"Is America facing a terrorist threat from Muslim extremists, located either in the U.S. or overseas? The evidence would cause a logical person to say yes, the threat does in fact exist.
Should we talk about it? Or perhaps have hearings within the Homeland Security Committee on Capitol Hill to possibly better understand the nature of the threat?
This is the point where the wheels come off the logic train. The threat exists, but much like that evil character Voldemort in the "Harry Potter" series, it's the threat that dare not be named.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King, now the head of the House Homeland Security Committee, has upset the sensitivities of sensitive people by speaking aloud what the majority have been too cowed to mutter. His determination to hold hearings examining the nature and extent of the threat to homeland security from radical, extremist jihadist elements such as the Internet phenomenon Imam Awlaki, has highly agitated those who fear that referring to Voldemort will unleash the ghosts of Joe McCarthy, Salem Witch Hunters and Zombie Islamophobists.
Some of the critics opposed to the hearings claim that by singling out Muslim extremism, Congressman King is wrongfully slurring an entire religion. Well, aside from the fact that everyone has contorted themselves painfully to assure the Muslim world over the past decade that right thinking people understand the threat comes from a minority that holds radical, violent, extremist (feel free to insert any other popular caveats) views, would those same people complain if Congressman King was holding hearings on the extent and nature of the threat from extreme right wing militias? The logical answer here would be "no," they would not complain.
Those opposed to the hearings also like to point out that Muslim extremists had nothing to do with tragic incidents such as Columbine, Virginia Tech or the recent Tucson shootings. That's true. Well done for pointing out the obvious. Here's the rub...shootings by psychotic wingnuts such as Jared Loughner are indeed a form of terror. No doubt. But these individuals aren't being targeted by an outside group intent on reaching and recruiting impressionable individuals for acts of terror. The only voices these shooters listen to are in their heads.
A key reason for studying the threat from Muslim extremism is that there is an organized, persistent effort by Al Qaeda and others loosely associated with the jihadist agenda to proselytize. Their mission is to find new recruits, preferably recruits living outside the Middle East who are able to blend in to Western environments and cross borders. It would thus seem only logical that we would want to understand how their efforts are impacting the Muslim American communities.
The most effective way to counter the extremist outreach program is to work closely with the Muslim American communities around the country. Law enforcement officials often cite community policing as the most important aspect of law and order.
Frankly, there has been significant cooperation over the past decade from Muslim American communities and their leaders. Could the cooperation be better from both sides, meaning community leaders and those responsible for homeland security? Of course. Is it likely that you can improve cooperation through a more open dialogue and a better understanding of the threat? Seems logical.
So why the vitriol? Why the inability to be specific when describing the threat that we want to better understand? If we don't dare talk about it, for fear of offending those who refuse to acknowledge the nature of the threat, what are the chances the threat will simply go away?"
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe.
Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector and has recently returned to Diligence LLC, a company he cofounded in 2000, as president.
He appears frequently in the media as an expert on counterterrorism, intelligence and homeland security.
Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.