- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Republican lawmakers chided Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Wednesday for not being frank about the nature of the terrorist threat posed by radical Islamist groups and for allowing “political correctness” to hamper the work of her department.

“We’ve got to focus on those people who are going to do us harm,” Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, told a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, “And this administration and your department has seemed to be very averse to focusing on those.”

Part of the problem, Mr. Broun said, was the department’s apparent unwillingness to name “the ideological factor behind” the terrorist threat, “namely Islamic extremism.”

Ms. Napolitano defended the Department of Homeland Security, saying, “Hundreds of thousands of men and women come to work every day to protect the American people.”

Ms. Napolitano said the use of the term “violent extremism” rather than “jihadi” or “Islamist” to describe the terror threat was driven by concern that officials “not overlook other types of extremism that can be homegrown and that we, indeed, have experiences with.”

In other responses, she emphasized that the administration sees Islamic extremists as only one among several terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland.

“Many kinds of violent motivations threaten our security,” she said. “We see a variety of different types.”

Her prepared testimony referenced a report last year by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions that examined 86 U.S. terrorism cases between 1999 and 2009 and found that nearly half were related to al Qaeda or al Qaeda-inspired ideology, with the remainder a result of “a number of other violent extremist motivations” such as white supremacist, animal rights, anti-abortion or “militia/anti-government” ideologies.

She told the hearing that her department is focused on giving tools to local law enforcement so they could spot “the tactics, the techniques, the behaviors that would indicate that a violent act, a terrorist act is impending,” regardless of motivation.

“Some of those [attacks] are inspired by Islamist groups. Others can be inspired by, like, anti-government groups — flying a plane into the [Internal Revenue Service] building, for example,” she said, referring to an incident in February 2010 when software engineer Joseph Stack crashed a small plane into a federal building, killing himself and an IRS employee.

But she said the department is not ignoring Islamic extremism.

“We understand full well that Islamist-inspired, al Qaeda-inspired, however-you-want-to-call-it terrorism is part and parcel of the security picture that we now have to deal with in the United States,” she concluded.

Mr. Broun described a scene he witnessed recently at an airport security checkpoint where he and a man he described as being “very obviously of Arabian or Middle Eastern descent” were not patted down, but an elderly lady and her grandchild were.

“I have yet to see a grandma try to bomb any U.S. facility with chemicals in her bloomers,” he said.

“We’ve got to profile these folks,” he told Ms. Napolitano. “Y’all have not been willing to do so.”

She replied that “when we add random screening to whatever we are doing, it has to be truly random. Otherwise, you lose the value of unpredictability. And secondly when we set firm rules about we won’t screen this kind of person or that kind of person, our adversaries, they know those rules and they attempt to train and get around them.

“We cannot categorize by ethnicity or religion or any of those sorts of things,” she said. “We have to make decisions based on intelligence about particular individuals. That’s what is required under the United States Constitution.”

Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who testified alongside Ms. Napolitano, said focusing too hard on a particular community might alienate its members.

“With almost everything we do in counterterrorism, there is a second-order effect,” Mr. Leiter said. “If we increase investigations domestically, that’s going to affect the community.

“We have to build into those required and necessary preventative steps, additional programs, to address those second-order effects so you’re not worsening the situation inadvertently. That applies to screening, applies to homegrown extremism, it applies to overseas efforts.”

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