House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y. presided over the committee's hearing Wednesday on Islamic radicalization in the United States.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Short take: Peter King vs. Keith Ellison

  • Article by: SCOTT GILLESPIE
  • Star Tribune
  • July 27, 2011 - 4:54 PM

U.S. Rep. Peter King takes his last name a little too seriously.

The New York Republican is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and he’s very concerned about Islamic radicalization. So concerned, in fact, that he held yet another hearing on the topic Wednesday as a sequel to a similar session in March.

There’s no doubt the subject is worthy of thoughtful, objective congressional scrutiny. Those who too quickly write off the inquiry should take time to study the homegrown radicalization of Twin Cities men with connections to Al-Shabab, the terrorist group with links to Al-Qaida.

Earlier this month, a sixth person pleaded guilty in what officials have called “Operation Rhino,’’ the counterterrorism investigation into how local Somalis were recruited to their homeland to fight for Al-Shabab. Since the probe started, at least nine Minnesota men are believed to have been killed while fighting in Somalia.

It’s understandable that King’s Homeland Security committee would pay attention. Federal law enforcement officials have had the Twin Cities on the radar for years, and King invited William Anders Folk, a former prosecutor in the Twin Cities, and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith to testify.

Where King failed the credibility test — in addition to his record of anti-Muslim rhetoric —was in his refusal to hear from those who might disagree with him.

In orchestrating Wednesday’s lineup,King stiffed Rep. Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who pointed out in a letter that his Fifth District has the largest Somali community in the country. King responded that the meeting is an extension of the March hearing, at which Ellison did testify.

The Minnesota congressman deserved a seat at the table because of his work with local and federal law enforcement. The fact that he’s Muslim only adds value to his views.

Nevertheless, in a clear congressional kiss-off, King denied Ellison’s request and asked him to submit easily ignored written testimony.

Given the level of partisan dysfunction in Washington, King’s treatment of Ellison is no surprise. In return, the New Yorker should expect his motives to be called into question.

Scott Gillespie is the Star Tribune's editorial page editor.

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