Counterterrrorism Chairman Defends Calls for Mosque Surveillance: ‘That’s Where the Threat is Coming From’

Patrick Goodenough | December 27, 2015 | 11:03pm EST
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A mosque congregation listens to a sermon. (AP Photo, For representational purposes only)

( – Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said Sunday mosques in the United States should be placed under surveillance regardless of the complaints of civil libertarians since “the fact is, that’s where the threat is coming from.”

Fox News Sunday stand-in host Doug McKelway asked the chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterintelligence and terrorism about recent comments in favor of 24/7 monitoring of mosques.

“I can hear the cries of civil libertarians and constitutionalists right now, Congressman,” McKelway said.

“Yeah, listen, they can cry all they want,” King replied. “The fact is, that’s where the threat is coming from.  And we can say that 98, 99 percent of the Muslims in this country are good people. (I’m actually swearing in the first elected Muslim on Long Island into office, she’s a good friend of mine.)

“So, this is nothing against Muslims, but the fact is that is where the threat is coming from,” he continued. “And we’re kidding ourselves. We have this blind political correctness which makes no sense.

King offered several examples of cases where radical sentiment aired in U.S. mosques had allegedly not been reported to law enforcement agencies.

One of the two Boston Marathon bombers (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) had been asked to leave a mosque because of radical statements, he recalled, “but nobody in the mosque ever told the police, nobody ever told the FBI.”

King said there were incidents in his Long Island congressional district in which “we’ve had people in mosques who have spoken radically, who spoke of their intentions to be involved in jihad [and fight with al-Qaeda].

“It was never told to the police, never told to the police at all,” he said. “And when you talk to police off the record, they will tell you that they get very little cooperation from within the leaders of the Muslim community.”

Asked whether law enforcement agencies were being restricted in their ability to monitor mosques, King said Justice Department guidelines present difficulties.

“Local police, and again in New York, the NYPD, they do a phenomenal job,” he said. “The Civil Liberties Union, the New York Times have tried to cut back on that.  Mayor [Bill] de Blasio I think made too many concessions.”

“They’re still doing a great job – don’t get me wrong. But they are doing it in spite of a lot of the restraints that he’s sort of tried to put on them. But as far as the Feds, they are very limited. They basically cannot be infiltrating mosques. I think that has to be done.”

Longstanding calls for the monitoring of mosques in the U.S. grew louder following the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

After President Obama delivered a prime-time Oval Office address four days later, King tweeted his disapproval: “Not one proposal would have prevented California attacks. Nothing about need for increased surveillance of Muslim community. Pitiful.”

During a Republican presidential debate the following week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said the argument that monitoring mosque sermons would violate U.S. Muslims’ First Amendment rights was “utter nonsense.”

“If Islam is as wonderful and peaceful as its adherents say, shouldn’t they be begging us to all come in and listen to these peaceful sermons?” Huckabee asked.

“If there’s something so secretive going on in there that somebody isn’t allowed to go and hear it, maybe we do need for sure to send somebody in there and gather the intelligence,” he said.

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