Homeland Security

Radicalization hearing singles out entire Muslim faith

When the House of Representatives convened the 112th Congress, members of both parties participated in a historic reading of the United States’ Constitution on the floor of the House chamber. Lawmakers joined together that day to honor the core tenets upon which our democracy stands and to remind ourselves and the nation of the rights given to us by our forefathers. 

Only two months later, the Majority of this Congress seems to have already forgotten one of the first and most fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights-- the First Amendment right of all Americans to exercise freedom of religion.

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Rep. King is wasting opportunity

At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, struggling to keep their homes, and facing mounting pressure from Republican cuts to local services, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) believes he’s doing the country a favor by holding a hearing today on whether American Muslims are terrorist sympathizers.

That’s his privilege as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. But by his own admission, this is not exactly the issue of the moment.

The most pressing question before Congress right now is how to fund government operations for the rest of the year. Rep. King believes his own party has failed in that regard. Here’s what he said last Sunday on CNN: “I think that a number of the cuts Republicans have made in the continuing resolution are wrong. They cut port security by two-thirds, they cut transit security by two-thirds. We cannot afford those cuts. They are too dangerous. And one attack on a subway train or one attack in one port will cost us more money going into the future years than any amount, any small amount they’re saving.”

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The need for investigation of Muslim radicalization

Today, the Homeland Security Committee began hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims and the impact on national security. This is unquestionably a sensitive topic with far reaching implications. That said, the alarming upward trend in homegrown jihad-related terrorism attempts clearly shows the need for an investigation.

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Radicalization of Muslim-Americans is critical issue

The prepared opening statement of Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, for the hearing entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response” follows:

Today's hearing will be the first in a series of hearings dealing with the critical issue of the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.

I am well aware that the announcement of these hearings has generated considerable controversy and opposition. Some of this opposition — such as from my colleague and friend Mr. Ellison has been measured and thoughtful. Other opposition — both from special interest groups and the media has ranged from disbelief to paroxysms of rage and hysteria.

Let me make it clear today that I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward. And they will. To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee-- to protect America from a terrorist attack.

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A matter of congressional oversight

 In the past week I have often heard variations of the question:  “Why would Congress be spending its time with hearings about the attempted radicalization of American Muslim youth?" 

For me, that is the wrong question. The proper inquiry is why has it taken so long for the Homeland Security Committee of the House to follow up on the hearings held by one of its subcommittees in Torrance, California in April 2007. That hearing, presided over by then Subcommittee Chair Jane Harman (D-Calif.), concentrated on the narrower issue of the attempted radicalization by Islamic Extremists in our prison population. 

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Homeland and hometown security

In September 2002, in response to the Sept. 11 attacks the previous year, the Department of Homeland Security was established to coordinate all the agencies charged with protecting the United States.

That same year, I joined department’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, the newly formed Select Committee on Homeland Security, as the senior policy advisor. With this reorganization of government functions – the largest in 50 years – we set out to better understand and address the new range of threats to the American homeland.

Now, the current chairman of the committee, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is planning to hold hearings on the recruitment and “radicalization” of American Muslims. Neither in my years on the committee staff nor in the years since I left the staff has the committee conducted hearings targeting a specific religious or ethnic group.  This is for one simple reason: it doesn’t work. 

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Obama's backward budget priorities

Most Americans first learned of the Patriot anti-missile system during the Gulf War. The picture was harrowing: rockets blazed across the sky toward U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and Israeli cities, where families huddled in their basements and bomb shelters. But just before one of Saddam Hussein’s deadly SCUD missiles could reach its target, another missile skyrocketed up and destroyed it in mid-air. The Patriot’s performance in the Gulf War, while not 100 percent, demonstrated what missile defenses could do.

The budget the Obama administration submitted to Congress last month will wisely extend the Patriot’s lease on life, but it will slash critical funding for other important missile defense programs. The budget cuts funding for the only system currently in place to defend the U.S. homeland against long-range missiles – the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system – and for systems designed to intercept missiles while they are still over enemy territory, before they can release decoys or countermeasures. 

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Why we need to keep nuclear facilities in plain sight


In the 1980s, a couple hundred music albums filled all the shelf space in my apartment. Now, they all fit on a player that slips into my shirt pocket, out of sight. That's not the only technology over the last few decades that got smaller, more efficient, and easier to conceal. Facilities that manufacture nuclear fuel are following that same trend - one that's creating a national security risk the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is accepting comments on through March 8th.

Unfortunately, this is not a theoretical concern. We are already at a tipping point that is troubling both proliferation experts and Members of Congress. The concern arises from new and anticipated developments that will allow nuclear fuel facilities -- uranium enrichment technologies -- to get so small and so efficient that U.S. surveillance methods can't spot them. Then, a rogue nation might acquire the plans, covertly build the facility, use it to produce nuclear weapons material, and develop a nuclear weapon without the U.S. ever seeing a thing.

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Space Code of Conduct a good start

On February 4, the Obama administration released its National Security Space Strategy (NSSS), a document jointly produced by the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The NSSS lays out the space security strategy for the next decade. It is none too soon.

The United States has a vital interest in keeping the space environment usable into the future, keeping satellites safe and secure, and ensuring that insecurity in space does not create instability on the ground.  The nearly 1,000 active satellites now in orbit have assumed critical roles in civilian, scientific, and military activities.

The space above Earth has come to resemble the Wild West, with a growing population but few laws or rules on behavior or technology. Without such rules and coordination measures, the risk is growing of accidents and of misunderstandings, and of interference with satellites that might also lead to conflicts on the ground. 

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Protecting privacy at the airport

Around the holidays last year, we saw significant public concern about personal privacy at our nation's airports. At the time, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had expanded screening measures at security checkpoints in airports like the Albuquerque Sunport.

The new standard became Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) or whole body scanners, which produce highly revealing body images of the individual being screened. If you refuse an AIT scan, the alternative is a full body pat-down -- also hardly ideal for personal privacy.

I asked New Mexicans to share their thoughts with me on this issue. In more than 7,000 email responses, my constituents overwhelmingly expressed concern about these TSA screening procedures.

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