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Rep. Thompson says hearing draws distorted picture of threat

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

The House Homeland Security Committee's minority leader expressed concerns over the committee’s Dec. 7 hearing on the threat of homegrown terror to the U.S. military, saying the dire picture drawn by committee leaders lacked nuance and subtlety.

Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) had released a report at the hearing showing dire threats brewing for service members and their families from domestic Islamist terrorists. King cited the attack on Ft. Hood in Texas in 2009 and against another U.S. military installation in Kuwait as evidence that the threat is growing.

In a statement, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) questioned the accuracy of the dire predictions. “I imagine my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to use these two attacks to paint a picture about the nature of the violent extremist threat facing this nation,” said Thompson. “Once again, the picture they draw is not likely to be accurate, nuanced or subtle. In the past, I have expressed my concerns about the nature and direction of these hearings,” he said, referencing other committee hearings called by Rep. King, which focused on domestic Islamist terror.

“My concerns are amplified today,” said Thompson. “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,” he said.

Thompson said the US military is open to all faiths and singling out one as a potential source for terror could undermine unit cohesion and morale in the military.

“A congressional hearing that identifies one religion as a likely threat within the military is not only inaccurate but unwise,” said Thompson.

Thompson said the military is aware of how to handle such threats without singling out specific religions.  “In the days after the Ft. Hood shootings, then Defense Secretary Gates refused to lay this tragedy at the feet of one man or one religion,” said Thompson. “He appointed a board and gave them the mission of reviewing what happened, why it happened, and what could be done to prevent the same thing from happening in the future,” he said.

“The review board did not sweep this incident under the rug,” said Thompson, adding it identified deficiencies in Department of Defense programs and policies on force protection, emergency response procedures, and threat identification. To date, according to Thompson, DoD has completed 43 of the review board’s recommendations and 15 additional recommendations should be completed by March 2012.

Thompson said completion of the remaining recommendations is a matter for congress. “Since September 11th, Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans' health care associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Thompson. “Budget cuts may prevent the implementation of the rest of these recommendations,” he said.

“Today, I hope we can reach a bi-partisan, bi-cameral agreement that the military should have the funding it needs to prevent another tragedy like Fort Hood. If we can, then something good will have come out of this hearing,” he said.

 

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