King: NYT intellectually dishonest

Jul 27, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

By: Seung Min Kim

Rep. Peter King opened his latest hearing on whether Muslim-Americans are being radicalized by terrorist groups with an attack on the “vacuous ideologues” at the New York Times, who have suggested his inquiry should look at other potential forms of home-grown terrorism.

King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, opened the hearing Wednesday with an attack on the Times’ coverage of the recent Norway bombings and shooting massacre. The paper reported that the suspect was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who warn about threats of Islam. The story noted that many critics accuse King and others of focusing too much on the threat of Islamic terrorists, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, while ignoring other threats.

“If they had even a semblance of intellectual honesty, the Times and others would know and admit that there is no equivalency in the threat to our homeland from a deranged gunman and the international terror community apparatus of Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are recruiting people in this country and have murdered thousands of Americans in their jihad attacks,” King said Wednesday

The Times has frequently criticized King’s hearings, with a March editorial accusing the congressman of being “far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.” The Times’s opinion section continued the pressure on Tuesday, running an op-ed listing King among the “ideological fellow travelers” that fueled alleged Norway shooter Anders Breivik’s anti-Muslim mentality.

But despite critics that have excoriated King’s hearings as a witch hunt, King has pressed on, defending them as necessary to weed out terrorist elements in the United States. Wednesday marked the third round and focused on Al Shabaab, a terrorist organization based in Somalia, and their recruitment efforts within the United States.

Committee investigations have revealed that at least 40 Americans have been recruited to the group, which the United States has considered a foreign terrorist organization since February 2008. At least 15 Americans have been killed fighting with the terrorist group, according to the committee’s probe.

Al-Shabaab has claimed ties to Al Qaeda, but most analysts believe the connections are weak, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The organization’s first major attack was executed in July 2010 with the bombings of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, which killed more than 70 people who had gathered to watch the World Cup finals.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee’s ranking member, on Wednesday urged caution and a broader look at the “real and present” threat of terrorist attacks. He said a relatively small number of Americans had joined Al-Shabaab, and said the organization itself didn’t appear to pose “any danger to this homeland.”

“While I acknowledge that the intelligence community sees a need to monitor Al Shabaab’s activities, I also know that vigilance must be in direct proportion to the probability and likelihood of the threat,” Thompson said.

This is King’s third round of hearings on alleged radicalization of Muslims in America since he took helm of the House Homeland Security Committee this year. The first, held in March, drew a media circus and produced a few emotionally charged moments, such as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim-American to serve in Congress, who struggled to keep his composure during his testimony.

MinnPost.com reported that Ellison asked King if he could testify at Wednesday’s hearing, but the chairman denied his request. Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the United States.

Ellison said in a statement Wednesday that the hearing threatened to break critical ties with the Somali-American community, which he called “our strongest allies in the fight against violent extremism.”

“This hearing threatens to undo vital work done by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local officials to build trust with the community,” he said.