NY Daily News: Rep. King calls for Department of Homeland Security to go after Islamist thugs

Oct 9, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings, Counterterrorism

New York Daily News -- by Joseph Straw

WASHINGTON - Rep. Pete King is pushing reforms at the Department of Homeland Security to include a formal focus on targeting "homegrown violent Islamist extremism."

Companion bills drafted by the House Homeland Security Committee chairman and his Senate counterpart, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would require DHS to tap a czar to oversee the operation.

"Sen. Lieberman and I think it's important to focus on the most serious threat, and Islamist radicalism is the most dangerous threat," the Long Island Republican said. "By not saying that, we would be creating the appearance of equivalency with any number of different threats."

Under President Obama, Homeland Security has avoided the term "terrorism" and references to radical Islam.

Administration officials say they exploit fear and feed terrorists' rallying cry that the U.S. is at war with the religion.

On his second stint at the helm of the oversight committee, King flouted political correctness and held a series of polarizing hearings focused on radical Islam.

Democrats panned them as discriminatory and un-American.

The bills' focus on radical Islamists is drawn from the noncontroversial pages of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

Lieberman's version, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), more delicately charges DHS with "countering violent extremism...particularly the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism as identified in the 9/11 Commission Report."

Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that focusing on religion is a waste of time.

While millions are exposed to incendiary rhetoric from various ideologies, so few act out that law enforcement should focus solely on criminal actions, German said.

House Democrats, including committee member Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), would not comment on the new bills. A Democratic aide, however, promised fireworks when the committee considers them Wednesday.

If passed into law, the bills would be the first wholesale legislative reform of the agency since its establishment in 2003.

Both bills, for example, would consolidate redundant DHS offices and impose tight controls on spending by the agency, which has wasted billions in its first seven years.

Most notably, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that DHS spent more than $4 billion on nuclear detection equipment that either didn't work or wouldn't fit in lanes at U.S. ports of entry.