The UndieBomber’s 15 Minutes of Fame

Here’s the entirety of the speech Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab gave after he plead guilty to the Christmas Day bombing.

10:32 a.m.

Abdulmutallab read from a statement saying he was guilty under U.S. law, but not under Islamic law, for the crimes charged. He said he tried to carry out the bombing in retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere by the United States.

10:34 a.m.

He warned the U.S. that, if it continued to murder innocent Muslims, a calamity would befall the U.S.

If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later,” he said.

10:35 a.m.

He said committing jihad against the United States is one of “the most virtuous acts” a Muslim can perform.

The speech started no earlier than 10:23, it ended no later than 10:38. Quite literally, just 15 minutes or less for him to give the speech that is the primary reason people do not want terrorists tried in civilian courts.

The reason why we can’t have nice things like civilian law anymore (aside from all the torture-produced evidence we’re trying to hide) is because we might find out:

  • A Muslim man believes in Sharia law, not American law
  • A Muslim man correctly believes we have killed innocent civilians in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other countries
  • Someone thinks the US might one day pay for its attacks on innocent Muslims
  • A radicalized Muslim man believes Allah will reward Jihad

That’s it. That’s what has people like Peter King and Buck McKeon and Lindsey Graham so scared that we have to rewrite our Constitution to give military law precedence over civilian law. They want to trade the legitimacy of today’s proceeding for largely secret proceedings where American citizens will be shielded from a failed terrorist’s 15 minutes of fame.

While we’re talking about how pathetic these fearful men are, I believe it’s safe to let you in on a little detail. The entire time Abdulmutallab has been in custody, he has been in a low security prison just 20 miles away from Ann Arbor, not some Gulag far away from our shore. And as it turned out, that, too, turned out to be okay.

Keith Ellison Salutes Mohammed Salman Hamdani

As I predicted in my liveblog, the most emotional moment of Peter King’s MUAC Hearing came when Keith Ellison saluted the sacrifice of Mohammed Salman Hamdani.

Every American, including Muslim Americans, suffered on 9/11.

29 Muslims died at the World Trade Center;

3 Muslims died in the hijacked planes (United Flight 175 and American Flight 11).

Muslims stood with the rest of America united in grief, in their resolve to protect America.  Along with Americans of all faiths, Muslim Americans rushed in to save and rescue victims of Al-Quaeda’s terrorism.

Let me close with a story, but remember that it’s only one of many American stories that could be told.  Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old paramedic, a New York City police cadet and a Muslim American.  He was one of those brave first responders who tragically lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks almost a decade ago.  As The New York Times eulogized, “He wanted to be seen as an all-American kid. He wore No. 79 on the high school football team in Bayside, Queens, where he lived, and he was called Sal by his friends… He became a research assistant at Rockefeller University and drove an ambulance part-time. One Christmas, he sang in Handel’s Messiah in Queens. He saw all the Star Wars movies, and it was well known that his new Honda was the one with “Yung Jedi” license plates.

Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try and help others on 9/11.  After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith.  Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed.

Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans.  His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens.

King’s cold response to Sheila Jackson Lee’s request that each member be permitted an opening statement is not the only point in the hearing when he looked like an asshole, though: he twice interrupted his own witness, Abdirizak Bihi, as well as interrupting Jackson Lee. The lesson being, I guess, that if you want to end radicalization in the Muslim community the thing to do is not let brown people speak.

Peter King Needs to Be Object Lesson in Our Failed Counter-Terrorism Approach

Back in January, I suggested that Peter King ought not be hailed for his role in the Irish peace process, but rather called out for his hypocrisy on terrorism.

Peter King would still be in prison if the US had treated his material support for terrorism as it now does, with sentences that can amount to a life sentence. Instead, the raging hypocrite is using the Congressional seat he owes, in part, to his earlier embrace of terrorism to sow bigotry and hatred–and to make the cooperation of the Islamic community, which plays a key role in identifying real extremists, more difficult.

The correct response to King’s actions is undoubtedly to point to this rank hypocrisy. Perhaps the NYT is suggesting it will do just that if King doesn’t back off his fear-mongering. But I believe it is already far too late for polite society to continue to soft-pedal this issue. It is inappropriate for a former terrorist sympathizer to head the Homeland Security Committee. And particularly when King uses that position to pull stunts like this, polite society needs to call out his hypocrisy in clear terms.

Credit where credit is due, polite society is doing that in a big way on the eve of King’s McCarthyite anti-Muslim hearings Thursday.

But it seems time to go the next step. Two people calling King out now (one a victim of an IRA attack, the other a former supporter) suggest that King ought to have a kind of insight that would help our fight against terrorism.

“King’s exactly right to say there’s a difference of approach between the I.R.A. and Al Qaeda,” said Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at Amnesty International and a former British military intelligence officer. “But I personally consider both of them terrorist groups.”

Mr. Parker was at a birthday party for a friend in London in 1990 when the I.R.A. tossed a bomb onto the roof of the rented hall, a historic barracks. Many people, including Mr. Parker, were injured, but none died, by lucky chance of location and quick medical response, he said.

What troubles him, Mr. Parker said, is that Mr. King “understands the pull of ancestral ties. He took a great interest in a terrorist struggle overseas. He’s a guy who could bring real insight to this situation.” Instead, he said, “he is damaging cooperation from the greatest allies the U.S. has in counterterrorism.”

Some who have been close to Mr. King agree. Niall O’Dowd, an Irish-born New York publisher and writer who worked with him on the peace process in the 1990s, broke publicly with him Monday on his Web site,, describing Mr. King’s “strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.”

In Northern Ireland, Mr. O’Dowd said, they saw a Catholic community “demonized” by its Protestant and British critics and worked to bring it to the peace table. Seeing his old friend similarly “demonize” Muslims has shocked him, he said.

“I honestly feel Peter is wrong, and his own experience in Northern Ireland teaches him that,” Mr. O’Dowd said. “He’s a very honest, working-class Irish guy from Queens who’s had an amazing career. Now I see a man turning back on himself, and I don’t know why.” [my emphasis]

And I think that’s right. It is downright inappropriate to have an unapologetic terrorist sympathizer head our Committee on Homeland Security. So long as King maintains his terrorist support was justifiable but that of brown people is somehow different, he stands as a symbol of US hypocrisy on terrorism.

If King were to realize that his journey from terrorism to peace is no different than that of Muslims, he might well be able to teach his colleagues about the failures inherent in our counter-terrorism policy, particularly the approach that meets violence with even more violence, often hitting civilian bystanders.

But until he recognizes that, he is absolutely inappropriate to head Homeland Security. And that ought to be clear to polite society at this point.

Bennie Thompson to Peter King: What about the White Supremacists?

Ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, just wrote a letter to Peter King asking him to include other terrorists, in addition to Islamic extremists, in his fear-mongering hearing this month.

I write to request that you broaden the scope of your examination of ideological-based violence.

Terrorists of all ideologies seek to do Americans harm. According to a polling of state law enforcement agencies conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s START Center of Excellence, there are a variety of domestic extremist groups more prevalent in the United States than Islamic extremists, including neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, anti-tax groups, and others. Islamic extremist groups were named a threat in 31 states, according to the poll; Neo-Nazi groups, by contrast, posed a serious threat in 46 states.

Ideological-based violence of all kinds has been on the rise, according to a variety of indicators. As the incident in Spokane, Washington, this past Martin Luther King Day has shown, Islamic extremists aren’t the only ones willing and able to utilize sophisticated devices intended to kill many Americans. In fact, three of the five CBRNE plots since 2001 were planned by white supremacist groups; none of them were attributed to Muslim extremists.

While I share your concern about the threat posed to our nation from violence borne of ideologically driven extremism, I believe that this Committee’s exploration of the current and emerging threat environment should be a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups, regardless of their respective ideological underpinnings. I hope you share my belief that in the final analysis, the ideology of a bomb maker matters less than the lethal effects of his creation.

Sadly, I think the entire point for Peter King has always been about ideology, both back when he supported the IRA and now that he opposes Islamic extremism.

And given the response of new Republicans Chairs in the last month, King is likely to completely ignore Thompson’s request.

But at this letter puts King on notice that his ideological fear-mongering has little to do with the real threats to the US.

Peter King’s “Danger from Within”

As Adam Serwer notes, one of the most interesting things about this long story on how Peter King came to split with a Muslim community close to his district as he increasingly attacked Muslims in general after 9/11 is the description of the way a novel of his tied al Qaeda, Long Island Muslims, and the IRA together.

But for some of King’s Muslim constituents, his most hurtful words came in the form of his 2004 novel, “Vale of Tears.” The story revolves around a fictional congressman who stumbles across a plan by terrorists – who are associated with a Long Island mosque and work with al-Qaeda and remnants of the Irish Republican Army – that could kill hundreds.King dedicated the novel to “those who were murdered on September 11” and explained his purpose in the preface: “It describes how vulnerable we can become if we lower our guard – for even the slightest moment – and if we fail to recognize that our terrorist foes comprise a worldwide network with operatives active within our borders.”

Adam writes,

King’s love affair with the IRA ended shortly after 9/11 as well, because King said his former allies had adopted a “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” in response to American military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s still extraordinary that someone as actively supportive of the use of political violence in the past as King would be running these hearings.

His decision to take some kind of bizarre emotional revenge by slapping his former allies together in a novel with an implausible plot in which violent Islamic extremists somehow lose their distaste for “infidels” and the IRA suddenly decide they’d like to start targeting the United States is also really strange, but I find myself wishing King had stopped there.

But something else struck me about the story (which was billed as a “religion” story). It’s the story’s treatment of whether King’s concerns about terrorist sympathizers (aside from himself, of course) are justified.

Few take issue with King’s assertion that homegrown terrorism is rising dramatically.

In the past two years, according to Justice Department statistics, nearly 50 U.S. citizens have been charged with major terrorism counts – all of them allegedly motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.

But many law enforcement leaders disagree with King’s allegation that most Muslim leaders do not cooperate with authorities. In the past, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has praised the community. And in a speech last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said: “The cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats. We must never lose sight of this.”

Experts also point to a string of recent terrorism cases that were foiled or reported by Muslim leaders.

Within King’s district, Nassau County Lt. Kevin Smith said he couldn’t recall the last time police received a tip from local mosques. But the detective said: “It’s hard for us to judge what that means – whether that’s because they’re not reporting something or if there’s just nothing to report. On the whole, though, I think we have a good relationship with the mosques in our county.” [my emphasis]

Now, I will try to hunt down the statistics the WaPo used to make the assertion that all homegrown terrorists–or even all US citizens charged with major terrorism counts–were “allegedly motivated by radical Muslim beliefs.” DOJ released stats last year that were specifically defined as terrorists tied to international terrorist groups. It focused on convictions as opposed to charges, but in that list, at least, were included a number of people with ties to terrorist groups like FARC and even anti-communist Cambodians convicted of what DOJ classifies as major terrorist offenses. And while our government tends to interpret the use of WMDs by white people differently than it does by people of color, it did indict the Hutaree militia last March on WMD charges under 18 USC 2332a, among other things, which is one of the statutes DOJ considers a major terrorism charge.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Hutaree militia are even allegedly motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.

So the WaPo claim, whether because DOJ gave it bad data or because it interpreted that data incorrectly, is plainly false.

And all that’s before you consider the growing list of right wing terrorist attacks, not least the still unsolved bombing of a FL mosque, the George Tiller murder, and the recent bombing attempt in Spokane.

This false claim that all the terrorists indicted in the last two years are allegedly motivated by Islamic extremism is not just sloppy. It serves to excuse one of the biggest problems of King’s fear-mongering: the way it tautologically focuses on Islamic extremism and ignores other terrorists that pose an important threat to this country.

Of course, that might be inevitable in a story treating King’s fear-mongering as a religion story.

IRA Attack Survivor on Peter “Material Support for Terror” King’s Hypocrisy

Tom Parker, Amnesty International’s Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights and himself a survivor of an IRA bomb attack, has this to say about Peter King’s hypocrisy about terrorism. (h/t Susie)

That problem is simple: if your test for whether or not terrorist violence is acceptable is whether or not you agree with the cause that it furthers, you will never have the moral authority to condemn such acts when they are carried out by others. The use of violence against innocents must be wrong in whatever form it takes. Take any other position and you are open, as Congressman King undoubtedly is, to charges of hypocrisy.

There is no way to varnish the fact that for twenty years Congressman King consistently supported a violent armed group that murdered men, women and children in pursuit of its political goals. It is also worth noting that those victims were citizens of America’s closest ally in the struggle against Al Qaeda.

These are not frivolous times and rabble-rousers do not make good statesman.

Parker is right about King. But King is just the most obvious example of a general slide in this country toward having just that test, measuring terror based on whether or not we agree with the cause.

David Ignatius Confuses Joe McCarthy and Dan Burton

David Ignatius got it wrong, IMO, when he asked whether Darrell Issa is going to be the next Joe McCarthy.

When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas. I think of Robert F. Kennedy’s ruthless pursuit of labor “racketeering” when he was chief counsel of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. And, more chilling, I think of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s use of that subcommittee to probe what he imagined was Communist Party subversion in America.


Issa doesn’t come across as a McCarthyite. Indeed, he has struck me as one of the smarter and more creative members of the Republican caucus. But he now has the whip in his hand, and investigative power, as we have so many times in American history, can be grotesquely abused.

Ignatius’ analogy shows his blindness in two directions.

First, it’s pretty obvious that Peter King, not Darrell Issa, intends to be the next McCarthy. Sure, other Republicans will join him in his anti-Muslim fear-mongering, but King is the guy who has promised to use his gavel to accomplish that task. Peter King’s goal, it seems, like that of Joe McCarthy, is to foster a generalized atmosphere of fear and distrust to justify authoritarian measures.

And given that today’s equivalent of anti-Communist witch hunts is anti-Muslim and anti-Arab attacks, it’d be particularly dangerous for Lebanese-American Darrell Issa to carry out that task. Indeed, Debbie Schlussel, one of the key operatives in sowing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate, has in the past targeted Issa for his ancestry, calling him “Jihad Darrell.”

But all that’s not to say Issa won’t launch into a bunch of wasteful witch hunts. But they’re obviously modeled on the witch hunts of Dan Burton, Issa’s predecessor at Oversight, in which a slew of baseless investigations served the purpose of delegitimizing the President.

Perhaps I’m being a pedant for insisting on this distinction, but I do so for two reasons. First, because it’s important to understand the structure of these witch hunts and the intended targets of them. Issa, it seems to me, has an entirely political aim, whereas King’s is more societal. Issa’s target is Obama, King’s is all of us.

But I also think it remarkable that a purportedly centrist Villager like Ignatius can’t even summon the more obvious Burton comparison. All the blathering about bipartisanship, after all, ignores the tactics Republicans use to discredit their opponents, tactics that Burton mastered. It ignores the way Republicans put aside the good of the country to score political points.

I’m glad that Ignatius is calling on Issa to act like an adult, but he seems to ignore the whole point of Issa’s forecast witch hunts.

Peter the Material Support for Terror King’s Slippery Slope

I highlighted the NYT editorial that criticized Peter King’s planned hearing to fearmonger against Muslims the other day. In spite of the fact that the NYT backed off of highlighting King’s own ties to terrorism, instead focusing on how he ultimately helped to serve peace, King nevertheless responded in predictable fashion:

In an interview with The Hill, New York Republican Rep. Peter King didn’t mince words about his feelings towards The New York Times.

“I have nothing but contempt for them,” King said. “They should be indicted under the Espionage Act. … The New York Times is just basically being a mouthpiece for political correctness.”

When an increasingly powerful Congressman can respond to tempered criticism by screaming espionage, we’ve reached a very dangerous slippery slope.

Peter “Material Support for Terrorism” King

The NYT has an editorial rightly condemning ascending Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King’s upcoming hearing to attack Muslims.

It is disturbing to listen to Representative Peter King, the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He has announced plans to hold a hearing next month into what he calls the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” Mr. King, a New York Republican, is no stranger to bluster, but his sweeping slur on Muslim citizens is unacceptable.

But the interesting bit of the editorial is the last paragraph.

He had better recall his role as a gifted intermediary in helping to settle Ireland’s sectarian troubles. He would have bristled at any simplistic talk about the “radicalization” of the Irish Catholic or Protestant communities. Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security is a very serious job. Mr. King needs to get serious.

While the NYT points to what I believe to be the appropriate response to King’s fear-mongering, it misses the mark by about a decade or so. They point to King’s involvement in brokering peace in Northern Ireland. But of course the relevant bit is how King, for years, openly supported Irish terrorists.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA’s murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group’s publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King’s support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge’s view, “he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.” When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.

Even the CIA acknowledges (though it bizarrely considers this secret) that NORAID existed to channel material support to terrorists.

In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases. Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)

Peter King would still be in prison if the US had treated his material support for terrorism as it now does, with sentences that can amount to a life sentence. Instead, the raging hypocrite is using the Congressional seat he owes, in part, to his earlier embrace of terrorism to sow bigotry and hatred–and to make the cooperation of the Islamic community, which plays a key role in identifying real extremists, more difficult.

The correct response to King’s actions is undoubtedly to point to this rank hypocrisy. Perhaps the NYT is suggesting it will do just that if King doesn’t back off his fear-mongering. But I believe it is already far too late for polite society to continue to soft-pedal this issue. It is inappropriate for a former terrorist sympathizer to head the Homeland Security Committee. And particularly when King uses that position to pull stunts like this, polite society needs to call out his hypocrisy in clear terms.

House Committee on Homeland Security Expressed Concerns about “Gate Rape” on September 22

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson sent Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole a letter on Friday expressing concern that the TSA did not review privacy and civil liberty concerns before implementing the new “gate rape” procedures at airports. The letter demands additional information on the pat-downs and calls on Pistole to reconsider them.

But most troubling, it reveals that at a member briefing on the new protocol conducted on September 22, the Committee expressed concern about the pat-downs.

As you know, on September 22, 2010, the Committee on Homeland Security held a Member briefing on a pilot that TSA was conducting at Boston Logan International Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to evaluate enhanced passenger screening protocols. At that time, Members viewed a demonstration of the protocols and expressed concern about their intrusiveness as well as about the risk of inconsistent nationwide implementation and urged TSA to work to educate the traveling public on the need for these reforms. Subsequently, TSA, over a two month period, began implementing these new protocols at our Nation’s airports.

While some of this appears to be a belated attempt to raise privacy issues about the “gate rape,” Thompson rightly points out the Administration’s failures to fulfill privacy and civil liberties requirements.

In the absence of an Executive branch level Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that would evaluate decisions such as this, it was crucial that the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Officer and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties thoroughly evaluate and publish written assessments on how this decision affects the privacy and civil rights of the traveling public. To date, the Department has not published either a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) nor a Civil Liberties Impact Assessment (CLIA) on the enhanced pat down procedures. Without a published PIA or CLIA, we cannot ascertain the extent to which TSA has considered how these procedures should be implemented with respect to certain populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. By not issuing these assessments, the traveling public has no assurance that these procedures have been thoroughly evaluated for constitutionality.

Now, Thompson has been successful in the past at forestalling abusive surveillance by raising precisely these kinds of privacy issues, notably when he prevented Michael Chertoff from implementing a satellite surveillance program in the US. But that was when the Democrats had a majority in the House. In just weeks, Thompson will lose his gavel and Peter King–who used to materially support terrorists in Ireland but now loves to fearmonger on terror–will take over.

Which means Pistole and the Obama Administration will probably just blow off this request for some proof that gate rape has passed constitutional review.

Sign the petition demanding Congress investigate the TSA’s porno scanners, aggressive groping, and abuses of power.