Domestic Terrorism Hearing Set to Begin

WASHINGTON — A much-anticipated Congressional hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism — lambasted by critics as a throwback to McCarthyism — gets under way Thursday on Capitol Hill, featuring testimony from a Muslim member of Congress, the Los Angeles County sheriff and the relatives of two young men who embraced extremist violence.

The hearing, convened by Representative Peter T. King, the Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and represents parts of Long Island, is the first in a series that Mr. King says will explore the threat of Islamic fundamentalism inside the United States. The session, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” will also examine what the congressman asserts is the failure of some Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement.

Because counterterrorism officials rely on the cooperation of Muslims for tips and to foil plots, some law enforcement authorities are also raising alarms. They are concerned that the sessions will have the opposite of their intended effect, by making Muslims, who may already be nervous about talking to the authorities, even more nervous about doing so.

To drive home that point, Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is his party’s senior member on the Homeland Security Committee, invited Sheriff Leroy Baca of Los Angeles County, who has deep ties with the Muslim community there, to be the Democrats’ lead witness.

“My witness is the only law enforcement person on the panel,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview Wednesday. “He has an understanding of working in the Muslim community, and his experience is that Muslims by and large are law-abiding people, and so to single them out in any kind of hearing is not good public policy.”

New York Times
3/10/11