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Reps. King, Ellison clash over surveillance of Muslim community

Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) sharply disagreed Sunday over whether the FBI needs to do more to watch U.S. Muslim communities in the wake of the Boston attacks.

King, former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the terrorism threat is coming from the Muslim community, even if most Muslims are not involved in it.

“It’s coming from the community,” King said. “In previous times when certain elements of a community were responsible for crime, the police focused on it.”

But Ellison, who was the first Muslim elected to Congress, said that focusing on a community based on religion or ethnicity was “ineffective” law enforcement. 

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“What you do is you ignore dangerous threats that are not in that community, and you go after people who don’t have anything to do with it,” Ellison said in a panel discussion with King.

“Muslim leaders all across the country have roundly condemned most recent attack, and terrorism more broadly,” he added.

In the Boston attack, Tamerlan Tsarnaev is believed to have become radicalized in the run-up to the deadly bombing, and authorities are trying to determine whether that happened inside the United States or during a trip he took to Dagestan. The older Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police.

King argued that signs could have been missed ahead of the Boston attacks by not doing more to talk with Tsarnaev’s imam when Tsarnaev wound up on a terrorism watch list.

King pointed to New York City police as an example of effective surveillance, as the department has undertaken a major initiative to watch Muslim communities. The program has been criticized, however, for violating civil liberties and targeting innocent Muslim students.

King also said that political correctness could be stopping the FBI out of concern for being called anti-Muslim.

Ellison warned against making broad judgments against a specific group of people like Muslims, pointing to the “stain” on U.S. history over Japanese interment during World War II.

Ellison also noted that the recent ricin incident was an example where a terrorist attack had nothing to do with the Muslim community.

On Saturday, federal authorities arrested a Tupelo, Miss., martial arts instructor in the case, where letters containing ricin were mailed to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and a local official.

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