First Muslim lawmaker appointed to House Intelligence Committee

Lauren French for POLITICO: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced in a closed-door meeting Tuesday she would name the first Muslim lawmaker to the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Carson would be the first Muslim to serve on the committee and was the second Muslim to be elected to Congress. He already serves on the Armed Services Committee and worked for the Department of Homeland Security’s Fusion Center — the clearinghouse established by the federal government to streamline data sharing between the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice and the military.
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House committee hearing on Boston bombings Thursday, as investigators continue to trace activities of Tsarnaev brothers

The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing Thursday on the deadly bombings, which killed three and injured more than 200. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the committee’s chairman, called for the hearing to investigate and review what U.S. agencies knew about the alleged bombers before the attacks.

Some reports have suggested that one of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, met withmilitants in the strife-torn region of Dagestan last year during his six months in Russia. But one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that issue was “still in the category of question marks.”

At the same time, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are trying to trace the gun that Tsarnaev allegedly used in a gunfight with police before he was killed April 19. They are hoping that identifying the first purchaser of the gun could shed light on where Tsarnaev obtained the firearm.

A U.S. official said that the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security are developing a formal intelligence assessment on the factors that moved the Tsarnaevs toward hard-line Islamist views, and whether there was a single development or tipping point in their alleged turn to violence.

“We need to understand it to counter it,” the official said. “From that we look at how do you put a brake in the radicalization process, and can you put something in that path to detect it.”

The official said the research, which involves experts on radicalization at NCTC and other agencies, is expected to take several months, culminating in a formal intelligence assessment that could be distributed across the executive branch.

NJ attorney general tells Muslim leaders that NYPD unit has stopped surveillance in NJ

NEWARK, N.J. — The state attorney general assured a group of Muslim leaders Wednesday that a New York City police unit that conducted surveillance of Muslim businesses, religious leaders and student groups was no longer operating in New Jersey.

Jeffrey Chiesa made the remarks during the first meeting of an outreach committee he formed to repair relations between law enforcement and Muslims in the wake of the revelations about the New York Police Department’s surveillance tactics.

Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that state Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Edward Dickson said during the closed door meeting that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit was no longer working in New Jersey. Loriquet added that Chiesa felt the meeting was productive and that the attorney general “wanted to make sure that all the people of New Jersey’s rights are protected and respected.”

Chiesa told the group Wednesday that he stood by his findings — announced in May following a three-month review — that the NYPD had not violated any New Jersey laws in conducting the surveillance.

Rep. King Finds a New Target

THE FURY surrounding New York Representative Peter King’s March hearing on the radicalization of Muslim-American communities was an embarrassment for the House and its Homeland Security Committee. Not a single meaningful recommendation came from the politically charged investigation. The only memorable moment was when Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, broke down as he spoke of a falsely accused Muslim New York City paramedic who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Today, King will hold a second hearing that will look at the radicalization of Muslims in US prisons. It lacks the drama and emotion of the first. Indeed, the silence surrounding it is deafening. Likely, after the death of Osama bin Laden, it is more difficult for King to whip up fears that the Obama administration is going soft on terrorism.

But, as with King’s first hearing, there is a germ of truth in his concerns, if not his intensive focus on Muslim-Americans. Radicalization is clearly a growing problem in prisons. A 2008 study by the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice showed a link between prison gangs, radicalization, and violence. Many corrections officers are now trained to identify prisoners who adopt extreme views.

In a statement released after King’s hearing, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:

“Reasonable people must question why no official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified today at Representative King’s agenda-driven hearing. This omission is yet another reason interest in King’s show trials of the American Muslim community diminished significantly after his first hearing.

“The one witness who has conducted extensive academic research on the issue was Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University, whose research was funded by institutions affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. In his written testimony, Useem concluded, ‘My core argument, then, is that U.S. prisons are not systematically generating a terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.’

U.S. to drop color-doded terror alerts

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to get rid of the color-coded terrorism alert system. Known officially as the Homeland Security Advisory System, the five-color scheme was introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002.

“The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing,” the agency said, “with a partnership approach with law enforcement, the private sector and the American public that provides specific, actionable information based on the latest intelligence.”

Arab-American to advise TSA

Nawar Shora, the legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is going to join Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a senior advisor in the TSA office of civil rights and liberties. Mr. Shora, 33, has been working on the issue of security abuses against minorities since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Originally from Syria, Mr. Shora is going to join the Department of Homeland Security in line with his campaign to encourage young Arab-Americans to enter the federal service and work within the system in order to “reenergize trust-building.”

Terror plot highlights problem of radicalism in UK

Charles Allen, a retired CIA officer and Bush intelligence chief at the Department of Homeland Security says “The British have an immense problem. There are more challenges in Muslim immigrants integrating into British society than there is in America, a lack of assimilation, a great deal of alienation.”

He feels al-Qaida has worked much harder “to get Westerners, people who live in the West, who may be citizens of the West” for training in tribal strongholds.

Officials are being asked to repudiate NY Representative’s anti-Muslim remarks

The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on American Muslims and people of conscience to urge their elected officials to repudiate New York Representative Peter King, concerning a bigoted response to a Department of Homeland Security report released earlier this week.

In an interview on MSNBC, Representative King stated: “[Napolitano] has never put out a report talking about look out for mosques. Look out for Islamic terrorists in our country. Look out for the fact that very few Muslims come forward to cooperate with the police. If they sent out a report saying that, there would be hell to pay.”

CAIR-NY director Faiza Ali responded by saying that “sweeping generalizations about Muslims and mosques have no place in serious natural security discourse.” Ali added that this is not the first such inflammatory comments by King, and that he has a long history of rhetorical hostility toward the American Muslim community.

‘Jihad’, ‘Islamist’ necessary terms: US army report

A report entitled “Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis: Debunking the Myth of Offensive Words” written by unnamed civilian analysts and contractors for the US Central Command has said that words like ‘jihad’ and ‘Islamist’ are needed in discussing 21st century terrorism issues.

The report added that federal agencies which avoid such words are “soft-pedaling” the link between religious extremism and violent acts. The report is quoted as saying: “We must reject the notion that Islam and Arabic stand apart as bodies of knowledge that cannot be critiqued or discussed as elements of understanding our enemies in this conflict.”

The report counters a January 2008 memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which recommended avoiding using such terms as “jihadist,” “Islamic terrorist,” “Islamist,” or “holy war” saying that such terminology would create a negative climate and spawn acts of discrimination and harassment.