Rep. King: Military communities ‘most sought-after’ target for terrorists in US

Dec 7, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

The Hill -- by Jordy Yager

The chairmen of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees said the military is the number one target for terrorists within the U.S.

On Wednesday Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) opened a hearing to examine the emerging threat to the military from homegrown terrorists within the U.S. and named the armed services as the “most sought-after” target for radical Islamist extremist groups.
“Military communities in the U.S. have recently become the most sought-after targets of violent Islamist extremists seeking to kill Americans in their homeland,” said King in his opening remarks.

“We cannot stand idly by while our heroes in uniform are struck down in the place they feel safest.”

A report released by King’s staff at the hearing found that “at least 33 threats, plots and strikes against U.S. military communities since 9/11 have been part of a surge of homegrown terrorism.”

Pointing to the 2009 shootings at the Fort Hood military base in Texas and at a military recruiting station in Arkansas, which killed a total of 14 people and wounded more than two dozen, Lieberman noted that “the only Americans who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks in our homeland since 9/11 have been killed at U.S. military facilities.”

Paul Stockton, the assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, testified in support of the top-ranking lawmakers’ concerns, saying on Wednesday that the military was the “target of choice” for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

“Over the last decade, a plurality of these domestic violent extremists chose to target the Department of Defense (DoD), making military communities the target of choice for homegrown terrorists,” said Stockton.

The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), rejected the panel’s focus on Islamist extremism. Thompson said singling out the one ideology would ostracize members of the armed services from one another and would ignore the possibility of other emerging terrorist groups.

“Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to this nation’s security is inaccurate, narrow, and blocks consideration of emerging threats,” said Thompson.

“Our military is open to all faiths. A congressional hearing that focuses on religion and the military is likely to harm unit cohesion and undermine morale within our military.”