Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca
says his police department gets considerable assistance from the American Muslim community in terror investigations and intelligence provided has helped thwart an unknown number of attacks. Baca is scheduled to testify at a Thursday congressional hearing on American Muslim radicalization.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., has said part of the reason he called for the radicalization hearings is police and counterterrorism officials get little help from an uncooperative Muslim American community and its leaders. Baca, and others, question the assertion.
“The Muslim American community, shortly after 9/11, came together within two days and rallied, and were helpful at that point of confusion that the United States was experiencing,” Baca
Tuesday told CNN’s John King. “Also, the community, after the London bombings in 2005, formed the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress, to be a further outreach group within their own culture and their own ethnic organizations.
“And we here in the Los Angeles area have been fortunate to have a Muslim American public affairs unit made up of Muslim deputy sheriffs, who go to all the mosques and the various community gatherings to build public-trust relationships, and thereby have the ability to help each other in times of need,” he said.
CNN’s King asked Baca to be specific and how many attacks were actually prevented,
“Well, we're blessed – we're blessed to not have any attacks at this point,” Baca said. “But, remember, the 9/11 bombers and the aircraft that were used were coming towards Los Angeles. And we don't know if they had alternative plans had they not hit their targets. But, more importantly, what we're talking about here is an outreach system that has resulted in some data that we all have to reflect on.”
CNN contributor Fran Townsend, who served as homeland security adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks, was asked whether Rep. King was on the right track – or could the Muslim American community become alienated by the congressional hearing, which critics say demonizes an entire group.
“I wish I could tell you this is an either/or question. Both are true,” Townsend said. “There's no question that radicalism is an issue, a real threat here in the United States. You have to look no further than the Fort Hood shooter – a Muslim American who was radicalized by Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni cleric – and shot his fellow soldiers. And so, it is definitely a threat and an issue that must be looked at and must be examined very closely.
“By the same token, there are Muslim Americans all around the country, in Los Angeles and all around the country, that have been helpful,” Townsend continued. “Look at the parents of the individuals in Northern Virginia, when they went to Pakistan, they were reported to the FBI by their parents.
“And so, there are instances and examples where you can point to where Muslim Americans have really stepped up to help law enforcement identify the threats in their own communities.”
Baca also was asked on the need for a congressional hearing.
“I think the hearings provide an opportunity for us to talk about a serious subject in the United States. It's 10 years since 9/11 … and I think that all of us need to realize that even Muslims were shocked – and Muslims were killed – as victims of the 9/11 attacks,” Baca said. “What I believe is that we have to go forward and update ourselves with all the effort that's being made by local law enforcement to reach out and bring public trust policing into the lives of Muslim Americans.”
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