Peter King, the New York Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has been a good friend to those of us who work to protect American national security. In launching an investigation into the ideology that fuels the Islamist threat against the United States, he has had the courage to go where Congress has been too intimidated to go before. Still, with the second round of his committee's hearings on "radicalization" having been completed, it is necessary to question his approach.
The committee has kept on the sidelines the peerless analysts Steven Emerson and Robert Spencer, who were sounding the alarm before most people in this country knew there was an Islamist threat — very much including most people in our government. King holds the work of these experts in high regard. Yet, he has decided the public's understanding is better served by calling as his main witnesses (a) Muslims, who can give a firsthand account of what goes on in their communities, and (b) law-enforcement officials, current and former, who've designed and carried out what passes for the counterterrorism strategy followed by police agencies throughout the country — basically, terrorism investigations and Muslim outreach.
There are serious problems with this approach. Hearing from Muslims is obviously important, but to limit the committee to their input on what's happening inside the Islamic community is to fall for the fallacy that you have to be a member of the group to grasp and explain the group's dynamics. If that were true, why would anyone care what King's analysis is? Congress is not a Muslim body, so why would its insights be any more valuable than those of experts like Emerson and Spencer?