Peter King hearings: Are American Muslims the problem or the solution?
A hearing chaired by Rep. Peter King to investigate radicalization within the American Muslim community touches on an important topic, terrorism experts say. But they question the tone.
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“While homegrown terrorists are numerically a small part of the global threat, they have a disproportionate impact because they understand our homeland, have connections here, and have easier access to US facilities,” said Director Clapper.Skip to next paragraph
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Al Qaeda videos, Internet forums, and online magazines exist “for the expressed purpose of trying to convince Muslim Americans to reject their country and attack their fellow Americans,” he said.
Terrorism experts note that America’s home-grown extremists have taken on higher-profile roles in the international terrorist movement. These include New Mexico native Anwar al-Awlaki, who had contacts with several of the 9/11 hijackers, the Christmas shoe bomber, and the Fort Hood shooter; Al Qaeda spokesman and ex-Californian Adam Gadahn; and Alabama-born Omar Hammami, who works with Al Qaeda-backed terrorists in Somalia.
“Over the past two or three years, there has been a significant uptick in the number of Americans who have gone abroad to receive terrorist training, attempted to go abroad for terrorist training, or attempted attacks in the United States,” says Hoffman.
Cooperation with law enforcement
One of King’s stated motives in calling Thursday’s hearing was to demonstrate that the American Muslim community was not cooperating with law enforcement. Georgetown University's Hoffman says he’s seen no evidence that that is the case. Nor did Republicans present witnesses or new evidence to support the claim.
The only witness from law enforcement called to testify at this hearing was Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who committee Democrats invited to refute those allegations.
“The Muslim community in Los Angeles is a very active participant in the securing of our homeland,” he told the committee. “These relationships are critical to mitigate a threat or, more importantly, recognize the threat at a stage that a person, or a group, on a wrong path can be righted,” he added.
Often key tips in averting terrorist attacks come from families or the Muslim community, Hoffman says. Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI and many large urban police forces have gone out of their way to reach out to the Muslim community, he says.
Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee charged that the testimony of other witnesses, parents whose children became radicalized, was anecdotal and did not demonstrate the widespread pattern of noncooperation that the chairman had reported as fact.
The hearings will continue
Next, King says the panel is likely to take up the radicalization of Muslim Americans in the US prison system, after several months of staff preparation. Other issues include an investigation of Al Qaeda’s and other organizations’ strategy of recruiting Americans. The committee will also investigate how the Department of Homeland Security plans to address the “increasing radicalization of individuals within the United States.”
King says that these issues will be a top concern for the committee “as long as I am chairman,” which will last at least through 2012.