King is equally unapologetic regarding his hearings, stressing several times in the lenghty interview the grave importance of combating homegrown terrorism—and that several key members of the Obama administration share this view, namely Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and McDonough, who King says called him up to tell him about last Sunday’s Virginia mosque speech and to tell him to “keep going with the hearing.”
“Eric Holder has said he stays awake at night worrying about the number of young men being radicalized, taking up arms against the government,” King charges. “Janet Napolitano said the terror threat has never been higher since September 11th because of the radicalization in the Muslim community.
“This threat is real and serious,” he adds. “You have Holder saying it, Napolitano saying it, the president of national security advisors saying it. So I’m taking the logical step of saying, ‘If this threat is so real, if it’s so dangerous, then as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, how can I not investigate it?’”
King labels New York City and Long Island as “the number-one al-Qaida target in the country” and highlights several near-catastrophes thwarted, not due to intelligence, but rather by fate, by fluke, by chance: Shahzad, the naturalized Pakistani American who successfully drove a 1993 Pathfinder packed with more than 250 pounds of ammonium nitrate, diesel fuel, propane and gasoline into the heart of Times Square, and set it off.
But it failed to explode, only coming to the attention of authorities when a street vendor reported smoke streaming from the vehicle and reported it. King cites Najibullah Zazi, who pled guilty last year to his role in plotting an al-Qaida terrorist attack on the New York City subway system, a plan only foiled when his name came up in wiretaps of two others. And he mentions Bryant Neal Vinas, the 26-year-old Long Island Muslim American who pled guilty in 2009 to receiving bomb training from al-Qaida and plotting to blow up the Long Island Rail Road. Vinas was captured in Afghanistan fighting alongside the terrorist group.
King says the latter exemplifies the need for his hearings, explaining that police familiar with the case have told him that Vinas had petitioned two mosques in the United States about his intentions of Jihad and had given away all his belongings prior to embarking on his trip to Afghanistan.
“The mosques, to their credit, said they don’t do Jihad, but never, never told the police about him,” he says. “I have said over and over that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are good Americans; they’re good citizens. But the fact is, as Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano, and the president’s own national security advisor have said, al-Qaida is attempting to recruit terrorists from the Muslim American community. So that’s why you investigate the Muslim American community. When we were going after the Mafia, they investigated the Italian American community. They were going after the Westies; they investigated the Irish community. When you go after the Russian mob, you go to Brighton Beach and Coney Island. That’s the reality of it.
“We expect the next major attack against New York City is going to be launched from the suburbs,” King says, bluntly, adding that he’d be happier if his opposition was “more reasonable.”
“I guess, it’s as if to say, ‘Okay, yes, there is radicalization, but we don’t think it’s as bad as you think it is. Or, ‘Yes there’s radicalization, and there should be more cooperation, but at the same time there is more cooperation than you’re aware of.’” The unabashed Long Island Congressman says, “All that to me would be part of an intelligent debate. Rather than have 400 people screaming in the rain in Times Square comparing me to Nazis and Japanese internment camps and all that kind of stuff.”
No matter what happens at the hearing, we surely haven’t heard the last.
See photos from supporters at the NYC rally
See photos from earlier “Pray-In” at Rep. Peter King’s District Office