Defense Department Witness Declines To Answer Rep. Lungren: "I'm Not Going To Aid And Abet" Al Qaeda's Propaganda Efforts

December 07, 2011 2:45 pm ET — Brian Powell

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairmen of their respective Homeland Security Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, held a joint hearing on Pearl Harbor Day to investigate what they believe is the newest significant threat to the military and to military installations in the U.S. — radical Islam. In his opening statements, King billed the hearing as "the fourth hearing in a series the House committee has held this year on the serious threat of violent Islamist radicalization within the United States."

Despite heavy criticism of the committee's previous Islam-centered hearings, Republicans like Rep. Dan Lungren (CA) stubbornly pushed ahead with attempts to label threats to American security as "Islamist" in nature. In response, Paul Stockton, an assistant secretary at the Department of Defense, stated in no uncertain terms that America's enemies are al Qaeda and its affiliates, not Islam, and that attempts to label the threat in such a way would "aid and abet" al Qaeda's propaganda and recruiting efforts

LUNGREN: Secretary Stockton, are we at war with violent Islamist extremism?

STOCKTON: No, sir. We are at war with al Qaeda, its affiliates, and adherents —

LUNGREN: Ok, I understand that. My question is, is violent Islamist extremism at war with us?

STOCKTON: No, sir. We are being attacked by al Qaeda and its allies.

LUNGREN: Is al Qaeda — can it be described as being an exponent of violent Islamist extremism?

STOCKTON: Al Qaeda are murderers with an ideological agenda —

LUNGREN: That's not my question, that wasn't my question. My question was, is al Qaeda acting out violent Islamist extremism?

STOCKTON: Al Qaeda is a violent organization dedicated to overthrowing the values that we intend to advance —

LUNGREN: Yes or no?

STOCKTON: Can I hear the question again?

LUNGREN: [silence]

STOCKTON: I'll make it as clear as I can: We are not at war with Islam.

LUNGREN: I didn't ask that. I did not ask that, sir. I asked whether we're at war with violent Islamist extremism. That's my question.

STOCKTON: No. We're at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.

LUNGREN: Al Qaeda — How does al Qaeda define itself? Are they dedicated to violent Islamist extremism?

STOCKTON: Al Qaeda would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam. That's a prime propaganda tool, and I'm not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goals.