King sees internal military threats
Politico -- by Seung Min Kim
Rep. Peter King on Wednesday cited “alarming new developments” that showed what he said was a rising and relatively unknown threat to American soldiers – terrorists who are infiltrating the U.S. military and increasingly targeting service members and their families.
“Our troops volunteer to go into harm’s way overseas to protect all of us,” the New York Republican said in his opening remarks at a hearing. “They should not be in harm’s way here at home, and yet they are.”
King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who has been aggressively pushing his inquiry into the radicalization and recruitment of Muslim-Americans by terrorist organizations, noted that in the last 10 years, at least five terror plots that involved U.S. military insiders have been stopped. And officials have investigated or prosecuted more than 30 cases since Sept. 11, 2001 that involved terrorists within the United States targeting the military, he added.
Wednesday’s hearing, held with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, was the fourth in a series hosted by King that looked at radicalization of Muslim-Americans by terrorist organizations.
The first examined radicalization generally; the second focused on radicalization in U.S. prisons; and the third looked at al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based terrorist group with potential ties to Al Qaeda. King has also taken his crusade overseas, testifying before a British Parliamentary committee in September.
King has faced criticisms from some fellow lawmakers and many outside organizations that have called his inquiry a discriminatory witch hunt. Indeed, his counterpart on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), again denounced King’s hearings, saying they are creating perceptions that are “not likely to be accurate, nuanced or subtle.”
“Our military is open to all faiths,” Thompson said in the hearing. “A congressional hearing that focuses on religion and the military is likely to harm unit cohesion and undermine morale.”
As he has done repeatedly over the last several months, King again defended his hearings.
“We cannot back down to political correctness,” he said.
Both King and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Senate panel, noted that the sole terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001 within the U.S. that have resulted in deaths were at military facilities. They include the November 2009 Fort Hood attack that killed 13, and the death of Pvt. William Long, who was killed at a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting station in June 2009.
Lt. Col. Reid Sawyer from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point added during his opening remarks that about half of all Al Qaeda plots within the U.S. in the last 10 years have targeted the military.
“The stark reality, therefore, is that American service members and their families are increasingly in the terrorists’ scope and not just overseas in a traditional war setting,” Lieberman said. “So the premise of this hearing — this joint hearing — is not theoretical. It is based on fact.”