For Immediate Release: March 10, 2011
Washington, DC – In a statement submitted today to the House Homeland Security Committee, Human Rights First called its controversial hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” counterproductive and warned that it may undermine attempts to address ongoing threats to national security.
“The willingness of Americans to report suspicious activity rests on trust and confidence in our leaders to handle such reports with integrity. Racial, ethnic, religious or ideological profiling erodes that trust. Increasing surveillance of any group of Americans undermines our security,” wrote Human Rights First’s C. Dixon Osburn.
According to Human Rights First’s statement, the nature of the threat facing the United States has evolved since 9/11. Last month, in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano noted that small attacks by American residents pose the greatest threat to Americans. Her conclusions were consistent with findings from the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, which has found that “more than 405 of terrorist plots from 1999 to 2009 were planned or carried out by single individuals or ‘lone wolves.’” Further, Human Rights First notes, a report authored by the New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen recently established that militants who carryout homegrown terrorist attacks “do not fit any particular ethnic, economic, educational, or social profile.”
“The challenge in identifying, mitigating, preparing for and responding to threats from lone actors planning small scale attacks is like trying to find a needle in haystack. What government officials do not want to do is increase the amount of hay,” Osburn’s statement warned. “(T)here is no evidence that racial or religious profiling has yielded any benefit, and indeed is considered detrimental to sound homeland security practices.”
Instead, Human Rights First urged members of the House Homeland Security Committee to continue assessing threats to the homeland, but to do in a way that is consistent with known best practices involving a multi-layered approach of trust between community and government. Obsurn noted that there is significant concern that these hearings focused on the “extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response” will have unintended consequences that actually undermine the mission of the House Homeland Security Committee. He told the committee that according to experts like General David Petraeus and Karen Hughes, speaking about racial or religious communities as threats to the United States feeds into al Qaeda’s propaganda that America is at war with Muslims and ultimately could harm American troops, diplomatic efforts abroad, and the United States’ overall efforts to defeat terrorists.
Osburn’s statement also stated that anti-Muslim rhetoric is harmful to the military’s objectives and that fails to recognize the service and patriotism of all Americans, a sentiment echoed by senior military officials such as General Colin Powell and Major General Paul Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.). He observed that instead of targeting Muslims or other religious or ethnic groups, Americans should ensure that through words and deeds, we do not do them a disservice.
“Alienating communities will undermine our security,” Osburn concluded. “Legislating racial profiling, increasing surveillance and data collection will only make us less secure by increasing the informational noise that will cover the signal intelligence we must identify, share and assess to thwart threats.”
To read Osburn’s statement for the record, click here.