- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2010

Despite crediting the Pakistani Taliban with fostering the recent failed car bombing in Times Square, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was reluctant Thursday to say radical Islam was part of the cause of that and other recent attacks.

Mr. Holder, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly balked at a half-dozen questions from Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican on the committee, about whether “radical Islam” was behind the attempted car bombing, last year’s so-called “underpants bomber” or the killings at Fort Hood in Texas.

“There are a variety of reasons why people do these things. Some of them are potentially religious,” Mr. Holder told the committee Thursday, though he would not go further than saying people who hold radical views may have “had an ability to have an impact” on Faisal Shahzad, the man the Justice Department says tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.

The exchange comes as President Obama and Republicans spar over whether the administration is taking a tough-enough approach to the war on terrorism. Critics want the president to hone his criticism, while he and his advisers have sought to avoid painting the conflict as a battle against a religious belief or its adherents.


“I don’t know why the administration has such difficulty acknowledging the obvious, which is that radical Islam might have incited these individuals,” Mr. Smith, Texas Republican, said after the hearing. “If you can’t name the enemy, then you’re going to have a hard time trying to respond to them.”

In his near daylong appearance before the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder was repeatedly asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, which the attorney general has criticized and suggested may run afoul of the Constitution.

Mr. Obama has asked the Justice Department to review the law to determine whether the federal government should try to block it before it takes effect at the end of July.

But Mr. Holder acknowledged to the committee that he hasn’t read the law, and his criticisms were based on what he’s seen on television or read in the newspapers about the law.

“I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people who are doing the review, exactly what my position is,” Mr. Holder said.

Last weekend, Mr. Holder told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Arizona law “has the possibility of leading to racial profiling.” He had earlier called the law’s passage “unfortunate,” and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.

Rep. Ted Poe, who had questioned Mr. Holder about the law, wondered how he could hold those opinions if he hadn’t yet read the legislation.

“It’s hard for me to understand how you would have concerns about something being unconstitutional if you haven’t even read the law,” the Texas Republican told the attorney general.

The Arizona law’s backers argue that it doesn’t go beyond what federal law already allows, and they say press reports have distorted the legislation. They point to provisions in the law that specifically rule out racial profiling as proof that it can be implemented without conflicting with civil rights.

But critics said giving police the power to stop those they suspect are in the country illegally is bound to lead to profiling.

Mr. Holder said he expects the Justice and Homeland Security departments will finish their review of the Arizona law soon.

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