Rad­i­cal Mus­lims re­cruit crim­i­nals in U.S. pris­ons

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY STEPHEN LEVY

Rad­i­cal Mus­lims are us­ing U.S. pris­ons to re­cruit hard­ened crim­i­nals for ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties, coun­tert­er­ror­ism ex­perts told Congress on June 15.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said the hear­ing was called be­cause “the dan­ger re­mains real and present, es­pe­cially be­cause of al Qaeda’s an­nounced in­ten­tion to in­ten­sify at­tacks within the United States.”

Re­cent at­tempted at­tacks by Is­lamist con­victs in Cal­i­for­nia, Florida and New York high­light the threat, he said.

Sev­eral law en­force­ment spe­cial­ists bol­stered his state­ments.

“The prison pop­u­la­tion is vul­ner­a­ble to rad­i­cal­iza­tion by the same agents re­spon­si­ble for rad­i­cal­iz­ing Amer­i­cans out­side of the prison walls,” said Pa­trick Dun­leavy, for­mer deputy in­spec­tor for crim­i­nal in­tel­li­gence for New York state pris­ons.

The tes­ti­mony be­fore the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee fol­lowed an ear­lier hear­ing in March on Is­lamic rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the United States that prompted protests by Is­lamic groups and com­mit­tee Democrats.

U.S. of­fi­cials have said sev­eral hun­dred Amer­i­cans, many of whom con­verted to Is­lam in prison, trav­eled in the past sev­eral years to Ye­men for ter­ror­ist train­ing with al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say these con­verts could be used by ter­ror­ists to more eas­ily pass through se­cu­rity screen­ing.

Four wit­nesses at the hear­ing said the num­ber of cases of prison in­mates turn­ing to rad­i­cal Is­lam was small but the prob­lem poses a se­ri­ous na­tional se­cu­rity threat.

“Rad­i­cal­iza­tion of even a small frac­tion of this pop­ula- tion holds high con­se­quence for Amer­i­cans and in­no­cent peo­ple around the world,” said Deputy Chief Michael P. Down­ing, com­man­der of coun­tert­er­ror­ism for the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment.

Kevin Smith, for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral for Cal­i­for­nia’s Cen­tral District, said rad­i­cal cler­ics who con­vert in­mates to their cause have passed along a dis­torted form of Is­lam he called “Pris­lam.”

The ex­perts dis­agreed about whether rad­i­cal­ized con­victs can com­mu­ni­cate with ter­ror­ists out­side prison, po­ten­tially in­creas­ing the dan­ger of co­or­di­nated at­tacks.

Bert Useem, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Pur­due Univer­sity, said prison authorities had be­come more ef­fec­tive at lim­it­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion in and out of their fa­cil­i­ties.

Mr. Dun­leavy dis­agreed and said, “De­spite ap­pear­ances, prison walls are por­ous.”

The hear­ing sparked de­bate of the topic of Is­lamic rad­i­cal­iza­tion be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats, with many Democrats stat­ing that hear­ing was too nar­rowly fo­cused.

“Lim­it­ing this com­mit­tee’s over­sight of rad­i­cal­iza­tion to one re­li­gion ig­nores threats posed by vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists of all stripes, and there are other threats to be con­cerned about,” said Rep. Ben­nie G. Thompson, Mis­sis­sippi Demo­crat and rank­ing mem­ber.

Rep. Laura Richard­son, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said the com­mit­tee was un­justly sin­gling out Mus­lims in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

Mr. King said an ear­lier hear­ing trig­gered “mind­less hys­te­ria” by op­po­nents of the hear­ing.

“Coun­ter­ing Is­lamic rad­i­cal­iza­tion should not be a par­ti­san is­sue,” he said. “I would urge my Demo­cratic col­leagues to rise above par­ti­san talk­ing points.”

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can

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