WASHINGTON – Extra security will accompany a New York congressman as he chairs a hearing focused on the U.S. Muslim community and its willingness to help prevent radical Islamic terrorism.
Rep. Peter King told The Associated Press that he has had a larger security details for the past few months because of an overseas threat relayed in December. Since then, round-the-clock security has been provided by the New York Police Department and the Nassau County, N.Y., police.
On Thursday, however, at King’s request, the Capitol Police will be securing the congressional hearing room and surrounding areas, as well as his office, as the House Homeland Security Committee takes testimony.
Rarely does a congressional hearing attract as much advance controversy. In protests ahead of the session, critics have condemned the hearing as anti-Muslim and have likened it to the McCarthy-era hearings investigating communism.
“I am well aware that the announcement of these hearings has generated considerable controversy and opposition,” King says in prepared opening remarks obtained by the AP. “Congressional investigation of Muslim American radicalization is the logical response to the repeated and urgent warnings which the Obama administration has been making in recent months.”
The witnesses include family members of young men who were inspired by others to go into terrorism, with deadly consequences. They plan to tell Congress that the young men were brainwashed by radical elements in the Muslim community.
The hearing has reignited a national debate over how to combat a spate of homegrown terrorism. The Obama administration has tried to frame the discussion around radicalization in general, without singling out Muslims. King has said that’s just political correctness since al-Qaida is the main threat to the U.S.
Despite the protests, there’s nothing in the prepared testimony that indiscriminately labels Muslims as terrorists, as critics had feared.
Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, Carlos, is charged with killing an Army private at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., is scheduled to testify about his son’s conversion to Islam and his isolation from his family.
“Carlos was captured by people best described as hunters,” Bledsoe says in his prepared remarks obtained by the AP. “He was manipulated and lied to.”
Elsewhere at the Capitol, National Intelligence Director James Clapper was scheduled to address the threat of homegrown terrorism. In his prepared remarks, Clapper said 2010 saw more plots involving homegrown Sunni extremists – those ideologically aligned with al-Qaida – than in the previous year.
“Key to this trend has been the development of a U.S.-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence,” Clapper said.