That is how Peter King, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, characterized the threat of Islamic fundamentalist-connected terrorism to Ranking Minority Member Bennie Thompson in a letter. The full quote:
While there have been extremist groups and random acts of political violence throughout our history, the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 and the ongoing threat to our nation from Islamic jihad were uniquely diabolical and threatening to America’s security, both overseas and in our homeland.
King’s letter was a response to Thompson’s request to expand the subject of an upcoming hearing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community to a broader consideration of domestic extremism in general. In defending his narrow focus, King goes on to compare the impacts of terrorism of different ideological stripes:
In short, the homeland has become a major front in the war with Islamic terrorism and it is our responsibility to fully examine this significant change in al Qaeda tactics and strategy. To include other groups such as neo-Nazis and extreme environmentalists in this hearing would be extraneous and diffuse its efficacy. It would also send the false message that our Committee believes there is any threat equivalency between these disparate groups and Islamist terrorism.
This seems a little short sighted to me as I think back to 1995:
It is just my opinion, but the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City seems pretty diabolical to me. Homeland security should continue to be concerned about the present and evolving threat presented by Al Qaeda and like-minded groups. However, too narrow of a focus will leave us vulnerable to a range of risks we choose to ignore or do not even notice exist.
I do not question the efficacy of hearings about radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community, but the reported tone of these hearings and the accusations that unidentified members of the law enforcement community have complained to King that they are not receiving cooperation from Muslim-Americans is troubling. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca seems to share these concerns, as reported by Politico’s Ben Smith:
Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca said Monday that there is nothing to support Rep. Peter King’s (R-N.Y.) view that American Muslims are being uncooperative with law enforcement.
“If he has evidence of non-cooperation, he should bring it forward,” said Baca at a forum held today by Muslim-American groups in advance of King’s hearings on radicalization in the Muslim community. “We have as much cooperation as we are capable of acquiring through public trust relationships.”
“I sit on the Major City chiefs association as one of three chairs,” said Baca. “I also sit on the Major County Sheriff’s Association and I’m on the national board of directors of the international association for the sheriffs departments. Here’s the thing: I don’t know what Mr. King is hearing or who he’s hearing it from.”
Community engagement across the entire spectrum of homeland security-related activities is required to build resilience (however one defines the concept). Alienating a specific group due to unfounded fears seems not a particularly forward thinking strategy. In the process of carrying out important and necessary investigations, I hope that proper balance can be found for current and future issues.