By Jim Kouri
Representative Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, told his committee and observers that the U.S. military including military bases, recruitment stations and other armed services facilities are the No. 1 targets for radical Islamist terrorists within the United States.
During Wednesday’s joint House-Senate hearing held by Rep. King and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), King described the armed services as being the “most sought-after” target for radical Islamist extremist groups.
“Military communities in the U.S. have become the most desirable and vulnerable targets for the violent homegrown Islamist extremists seeking to kill Americans in their homeland,” said King in his opening remarks.
“We cannot stand idly by while our heroes in uniform are struck down in the place they feel safest,” King stated.
A counterterrorism and security report released by Rep. King staffers during the hearing reveals that “at least 33 threats, plots and strikes against U.S. military communities since 9/11 have been part of a surge of homegrown terrorism.”
The House Homeland Security Committee’s report notes that there are “serious gaps” in the “military’s preparedness for attacks against its personnel, dependents and facilities — such as a lack of adequate and clear training in spotting indicators of violent Islamist extremism in individuals who wear the same uniform as those they may target.”
After describing the 2009 shootings in Texas’s Fort Hood by an Islamic U.S. Army officer, and at a military recruitment station in Arkansas, which killed a total of 14 people and wounded more than two dozen, Lieberman warned the panel that “the only Americans who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks in our homeland since 9/11 have been killed at U.S. military facilities.”
Pentagon denizen Paul Stockton, the assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, warned the lawmakers that all of the branches of the U.S military were the “target[s] of choice” for al Qaeda and its allies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Somalia’s Al Shabaab or Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
“Over the last decade, a plurality of these domestic violent extremists chose to target the Department of Defense, making military communities the target of choice for homegrown terrorists,” said Stockton.
This latest hearing was the fourth in a series that King held this year in order to explore the allegations of rampant radicalization of Muslim-Americans within the U.S. by Imams in the United States and overseas through the Internet web sites.
The first hearing created the most controversy, when about 100 members of Congress asked him to cancel it or widen the breadth of the radicalized groups he was probing. King lauded the hearing as a success, saying that it brought attention to a taboo subject that is a serious and growing security concern.
The other two hearings focused on the terrorist group al-Shabaab’s influence within the U.S., and the radicalization of Muslim-Americans within U.S. prisons.
Controversy arose again on Wednesday as several Democratic lawmakers rejected the singling out of radical extremists and terrorists who practice Islam.
The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), complained to The Hill that singling out the one ideology would ostracize members of the armed services and would ignore the possibility of other emerging terrorist groups.
“Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to this nation’s security is inaccurate, narrow, and blocks consideration of emerging threats,” Thompson told the Hill. “Our military is open to all faiths. A congressional hearing that focuses on religion and the military is likely to harm unit cohesion and undermine morale within our military.”