of Islamic radicalization, and said he “will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States.”
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to King earlier this month asking him to expand the purpose of the hearings into “a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups regardless of their ideological underpinnings.”
But King said that the hearings will serve an important purpose, and that the committee “cannot ignore the fact that al Qaeda is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror.”“This threat is real, and we can hardly afford to ignore the motivating ideology behind nearly every recent homegrown attack, such as the Zazi plot, the Times Square Attack, Fort Hood, the Portland Christmas bombing attempt, and numerous others,” King wrote.
Some experts said that they hoped that King would make the hearings productive, but a large group of civil rights and religious groups have asked Democratic and Republican leaders to object to King’s hearings.
King said Monday that he planned to call mostly Muslim and Arab witnesses to testify in hearings next month.
In a statement to TPM on Monday, King said that he will have Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Michael Leiter testify at the committee’s first hearing of the 112th Congress on Wednesday, “which will be a cordial opportunity for the Committee to take a critical look at the terror threat facing our homeland and the Obama Administration’s policies to combat it.”
“Then, in March, I expect to hold the first hearing on Islamic radicalization,” King said. “The witnesses for the radicalization hearing are yet to be determined.”
The letter from King to Thompson can be read below:
February 8, 2011
The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Homeland Security
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Ranking Member Thompson:
I am writing in reference to your letter of February 1, 2011 wherein you state that the upcoming hearing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community should be expanded to include “a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups regardless of their ideological underpinnings.” I strongly disagree.
While there have been extremist groups and random acts of political violence throughout our history, the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 and the ongoing threat to our nation from Islamic jihad were uniquely diabolical and threatening to America’s security, both overseas and in our homeland.
The sui generis nature of this threat was demonstrated by, among other things, (a) Congress authorizing the President to use military force against al Qaeda, (b) enactment of the PATRIOT Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004, (c) the largest government reorganization since 1947 in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and (d) the creation of the Homeland Security Committee.
Because of these and other measures taken after 9/11, al Qaeda has realized the difficulty it faces in launching attacks against our homeland from overseas. Thus it has adjusted its tactics and is now attempting to radicalize and recruit from within our country. In the last two years alone more than 50 Americans have been charged with terror related crimes.
It was this dramatically increased threat which Attorney General Holder said “keeps him awake at night” and drove him “to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, and the threat is constant.” Attorney General Holder also noted that the teachings of Islamic jihadist Anwar Al Awlaki inspired many of the most recent terrorist attacks. This threat is real, and we can hardly afford to ignore the motivating ideology behind nearly every recent homegrown attack, such as the Zazi plot, the Times Square Attack, Fort Hood, the Portland Christmas bombing attempt, and numerous others.
In short, the homeland has become a major front in the war with Islamic terrorism and it is our responsibility to fully examine this significant change in al Qaeda tactics and strategy. To include other groups such as neo-Nazis and extreme environmentalists in this hearing would be extraneous and diffuse its efficacy. It would also send the false message that our Committee believes there is any threat equivalency between these disparate groups and Islamist terrorism.
Very simply, the Committee cannot ignore the fact that al Qaeda is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror. Pursuant to our mandate, the Committee will continue to examine the threat of Islamic radicalization, and I will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States.
PETER T. KING