Round 3: House Homeland Security Committee Hearing
“Al Shabaab: Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim
American Community and the Threat to the Homeland”
by Lisa Piraneo, Director of Government Relations
Yesterday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-NY) continued to follow through on the promise he made at the start of the 112th Congress—to address the threat of radical Islam in America. Yesterday, he held his third in a series of hearings on Muslim-American radicalization, this one entitled: “Al Shabaab: Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim American Community and the Threat to the Homeland.” I attended the hearing so that I could offer you a first-hand report.
As I noted after Chairman King’s second hearing (covering radicalization within the U.S. prison system), we didn’t see the full-blown circus that attended his first discussion on radical Islam. However, I have to say that the behavior of some congressional members of the Committee was appalling. This is a serious subject that demands serious examination, and it is deeply disappointing to watch some of the members of the Committee act with the disrespect they showed yesterday.
The discussion yesterday was based on the result of what Chairman King called a “lengthy investigation the Committee has conducted into the threat the U.S. homeland faces from al-Shabaab, the Somalia affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and Anwar al-Aulaqi’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” The report found, among other concerning things, that over 40 Muslim-Americans and 20 Canadians have been recruited and radicalized by al-Shabaab. Click HERE to read the Committee’s full report.
The purpose of yesterday’s hearing by Chairman King was clear: We see a problem developing that has severe implications for our national security; we take this seriously; we need to address it NOW.
The witnesses for this particular hearing had varied but formidable backgrounds:
Mr. Ahmed Hussen – National President, Canadian Somali Congress. Mr. Hussen stated that his group is a “national advocacy organization that advocates on issues of importance to the 200,000 strong Canadian Somali community.” He told the Committee that as a Canadian Muslim he is “proud of his heritage” and thanked Chairman King for holding a hearing on this critical issue as, he said, it helps the Somali community, both in the U.S. and Canada, fight against those who wish to do either nation harm. Further, he said that it is important that the leaders in the Somali-Canadian and Somali-American communities “emphasize integration and the adherence to and respect for American and Canadian values and not those that promote separation, extremism and victimology.” See Mr. Hussen’s full testimony HERE.
Mr. Thomas Joscelyn – Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Joscelyn noted that a majority of Somali-Americans do not support al-Shabaab, nor its agenda. That said, he believes that there is a serious danger to our nation from al-Shabaab and though there is “great confusion here in the U.S. as to whether or not Shabaab is really a part of al Qaeda’s international terrorist network…my view is that the link is much stronger than some counterterrorism analysts realize.” See Mr. Joscelyn’s full testimony HERE.
Mr. William Anders Folk – Former Assistant United States Attorney, District of Minnesota. Mr. Folk agreed with the other witnesses that al-Shabaab is a serious threat to the United States and that to fight them and their supporters, the U.S. “must engage in a multi-faceted approach that utilizes all of the United States’ abilities, including military, intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic options. Further, this effort must be carried out in Somalia, the Horn of Africa, and the United States.” See Mr. Folk’s full testimony HERE.
Mr. Tom Smith – Chief of Police, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Chief Smith updated the Committee about efforts taking place in St. Paul to combat al-Shabaab’s impact on the Somali-American community there. During his testimony, he noted another problem with which they are dealing: Somali girls not only in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but also in Tennessee and other states are being sexually trafficked. See Chief Smith’s full testimony HERE.
The discussion during yesterday’s hearing was a critical one. Again, what was tremendously disappointing to me was the recurring rude and disrespectful behavior (both to the Chairman and the witnesses) by certain Members of the Committee. This has happened at each of Mr. King’s hearings on Islamic radicalization. Though national security should be a non-partisan issue, once again, the perpetrators were all Democrats. To me, it demonstrated a serious problem: how unknowledgeable, disconnected and disinterested some Members of Congress are about a very real and dangerous threat to our nation.
Rep. Shiela Jackson-Lee (D-TX) – as usual, was bent on making a show out of her comments instead of adding substance to the dialogue and learning from the experience of the witnesses. As during prior hearings, she made formal requests that the Chairman instead hold hearings on right-wing extremist organizations, as well as one on Rupert Murdoch. When her comment period expired and the Chairman informed her that it had, she continued speaking over him. It took several attempts of “the gentle lady’s time has expired” to get her to settle down. The cameras were rolling and she knew it.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) – commented that the scope of the Chairman’s series of hearings is discriminatory.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) – argued that radicalization is “cross-cultural, cross-religious, and cross-ethnic” and that if we focus on only one group we open ourselves up to “the disdain of others.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) – noted to Chairman King that this was his third hearing on the issue of Islamic radicalization within the U.S. and said “point made. Let’s move on.”
But the most outrageous comments during the hearing, came from Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who does not serve on the Committee but asked (and was granted) time to speak. [NOTE: The Chairman did not grant the same, this time, for Rep. Keith Ellison, another legislative showman, who dramatically broke down in tears during King’s first hearing.] Early in his comments, Mr. Green asked all of the witnesses if they had ever heard of Jihad Jane. When they replied that they had, he continued his line of questioning, asking them what her hair color was, her eye color, her height, and finally, her complexion. He asked the witnesses if acknowledging that she was “as she is called in America, a white woman” took them “out of their comfort zone.” Clearly, he was insinuating that the Chairman and the committee were racist by focusing on Somali-Americans. When Chairman King responded that the questions had absolutely no basis and made no sense to him, Rep. Green shot back, “I didn’t expect it to make sense to you.”
I do think it is worthwhile to watch the full hearing, so you can see how the issue was taken seriously by the witnesses and some Members of Congress, such as Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-CA), as well as those I mention above, who were only interested in distractions. This hearing took place at the courtesy of your tax dollars and you have a right to know what your elected officials are doing on Capitol Hill. You can view the full hearing HERE or by going to the House Homeland Security website HERE and clicking on “Webcast.” If you like what your Member of Congress is doing remember to let him or her know—and the very same if you don’t.
As the Chairman noted in his Opening Statement, which we sent out to our full membership shortly after it was released (click HERE to view it in its entirety) “I will not back down from holding these hearings. I will continue to hold these hearings so long as I am the Chairman of this Committee. I…owe it to all the friends, neighbors, and constituents I lost on September 11th. I will not back down.”
We need to be appreciative of Mr. King’s past and future efforts in the U.S. Congress on identifying and addressing radical Islam within the U.S. Contrary to what some Members of the Committee claim, he never has and never will focus on the peaceful Muslims living in America. This is not about them and, frankly, these hearings will benefit them. These discussions are about identifying and immobilizing those individuals who follow an ideology that is contrary and dangerous to the freedoms afforded by our U.S. Constitution—those who strive to do harm to our nation and our citizens.
Finally, we need to let Chairman King and all other Members of Congress who continue to speak out about this issue know that a grateful nation—certainly including the 170,000 members of ACT! for America—is behind them 100 percent.
As for those Members of Congress who do not take this seriously, who seem intent only on making a mockery of these hearings, they need to hear from their constituents too. They need to be told that they took an oath to defend the Constitution and they need to start taking these discussions about Islamic radicalization seriously.
ACT for America
P.O. Box 12765
Pensacola, FL 32591