Published December 09, 2011
Two prominent senators chided the Obama administration for releasing a strategic plan on homegrown terror that doesn't mention radical Islam and likens domestic extremism to "gang violence" and "sexual offenses."
The 24-page plan, released Thursday, follows a Defense Department letter in October that classified the Fort Hood massacre as "workplace violence."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, criticized that classification at a hearing earlier this week, and along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., issued the statement Thursday questioning why the Obama administration omitted Islam from its latest document.
"We also continue to be disappointed by the administration's refusal to identify violent Islamist extremism as our enemy," the statement said. "To understand this threat and counter it, we must not shy away from making the sharp distinction between the peaceful religion followed by millions of law-abiding Americans and a twisted corruption of that religion used to justify violence."
The strategic plan on battling "violent extremism in the United States" focused on engaging local law enforcement and communities, and on countering "extremist propaganda." It pledged to put together a "task force of senior officials" to work with local communities that could be targeted for recruitment and radicalization.
The document made clear reference to radical Islam without using the term. It repeatedly mentioned Al Qaeda, naming terrorism "inspired by" Al Qaeda and its affiliates as the top priority, while noting "free societies face threats from a range of violent extremists" and stating the plan would be applied "to prevent all forms of violent extremism."
The document aligns with past administration statements. President Obama repeatedly has stressed that the U.S. is not "at war" with Islam. While aggressively targeting Al Qaeda leaders around the world and hammering the point in speech after speech that his goal is to dismantle Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Obama and his advisers have been cautious about using the word "Islamic" to describe the threat.
But congressional sources told Fox News they were dismayed at the language used to describe homegrown extremism, particularly a line that appeared to lump the threat in with other domestic problems.
The report said: "Just as we engage and raise awareness to prevent gang violence, sexual offenses, school shootings, and other acts of violence, so too must we ensure that our communities are empowered to recognize threats of violent extremism and understand the range of government and nongovernment resources that can help keep their families, friends, and neighbors safe."
Lieberman and Collins, the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said they remain "troubled" that the administration has not assigned one agency to take the reins on "the national effort to counter violent Islamist extremism at home."
Still, they praised the administration for taking "positive steps" to counter propaganda and coordinate with local communities. By their count, there have been 33 cases of homegrown terror plots since 2009, resulting in 14 American deaths.
While lawmakers criticize the language being used by the administration to describe security threats, Obama has stepped up his defense of the actions he's taken to protect the country.
Under fire from Republican presidential candidates, Obama on Thursday rebuffed criticism that he engages in a policy of appeasement.
"Ask Usama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top Al Qaeda leaders who've been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that," Obama said.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.