Rep. Peter King Urges Racial Profiling of Somali-Americans In Wake of Kenya’s Terrorist Attack
There isn’t a problem in the world that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) can’t solve by spying on minorities and that includes the threat posed by Al-Shabab, the Somalia based terrorist group that carried out a horrific massacre in an upscale shopping center in Kenya over the weekend.
As former chairman of the congressional Homeland Security Committee, King conducted several controversial (aka bigoted) hearings singling out Muslim-American communities as hotbeds of radicalism and terrorist recruitment. In 2011, one of King’s hearings focused on Al-Shabaab and Somali-Americans, which he derided for not doing enough to combat radicalization among their youth.
King has rehashed these complaints in the wake of Kenya’s mall massacre.
“[A]t least 40 to 50 Somali-Americans have gone from the United States to Somalia to be trained,” King told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. ”A number of them have been killed, but there’s others still alive,” he said, adding that 15 to 20 “are still active over there.”
He urged the FBI to keep an eye on Somali-Americans, saying, “I would assume that the FBI and local law enforcement are looking into those Somalia-American communities today … using all their sources and resources to make sure there’s no follow-up attempt here in the United States,” he said.
King warned that Americans-turned-Shabaab fighters might “come back to the United States” to “use those abilities here,” to which Jason Linkins’ at the Huffington Post responded:
Is Al-Shabaab giving them super powers? Because if these abilities are “grabbing a gun” and “shooting a bunch of people” then I daresay we’ve got the market on those abilities pretty well cornered.
All jokes aside, I’m not doubting that a handful of Somali-Americans have joined Al-Shabaab; that they have is undeniable. There are even unconfirmed reports that three of the Al-Shabab gunmen in Kenya are American. But that doesn’t justify painting the entire Somali-American community as suspicious or collectively blaming Somalia for the attack. After all, it is the people of Somalia that suffer the most at the hands of Al-Shabaab. (In fact, Al-Shabaab would not exist without the actions of the US and western backed African countries, but more on that later)
Contrary to what Rep. King would have us believe, Somali-Americans (and Muslim Americans overall) have been very cooperative with law enforcement in combatting extremism. Even if that weren’t the case, there are other aspects to consider.
Not only is religious and ethnic profiling unconstitutional, it’s an ineffective counterterrorism strategy. For proof, look no further than the NYPD’s decade-long secret spying operation on American Muslim communities, brought to light in a series of articles investigative reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who have since written a book on the topic. Aside from the constitutional violations Goldman and Apuzzo document, one of their most interesting findings is that, ”In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”
That’s because, as the ACLU explains, “suspicion less surveillance…fills intelligence databases with useless information and undermines community support for legitimate law enforcement and intelligence activities directed at real threats.”
Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped US law enforcement agencies from aggressively spying on Muslim communities. And it certainly won’t stop an Islamophobe like Peter King from ignoring reality.