March 07, 2011 10:40 am ET
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has said that his upcoming hearing into the radicalization of Muslim Americans is necessary because law enforcement officials say Muslim Americans are uncooperative in terror investigations. But King does not plan to call law enforcement or counterintelligence officials to testify at his hearing, and many such experts — including Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller — have lauded the cooperation of Muslim Americans with law enforcement. Moreover, studies indicate that the American Muslim community has been a crucial resource in helping law enforcement to stop terrorist attacks.
King: Hearings A Response To Law Enforcement "Constantly Telling Me" Muslim Leaders Are Uncooperative. From the New York Times:
The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls "the radicalization" of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.
Representative Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was responding to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.
"When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders," Mr. King said. [New York Times, 12/16/10]
King: Law Enforcement Say "They Received Little Or — In Most Cases — No Cooperation From Muslim Leaders And Imams." From a King op-ed in Newsday:
As I became more immersed in attempting to unravel the radical Islamic threat to our nation and our civilization, it became more and more obvious to me that the moral myopia of Long Island's Muslim leaders and their apologists in the media was the rule — and that there were few exceptions.
Federal and local law enforcement officials throughout the country told me they received little or — in most cases — no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams.
This noncooperation was perilous enough in the years following 9/11, when the main Islamist threat to the homeland emanated from overseas. Fortunately, that aspect of the jihadist threat has subsided because of the effective counterterrorism infrastructure constructed by the Bush administration. Some Bush policies, such as sharing and receiving intelligence with and from our allies, were relatively non-controversial. Others such as enhanced interrogations, wiretapping foreign terrorists phoning into the United States, the prison at Guantánamo, and monitoring terrorist financial transactions were routinely condemned — but all were necessary and effective. [Newsday via PeteKing.com, 12/19/10]
King Says Those Experts Will Only Criticize American Muslim Cooperation Privately. From the New York Times: "The hearings, Mr. King said, would be organized into panels of witnesses, one of them to include members of Congress. He said Mr. Ellison would serve as a witness on that panel. He said he did not expect to call any of the local law enforcement or counterintelligence experts who he said had told him repeatedly that noncooperation by American Muslims is a 'significant issue.' He says they will say these things privately, but not in public." [New York Times, 2/8/11]
Attorney General Holder: Muslim Cooperation "Has Been Absolutely Essential In Identifying, And Preventing, Terrorist Threats." From Attorney General Eric Holder's December 10, 2010, speech to the Muslim Advocates' Annual Dinner:
Since becoming Attorney General last February, I have heard from Arab Americans and Muslims who say they feel uneasy about their relationship with the United States government.
Some feel that they have not been afforded the full rights of citizenship. Others are worried about the safety of their families, communities, and places of worship. And, too often, Muslims and Arab Americans have told me that they feel as though they are treated by their fellow citizens, by their government, and especially by those of us in law enforcement as though it were, quote, "us versus them."
That is unacceptable. And it is inconsistent with what America is all about. Muslims and Arab Americans have helped to build and strengthen our nation. They have served as police officers, teachers, civic leaders and soldiers - strengthening their local communities and safeguarding their country. And the cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats. We must never lose sight of this. And, as we work to create a brighter and more prosperous future, we must not fail to heed the lessons of our past. [Holder speech via Justice.gov, 12/10/10, emphasis added]
FBI Director Mueller: "Many Of Our Cases Are A Result Of The Cooperation From the Muslim Community In The United States." From FBI Director Robert Mueller's 2008 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee:
REP. KEITH ELLISON: America has a great Muslim community, several million people. In the post-9/11 world there's been greater attention on this community; I'm sure you wouldn't dispute that. My question is, how important are outreach efforts in the Muslim community, given that the overwhelming number of Muslims condemn, are opposed to terrorism and would be happy to report on somebody who was committing, plotting terrorism.
How important are outreach efforts into the Muslim community -
MR. MUELLER: Tremendously important. We have since September 11th in every one of our offices, every one of our field offices, we've had substantial outreach efforts; I'm sure you're familiar with them in your community. And we continue to have them both on the national as well as the state and the local level.
And every opportunity I have, I reaffirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.
One of the worst things that could happen in the Muslim community is we had another attack such as September 11th -- nobody wants it, whether it be ourselves in the FBI or those members of the Muslim community. [House Judiciary Committee hearing via Nexis, 4/23/08, emphasis added]
Mueller: "The Muslim Community Has Been Tremendously Supportive Of The Bureau Since September 11th," FBI Offices "Meet Weekly" With Muslim Community. From a March 2009 hearing of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:
MUELLER: Let me say that the Muslim community has been tremendously supportive of the bureau since September 11th.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Absolutely.
MUELLER: They have been supportive. The -- the outreach and the relationships have been exceptional.
FEINGOLD: That's exactly why I'm...
MUELLER: And the -- the -- but there are instances where we will have an issue with someone or an individual or individuals in the Muslim community that need to be resolved. But the vast majority...
FEINGOLD: Let me ask one more question, because my time is up, on this point, Mr. Director.
Do you think that the new attorney general guidelines are helping or hurting the FBI's relationship with the U.S. Muslim community? In light of this task force statement, how do you plan to improve that relationship?
MUELLER: Well, I periodically meet with the leaders of the Muslim community. I believe we'll be doing it shortly in the future once again.
Each of our offices meets weekly or monthly with members of the Muslim community. My expectation is that our relationships are as good now as before the guidelines generally across the country.
There may be an issue here or an issue there with a particular institution or individuals, but I do not believe that it undercuts our relationship with the Muslim community around the country.
The Muslim community understands that the worst thing that could happen is that there would be another terrorist attack in the United States. It has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with us in a number of instances around the country.
So I don't believe that either the guidelines or the other issues adversely impact that relationship. [Senate Judiciary Committee hearing via Nexis, 3/25/09, emphasis added]
Mueller: Muslim Community And FBI Special Agents Would Agree "The Relationships Are Very Good," Only Fringe Elements In Muslim Community Are Unhelpful. From Mueller's testimony at a July 2010 Senate hearing:
MUELLER: That is -- that in and of itself is not enough. There has to be something more. The -- let me just allude to one thing you said about relationship with the Muslim community. I think it has maintained its positive note throughout. There are segments in the Muslim community that do not necessarily want the relationship to work out. But in every one of our 56 field offices, we have since September 12, 2001 had outreach to the Muslim community. And if you walk around and you talk to individuals in the Muslim community, the leaders in the Muslim community, you talk to our special agents in charge, I think almost to a one, you will find that the relationships are very good.
Now, there are distinct pockets where they don't want to see that relationship succeed. I believe that that relationship has grown and improved and that the Muslim community understands that it's not just the FBI that's responsible for keeping this country safe, but all Americans including the Americans who happen to be Muslim. [Senate Judiciary Committee hearing via Nexis, 7/28/10, emphasis added]
Deputy NSA Denis McDonough: "When It Comes To Preventing Violent Extremism And Terrorism In The United States, Muslim Americans Are Not Part Of The Problem, You're Part Of The Solution." In a March 6 speech, deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough said:
After the attack at Fort Hood, Muslim Americans reached out to offer sympathy and support to the victims and their families. Across the country, Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities have held conferences and launched awareness campaigns to address the challenge of radicalization that leads to violence. Imam Magid is among the many Muslim leaders who have been recognized by the Director of the FBI for their efforts to strengthen cooperation between Muslim communities and law enforcement.
To counter the propaganda videos from the likes of al-Awlaki, Imam Magid even joined with other clerics and scholars to make their own videos, which have gone viral, explaining that Islam preaches peace, not violence. Most Americans never hear about these efforts, and, regrettably, they're rarely covered by the media. But they're going on every day--and they're helping to keep our country safe.
In fact, many of the incidents and arrests that do make headlines are because of the good citizenship and patriotism of Muslim Americans who noticed something and spoke up. Since the September 11th attacks, a number of individuals inspired by al Qaeda's ideology and involved in supporting or plotting terrorism were stopped, in part, because of the vigilance of members of local communities, including Muslim Americans.
That's why Lee Baca, the Sheriff in Los Angeles County--which has one of the largest Muslim communities in the country--has said that Muslim Americans "have been pivotal in helping to fight terrorism." And it's why Attorney General Holder has said that cooperation from Muslim Americans and Arab Americans "has been absolutely essential in identifying and preventing, terrorist threats."
The bottom line is this--when it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution. [McDonough speech, 3/6/11, emphasis added]
National Counterterrorism Center Director Leiter: "Many Of Our Tips To Uncover Active Terrorist Plots In The United States Have Come From The Muslim Community." At a February 9 hearing before the House homeland security committee, National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter said:
The key piece here, if I may, is that you have to -- obviously, there are going to be places where you have to do law enforcement investigations. In my view you have to have a balanced approach, not just those law enforcement investigations, but you have to engage with those communities, with other non-law enforcement elements of the U.S. government to make clear that this is not an adversarial situation. In fact, this is a partnership.
And as you know well, many of our tips to uncover active terrorist plots in the United States have come from the Muslim community. So we have to make quite clear that the communities are part of the solution and not part of the problem. And you do that through using a variety of tools, not just law enforcement. [House Homeland Security Committee hearing via Nexis, 2/9/11, emphasis added]
LA County Sheriff Baca: "We Have As Much Cooperation As We Are Capable Of Acquiring" From American Muslims, Rep. King Should Produce Contrary Evidence If He Has Any. At a forum on partnership of Muslim Americans and law enforcement organized by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said:
BACA: The Muslim Americans in the county of Los Angeles have been overwhelmingly astounded by terrorist attacks — like everyone else — and overwhelmingly concerned about a non-repeat performance of that kind — and are willing to get involved and help, and our Muslim Americans, for homeland security purposes.
QUESTION: Congressman King has said his focus in the hearings is going to be on noncooperation. He says that he is in touch with local law enforcement, and he hasn't really been very specific about where or whom, but he is hearing in a widespread kind of way that local law enforcement is not getting the kind of cooperation that they would need from the Muslim community. False leads, he says, and unhelpful information, or telling people in the community not to cooperate. So I wondered if, start with Sheriff Baca, but also hear from others about whether you have found that what you're hearing from your colleagues in law enforcement, whether there's truth to that.
BACA: Yes, that's a great question. I sit on the Major Cities Chiefs Association, one of three sheriffs because of the size of our county, and I also sit on the Major County Sheriffs' Association and the national board of directors of the International Association of Sheriffs Departments. So here's the thing.
I don't know what Mr. King is hearing and who he's hearing it from. You cannot make a statement of that magnitude and exclude these organizations that I'm a member of. We have more sounding resonance in the noise of community cooperation and the noise of non-community cooperation than any other law enforcement source in America. I don't care what level you want to talk about. We're with these people, our people, all the time, 24-7. Now, if he has evidence of non-cooperation he should bring it forward.
What's amazing about our system here of governance is I can't hold public hearings like a member of Congress, but it'd be kind of nice to summon the congressman into what we have to do and ask them for evidence of their comments in the same fashion, to equal conversation of who's responsible for public safety. I don't think America's wrong in having faith in Congress' commitments to do a better job, but at the same time, they're not going to call the congressman when a problem happens. They're going to call my office and they're going to call the City of Los Angeles police department, they're going to call 9-11, and there's no 9-11 connection into congressional offices.
I'm looking for help out of Congress. I've testified before on this issue, on Muslim relations with law enforcement, and had to take on a congressman who was basically trying to slap me around for going to CAIR dinners. And I'll tell you right now, CAIR is not a terrorist organization, nor is CAIR a terrorist-supporting organization, and I have plenty of experience with this organization to make that statement.
Now if someone else wants to claim otherwise, that's their First Amendment right, but the truth is that we have as much cooperation as we are capable of acquiring through public trust relationships. Now there are parts of America, perhaps, that law enforcement hasn't gone to the extent that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington have gone through, and maybe there's some gaps. But I would be astounded to find out that there's places there's resistance with specific knowledge that there's plotting extremists. [Muslim Public Affairs Council forum, 2/7/11]
Baca: Muslim Civil Rights Groups Partnered With LA Sheriff's Office. From Baca's testimony during a hearing of a House homeland security subcommittee:
My second point is Muslim Americans are clearly against terrorism. To further the effort of public safety, Muslim American leaders within Los Angeles County formed a nonprofit organization called the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress.
I provided you with a brochure that describes what this organization does and what its educational input is on these various issues of relationship building and public safety.
This organization was formed by the leaders of Muslim groups covering 70 mosques. The Shura Council, for example, of Los Angeles has 70 mosques within their environment. And the leader of that council was part of the forming of this organization that I've alluded to.
The Council of American Islamic Relations, CAIR, also led in this effort. Muslim Public Affairs Council. The Council of Pakistani Affairs. The Iranian American Muslim Association of North America participated in this. And various local mosques and Islamic centers were involved.
The organization is an educational organization with a two-way road for public safety. And as a result, significant activities are engaged in with this organization. [Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence via Nexis, 3/17/10]
Rep. Jane Harman And Baca: "Cooperation With American Muslims Is No Secret To Law Enforcement Officials." In a joint op-ed with Baca, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), former chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Intelligence, wrote:
Cooperation with American Muslims is no secret to law enforcement officials, who have established, all the way down to the local level, formal and informal connections with these communities to cultivate the flow of information - like the Muslim Community Affairs unit of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
These communities also denounce extreme views and condemn violence - like the group of nine influential American Muslim scholars who filmed a video for YouTube to repudiate terror attacks. [Daily News, 1/12/11]
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly Reportedly Says NYPD Is "In Constant Touch With Muslim Leaders." From a January 19 Los Angeles Times article:
Kelly was careful to remain neutral when he was questioned about whether he agreed with Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who has complained that the Muslim American community is becoming increasingly uncooperative with police investigators. King, who recently became chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has scheduled a hearing next month to look at radicalization among U.S. Muslims.
Kelly called King a "tremendous American" who has been supportive of the police department, and said the NYPD kept in constant touch with Muslim leaders. "There's a lot of interaction," Kelly said, noting that he regularly spoke at mosques. [Los Angeles Times, 1/19/11]
FBI Community Relations Officer: "FBI Leadership Meets With Leaders Of National [Arab American And Muslim] Groups And Has Found These Interactions To Be Mutually Beneficial." From the testimony of Brett Hovington, supervisory special agent and head of the FBI's Community Relations Unit, during a hearing of a House Homeland Security subcommittee:
At the headquarters level, the FBI engages a variety of Arab American and Muslim organizations. FBI leadership meets with leaders of national groups and has found these interactions to be mutually beneficial. We look to these organizations to assist us in communication with their members and constituents. [Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence via Nexis, 3/17/10]
Former LA Police Chief Bratton: We Were Able To Reach Out To Muslim Community "Fairly Quickly," Have "Active Forum" With Them. At a July 2010 forum at the Center for American Progress, William Bratton former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said:
BRATTON: My most recent experience in which we were able to reach out, fairly quickly, to a community -- in this case, the Muslim community -- that we'd had almost no interaction with. And we were following the lead of the FBI in Los Angeles and the lead of Lee Baca, the sheriff. So we were a little late coming to the game in terms of our exposure to the Muslim community of Los Angeles.
But that police community forum among many forums that we have - African-American, Latino, gay and lesbian, has very quickly become one of the most active forums in Los Angeles in the sense of trying to build understanding, trying to embrace the idea that we are in this together. If we are going to prevent terrorism, radicalization from taking hold, we need to, one, know each other. We need to understand each other -- police, government, Muslim community, the Muslim religion.
So as I'm sitting here today, 2010, versus 2002 when I took over as police chief in Los Angeles, I'm feeling much more optimistic. Despite the fog of war, if you will, that we're living in - there's a movie a few years ago, McNamara talking about his regrets about the Vietnam War and the mistakes that were made in the fog of war.
Well, fog is thick and it dissipates and it becomes thin. And we're learning these last 10 years, these nine years since 9/11 that we're getting better at understanding to defeat terrorism, to prevent it to the best of our ability, that we're going to have to have increased understanding and partnerships. And local police are going to be a key element of that. [Center for American Progress forum, 7/14/10, emphasis added]
LAPD Counter-Terrorism Head Downing: Muslim Community And CA Law Enforcement Working In "Partnership." Discussing a conference on "Radicalization and Homegrown Violent Extremists Conference" that brought together California law enforcement with Muslim leaders, LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing, Commanding Officer for Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, said:
Outreach and engagement with our Muslim communities is an important part of building resiliency and strength within the fabric of our society. The Muslim communities themselves are a big part of the longer-range solution to threats faced abroad as well as those at home. There is also a recognition that there are two sides of extremism, the side from Al Qaeda and the affiliates bent on attacking the West, and the other side of those who continue to demonize Muslims and Islam in an effort to keep people afraid and angry. Both are not helpful to protecting our nation from terrorist attacks.
"Police have the ability to form partnerships and integrate communities into the common, unified approach to problem solving. The Muslim Public Affairs Council and Salam Al-Marayati, in particular, have been an authentic partner in this most important endeavor. We can always look back at the past and point out the negative; however, it is the future that we should have our eye toward and all Americans play an important role in defining this future. For those who criticized his participation at the recent radicalization conference, I would ask you to get the feedback from the 60 or so law enforcement officers from around the state as to the content, the engagement, and the authenticity of that dialogue. This was helpful. This was a partnership. And this is the strength or our Democracy. [Downing statement via Muslim Public Affairs Council, 11/26/10, emphasis added]
FBI Special Agent Who Handled MN Terror Case Reportedly "Said Muslim-Americans Couldn't Have Been More Helpful." From a February 26 Star Tribune editorial: "Key law enforcement officials, from California to Minnesota, also say King's claims are off-base. In Minneapolis, FBI Special Agent Ralph Boelter, who investigated the Somalis who fled Minnesota to join the al-Shabab terror group, said Muslim-Americans couldn't have been more helpful." [Star Tribune, 2/26/11]
Triangle Center On Terrorism And Homeland Security Study: Tips From Muslim Americans Are "Largest Single Source Of Initial Information" In Disrupting Muslim-American Terrorism Plots. In a paper for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a joint research effort between Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International, UNC professor Charles Kurzman wrote:
How are Muslim-American terrorism plots being disrupted? The initial source of information that brought suspects to the attention of U.S. government authorities has not been publicly disclosed in 25 of 161 cases (see Figure 6). In an additional 16 cases, it appears that U.S. authorities learned about the plots only from the execution of a terrorist attack. For the remaining 120 individuals, the largest single source of initial information (48 of 120 cases) involved tips from the Muslim-American community. (This figure does not include information delivered by government questioning of Muslim-American terrorism suspects.)
In some cases, family members reported that the suspects were missing overseas -- for example, Omar Hammami, who traveled to Somalia and joined al Shabaab in 2006; the Somali-Americans in Minnesota who left for Somalia in 2007 and 2008; and five young men from Northern Virginia who traveled to Pakistan in 2009. In other cases, members of the Muslim-American community reported suspicious activities. For example, an anonymous letter from a Yemeni-American led authorities to investigate the Lackawanna Six in 2001 (they were arrested in 2002). Farooque Ahmed in Virginia "came to the attention of American authorities in April  when he told associates that he wanted to engage in jihad, [an unnamed federal] official said. This information was passed on to law enforcement agencies, which began to monitor him." The FBI began to investigate Antonio Martinez in Maryland after a Muslim Facebook friend called about his violent postings.
In some communities, Muslim-Americans have been so concerned about extremists in their midst that they have turned in people who turned out to be undercover informants, including Craig Monteilh in Orange County, California, and Darren Griffin in Toledo, Ohio. [Triangle Center, "Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting," 2/2/11, emphasis added]
MPAC Report: Muslim Cooperation Has Been Involved In The Foiling Of Nearly 40 Percent Of Al Qaeda-Related Terror Attacks In U.S. Since 9/11. According to a study by the Muslim Public Affairs Council: "[T]here have been 17 total instances of Muslims voluntarily seeking to help law enforcement prevent Al Qaeda-related terror activities threatening the United States since 9/11. Th[at] represents almost ... 4 out of 10 (37.7%) such cases." [Muslim Public Affairs Council, "Data on Post-9/11 Terrorism in the United States," January 2011, emphasis in original]
MPAC Report: "8 Out Of The Last 12 Plots Were Foiled With The Assistance Of Muslims." From the MPAC study: "Furthermore, 8 out of the last 12 plots were foiled with the assistance of Muslims. In other words, since the "Virginia Five" arrest in December 2009, Muslim communities have helped law enforcement apprehend suspects in three-quarters of subsequent plots. This is an important counter-trend to the recent spike of arrests." [Muslim Public Affairs Council, "Data on Post-9/11 Terrorism in the United States," January 2011, emphasis in original]
Copyright © 2010 Media Matters Action Network. All rights reserved.