On Sunday’s episode of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” New York Republican Rep. Peter King and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison sparred over whether or not it would be justified to surveil the Muslim community for potential acts of terrorism in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.
King pointed to efforts by the New York Police Department where they have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks.
“The NYPD is doing it in New York with 1,000 police officers focusing on this issue, knowing where the threat is coming from,” King said. “Now, most Muslims are outstanding people, but the threat is coming from the Muslim community. Just yesterday [New York Times columnist] Tom Friedman, who is certainly no conservative, said, ‘We must ask the question only Muslims can answer: What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes every military action in the Middle East justifies a violent response?’”
“It’s coming from the community,” King continued, “and in previous times when certain elements in the community are the ones responsible for crime, the police focused on it. For instance in Boston, the FBI never spoke to the Boston police about the older brother. And afterwards there was no intelligence files in Boston on these types of people, these people inclined to terrorism. The FBI never even got to examining him.”
But Ellison, a Muslim, protested the idea, not just on civil libertarian grounds but by saying it would be an ineffective means to detect a threat. He also likened such tactics to Japanese internment during the second World War.
“Well, I’m an American, and I’m concerned about national safety, public safety, just like everyone is,” Ellison said. “But I think it’s ineffective law enforcement to go after a particular community. I think what we need to do is look at behavior and follow those leads where they would lead. So, like if Tamerlan Tsarnaev is evidencing dangerous behavior, by all means, go after him. But once you start saying we’re going to dragnet or surveil a community, what you do is you ignore dangerous threats that are not in that community and you go after people who don’t have anything to do with it.”
“And so let me just finish up with this one point,” he continued. “And so this ricin attack, for example, that’s an act of terrorism. That doesn’t come out of the Muslim community. We don’t have enough law enforcement resources to just go after one community and, remember, we went after a community in World War II, and the Japanese interment is a national stain on our country, and we are still apologizing for it.”
King said it wasn’t internment and maintained keeping an eye on the Muslim community was constitutional.
“No one is talking about interment,” King replied. “We’re talking about following the Constitution. What the NYPD is doing, they have 1,000 cops working on counter-terrorism. 16 plots against New York have been stopped. If any of those had gone through — hundreds or thousands of people dead.”