King’s Hearings Draw Early FireBy Robert Costa
January 19, 2011
As Ben Smith of Politico reports, Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, plans to take “testimony primarily from Muslims” during his upcoming hearings on radicalization:
In a move that will come as a relief to Muslim leaders, King told POLITICO that he’s not planning to call as witnesses such Muslim community critics as the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steve Emerson and Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer, who have large followings among conservatives but are viewed as antagonists by many Muslims.
King aims, he said, to call retired law enforcement officials and people with “the real life experience of coming from the Muslim community.” Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in the House and a critic of the hearings, will likely be a minority witness, according to both King and the Minnesota Democrat.
The focus, King said, will be on — among other topics — reported complaints from Somali Muslims that the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other groups discouraged them from talking to the authorities about young men who left to fight for the Islamist cause in Somalia and on cases like that of the imam who — while ostensibly cooperating with the FBI — allegedly tipped off a would-be subway bomber off as investigators closed in.
King’s decision drew quick criticism from Steve Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, who sent the Long Island Republican a strongly worded letter this morning:
Your interview with Politico announcing that I am not going to be a witness came as a shock to me especially in light of the fact that I have been told over and over and over again that no witnesses had been selected. I have dutifully worked with your staff in trying to help you prepare for these meetings but obviously you don’t need my input. To be told over and over again for more than 8 weeks that no witnesses had been selected, beyond having worked with you and your staff for the last 8 years, only to read your interview yesterday, shows me that calculated deception is at play here. I apologize for having to use those words but there is no other explanation.
During the days of Senator McCarthy, innocent writers were blacklisted and had to write under pseudonyms because of fear from the accusations of the dictatorial Senator. That you have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness, in light of the fact that no one in this country has done more empirical investigations about the attitudes and statements of the established Muslim leadership, shows me, to my utter horror, that McCarthyism is still alive today.
Don’t take my word about my qualifications; just ask FBI agents, DOJ prosecutors, DHS agents, Treasury investigators, NYPD ct officials, etc.
“I was supposed to meet with [Emerson] this afternoon,” King tells National Review Online. “My staff has been in contact with him for the last six, seven weeks — getting information for the hearings, trying to plan a strategy. But at no time was it suggested that Emerson was going to be a witness.”
Still, King says, Ben Smith’s story appears to have “set Emerson off.”
“I started getting calls from people — I got an e-mail from Andy McCarthy and spoke with Cliff May, who told me that the whole conservative community has gotten this e-mail from Emerson, and wondered what it was about. What Emerson is suggesting is that he was going to be a witness, then I got pressure from Muslim groups and backed down to Keith Ellison, or something — I have no idea what he is trying to suggest. But basically, he is saying that you can’t have a real hearing on radicalization without Steve Emerson.”
King disagrees with Emerson’s assessment. “The idea was to make the hearings have an impact,” he tells us. “With all due respect, whether it is Steve Emerson, or me, or [Daniel] Pipes, or[Frank] Gaffney, people have heard from us before — we are outsiders talking about the community. If I can get people from within the Muslim community to talk about the extent of radicalization, that is a lot more effective.”
Law-enforcement officials will also be called. Beyond that, “if we have subsequent hearings, and there are other questions we have, we can have different experts come in at that stage,” King says. But for the initial hearing, he does not want to “bring back the same faces.”
NRO reached Emerson this afternoon. His response: “I think Mr. King is extraordinarily courageous and brave and I want to congratulate him for holding these hearings that are vital to our national security. I deeply praise him for taking on this critical issue of Islamic radicalization. I apologize to Mr. King for some of the intemperate language I used in my letter to him. But I am not one of two outspoken critics of the hearings. That distinction would belong to Congressman Keith Ellison and CAIR. I very much support Mr. King’s hearings.”