3-10-2011By C. Dixon Osburn
Director, Law and Security
Cross-posted from Huffington Post
The politics of fear in America has created a dangerous blind spot in our national security. That was on vivid display today at the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearings on the “extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community.”
Chairman Peter King argues that the blind spot is not calling the threat what it is. He is wrong. The blind spot with these hearings is that we do not base our national security assessment on the evidence. We ignore the evidence and overreact.
Experts on homeland security tell us that we are facing an increasing use of small-scale attacks by lone actors who are American residents and who defy racial, ethnic and religious phenotypes. Yet, the hearings today stoked the fears against one group of Americans.
Law enforcement and security experts agree that the best method of identifying, disrupting, mitigating, preparing for and responding to threats is a multi-layered approach that involves the community and law enforcement. Yet, the hearings today tried to transform a vital part of the American family from partners into suspects.
Congressman Ellison testified before the Committee and wept as he described how an American Muslim who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11 was vilified as being a co-conspirator in the attacks. General Colin Powell has vigorously defended American Muslims who have fought in our armed forces and shed blood in defense of liberty and freedom. We must honor American Muslims, not vilify them in hearings.
I was heartened that a number of Republicans (and Democrats) on the Committee today seemed to reject religious and racial profiling. I was heartened that an unprecedented coalition of more than one hundred national security, interfaith and civil liberties groups came together to oppose the hearings today. I was heartened by the protests across the country and the number of editorials that criticized how these hearings were framed.
In a statement submitted for The Congressional Record on today’s hearings, I urged the House Homeland Security Committee to assess threats to the homeland,
“but to do so in a way that is consistent with known best practices involving a multi-layered approach of trust between community and government. Alienating communities will undermine our security. Overreacting to each threat will play into the hands of terrorists who want us to abandon our values and institutions. Legislating racial profiling, increasing surveillance and data collection will only make us less secure by increasing the informational noise…”
Let fear not blind us to our laws, values and institutions – and the contributions of all Americans – that make us secure.