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Key GOP lawmaker blasts Obama administration for downplaying terrorism

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Texas Rep. Mike McCaul (r.) believes Janet Napolitano and the Obama administration mince words when it comes to terrorism. (AP)

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, is wasting no time with niceties when it comes to the Obama administration, which he says has a disturbing tendency to downplay terrorism.

The 50-year-old Republican, who will take over for Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has already scheduled a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and he has a laundry list of complaints - topped by what he considers the Obama administration's downplaying of terrorism.

"There is definitely an attempt to downgrade the threat by the administration."

- Texas Rep. Mike McCaul

"There is definitely an attempt to downgrade the threat by the administration," McCaul told FoxNews.com. "They don't use the 'T' word."

The administration has been criticized for branding the 2009 Fort Hood shootings as "workplace violence," even though the gunman who killed 13 people, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, was an Islamic extremist who had been in contact with radical Muslm cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The administration has also been criticized for downplaying Al Qaeda's links to the September attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

McCaul charged the Homeland Security Department is "mismanaged, dysfunctional and wasting money," and he called Napolitano immediately after his appointment to schedule the sit-down next week.

"It's an important and difficult job to run this department, but I think she can be doing a better job," McCaul told FoxNews.com.

A former U.S. attorney and chief of counterterrorism and national security for the Justice Department, McCaul has represented Texas' 10th Congressional District since 2005. He previously was chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management for the House Homeland Security Committee.

McCaul, the son-in-law of Clear Channel boss Lowry Mays, was named the second-richest member of Congress in 2010 with an estimated net worth of $380 million. He was picked over fellow Republicans Candice Miller of Michigan and Mike Rogers of Alabama to replace King, who was unable because of term limits to keep the chairman seat after holding it seven years.

"I know that he (McCaul) is committed to securing our homeland from terrorism and ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security acts in an effective and responsible manner," King said. “During my tenure as chairman, I am proud to have focused on the threat posed to our homeland by Islamist terrorists and to have gotten the Department of Homeland Security to allocate vital homeland security grant funds in a risk-based fashion.” 

On Nov. 15, McCaul released a report drawing the connection between Iran and Hezbollah's growing presence in Latin America, and their relationship with Mexican drug cartels based on DEA intelligence.   

"The presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America represents a strategic migration to position terrorist operations within striking distance of the United States," McCaul reported. "It's not speculation, it's true they are working with the drug cartels."

Both the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican government have denied the presence of Islamic extremist groups in Mexico.

An area McCaul would like to see addressed is the policy of using deadly force by the Border Patrol, which has come under fire and is being investigated by the Homeland Security inspector general in the wake of a fatal cross-border shooting of a Mexican teen in October.

"I do think they need greater clarity for their rules of engagement," McCaul said.

The Border Patrol has reportedly killed seven people on the Mexican side of the border since 2010, some of them teens who were allegedly throwing rock at agents.

McCaul said he will be leading a delegation to the inauguration Saturday of Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, with whom McCaul has face-to-face time scheduled.

The topics the two are planned to discuss are border security and trade.

"His party, PRI, has a history of being friendly with the cartels," McCaul said.

Nieto has yet to clarify his approach to dealing with the cartels. There has been speculation he will downplay the major operations against the heads of the organizations and step up efforts on the street level.