Today's House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee hearings on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community's Response" were a flop. "The hearings produced political theater for Chairman King, but failed to produce new substance in policy or oversight to make our nation safer," said National Security Network's Executive Director Heather Hurlburt. "Indeed, what the witnesses had to say reinforced the strength of partnership between American Muslims and law enforcement, and underlined that an effective approach to counterterrorism does not isolate a community based on its faith."
Today, Congressman Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response." This hearing - the first of its kind to focus on a single religious group - and the false assumptions that Rep. King has based it on have been roundly rejected across the country. Counterterrorism experts, veterans organizations, interfaith leaders, local leaders and editorial boards across the country have rejected King's approach. This is for a simple reason: this hearing represents the wrong approach to homeland security. It is not only ineffective, but it is actually harmful to America's anti-terrorism efforts both at home and abroad. Furthermore, not only is King's approach bad policy, but it's also bad politics.
Tomorrow, the House Homeland Security Committee will hear testimony from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter on "Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape - Considerations for the 112th Congress." Recent months and years have brought progress on combating terrorism: from terrorists captured or killed abroad, to plots disrupted at home, to terrorists brought to justice. Counterterrorism experts point to several areas where there is room for improvement, such as the need to close Guantanamo Bay. Another area that counterterrorism experts agree that the United States needs to improve on is its resilience in the face of threat. Fear and overreaction are the very purpose of terrorism. Not falling into this trap not only deprives enemies of a victory, but also serves as a deterrent. Practical and productive approaches to combating terrorism will serve us better than hysterics and overreaction.
As the Homeland Security Committee schedules hearings assessing threats to the U.S., its chairman, Peter King (R-NY), is also said to be planning hearings narrowly focused on Muslim Americans - an unprecedented move to single out a religious group of Americans for public scrutiny. Instead, now is the time for a sober and fact-based assessment of the real threats. Counterterrorism experts and the chairmen of the 9-11 Commission continue to stress that law enforcement most effectively identifies terrorists based on actions, not ethnicity - and that American unity across religious and ethnic lines is one of the central underpinnings of our security. Meanwhile, the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a nonpartisan research institute, released a study documenting that such instances are actually on the decline and the ways that Muslim-American communities are playing a significant positive role in our security. Muslim Americans - just as so many communities in the United States - are a vital part of the American fabric, helping keep America strong.
As Representative Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, prepares to hold hearings on Muslim Americans and their cooperation with law enforcement in combating extremism, it's time to set the record straight: counterterrorism and law enforcement experts agree that King's facts are wrong and his approach will damage our security and even more important, our national unity. The real story is how Muslim-Americans are building and securing our society as neighbors, business owners, first responders, FBI investigators and members of our armed forces. Targeting an entire group - as these hearings do - is bad for America's people, its values and its security.
Yesterday the National Security Network and the Center for American Progress Action Fund held a groundbreaking forum on domestic radicalization. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and a prestigious panel of experts, including former New York and Los Angeles Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, led the discussion. The discussion focused on the importance of working with local communities in order to both identify and counter radicalization by developing a strong relationship between law enforcement and local communities. Such actions are essential to countering domestic radicalization, and part of a broader effort to combat terrorism both at home and abroad by utilizing all aspects of American power.