by Lisa Piraneo, Director of Government Relations, ACT! for America
Yesterday, I attended a hearing in the House Select Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT (human intelligence), Analysis and Counterintelligence—or THACI for short. The focus of the hearing was to “Examine Political and Religious Entities in the Middle East”—in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.
As I did for the King hearing last month, I arrived on the Hill early to make sure I could get into the room. As an aside, yesterday’s hearing was actually held in the House Budget Committee room—to accommodate more people.
When I arrived, there were only two people waiting in line. This hearing—unlike the one held recently by Peter King on Muslim Radicalization—was only announced Tuesday of this week. Additionally, most hearings by the House Select Committee on Intelligence are closed to the public as they discuss matters that require various levels of security clearance. The hearing yesterday was one of the few that are “open,” allowing the public to attend and listen in. Though there were less people waiting to watch the discussion, there was certainly no shortage of security surrounding the room and at brief moment early on, there were actually more police surrounding the entrance to the room than people waiting in line to get in.
Fifteen minutes prior to the start of the hearing, we were allowed to enter the room and this time instead of being relegated to watching the discussion from an overflow room next door, I was able to grab a seat in the third row and again got ready to Tweet.
In her Opening Statement, Chairwoman Myrick noted that one of her primary reasons for holding the hearing was to shed more light on the Muslim Brotherhood, due to “confusion about the nature and degree” of their threat. Further, the Congresswoman stated, “I believe we must also look beyond tactics—whether they are violent or non-violent—and explore the root issue, their core beliefs and ideology. The 9/11 Commission Report states that ‘our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al-Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.’ That is why I believe that when we talk about the threat the Muslim Brotherhood poses, we must not merely look at whether they are violent or non-violent. We must also look at the extremist ideology they espouse and whether it leads to radicalization, and ultimately, acts of terrorism.”
Congresswoman Myrick hit the nail on the head when she said, “Our government is playing checkers while the Muslim Brotherhood is playing chess.”
During the course of the 2 hours, the Subcommittee heard from five witnesses: Lorenzo Vidino, a visiting Fellow at the Rand Corporation; Ahmed Subhy Mansour, President of the International Quranic Center; Tarek Masoud, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University; Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University.
Though the discussion was interrupted for about a half hour at one point, so the Members of Congress could go to the House Floor for a series of votes, the witnesses had plenty of time to speak about the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization—both in Egypt and the mid-East as well as here in the United States.
Congresswoman Myrick highlighted the Brotherhood’s Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood of North America—calling attention to the section that says the organization “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” In response, Lorenzo Vidino stated that there is clear evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is here and operating—and that the government really doesn’t know who the brotherhood is.
As I listened to the back and forth during yesterday’s congressional hearing, it struck me how critical the impact of the American grassroots, and in particular ACT! for America’s grassroots, have been on the issue of national security.
Consider this: Since the commencement of the 112th Congress, there has been a consistent drumbeat—at least in the House of Representatives—about the threat of radical Islam to our nation. Congressman Peter King has stated that he refuses to succumb to political correctness and that he intends to shed light on the issue of radical Islam in our nation. And he’s done just that. As promised, he held his first hearing on Muslim Radicalization on March 10th. He and his staff are gearing up for a second hearing on the issue, expected to be held next month — on the issue of radicalization within the U.S. prison system.
Yesterday, a little over one month later, I sat in a rare public hearing held by a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on Intelligence to listen to a discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood.
Why has so much attention been focused on these critical issues by our Federal elected officials? Because the American public is speaking up. They are asking questions and they are clear that they expect answers.
While we still have far to go, it appears that members of the 112th Congress have gotten off to a good start. Along with Representative King, Mrs. Myrick has also said that yesterday’s hearing was but a first step. She expects to hold subsequent hearings in her subcommittee on the Muslim Brotherhood and related matters. Like yesterday’s discussion, some will be “open” to the public and some will be “closed”—but the dialogue will at least continue and that is wonderful news.
Though I was extremely encouraged by the discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday, I was at the same time discouraged by the level of attendance by subcommittee members. As a former Hill employee, I understand how very busy days are in the House and Senate—and particularly the week before a long recess (the House and Senate will adjourn for the next two weeks for Easter/spring recess). The bottom line is the entire subcommittee should have been in attendance to discuss this critical issue—and, save for the series of votes that were called on the House Floor—they should have remained there for the entire discussion. They did not and, I feel, that is unacceptable.
What can be learned from this? While extremely important to the cause, information that comes out of hearings like those presented by Representatives Myrick and King are not enough. As a high-level congressional staffer told me recently, this problem will only be solved when the grassroots speak up loudly enough. The American people MUST stay vocal. They MUST continue to let their Members of Congress know that they expect our current national security policies to change. The current course is not sustainable and it is not acceptable.
Our representatives in the U.S. House and Senate are now listening to their constituents. They’ve learned from last year’s elections. They hear the concerns and frustration about issues like the economy, jobs, and health care. The roar about those subjects is almost deafening and, therefore, those issues are certainly front and center on the legislative agenda.
Will the same happen with the issue of national security and the threat of radical Islam here in our nation? What will our congressional representatives hear from their constituents about those issues? You can rest assured ACT! for America will do everything we can to ensure that our concerns are heard.
We are off to a good start very early on, with two solid congressional hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives in two powerful committees.