At the first joint hearing between the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees Wednesday, members examined the threat of homegrown terrorism to military communities inside the United States and vowed to change the law so domestic military victims of violent Islamist extremism can be awarded the Purple Heart.
The only Americans who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks on the homeland since 9/11 and the anthrax attacks have been killed at U.S. military facilities. Private William Long was the first soldier shot and killed in the U.S., by violent Islamist extremists, outside a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting station June 4, 2009. His father, Daris Long, testified before the Committees and described in heart-rending detail the circumstances of his son's murder and the military's refusal to award him a Purple Heart because he was not killed in battle.
"The record shows that the United States military has become a direct target of violent Islamist extremism here in the U.S.," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said. "And that means soldiers and perhaps their families are potentially vulnerable at work and at rest, in a military setting or a civilian one, on a base or off a base, at a recruiting station, or a military hospital. It is a reality and a fact that American service members are increasingly in the terrorists' scope--and not just overseas.
"This is yet another reason we must call the enemy what it is -- the ideology of violent Islamist extremism. Our government, time and again, has declined to identify the threat specifically and accurately. We do no service to the vast majority of Muslims who serve in the military honorably by declining to make the distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism."
King said: "Today's joint hearing with Sen. Joe Lieberman on military radicalization was extremely vital. It demonstrated the threat of Islamist infiltration of our military and attacks against members of the military here at home. Our troops volunteer to go into harm's way overseas to protect all of us -- they should not be in harm's way here at home, and yet they are. Following my Committee's three prior hearings on the serious threat of violent Islamist radicalization, I appreciate Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Collins joining in this hearing as we work to combat this persistent and enduring threat."
In addition to Private Long, 12 other soldiers and one civilian were killed at Fort Hood November 5, 2009, bringing the tally of domestic military victims of violent Islamist extremism to 14.
Lieberman and House Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., both members of the defense authorization conference committee, vowed to work with the rest of the conferees to change the law so Private Long and the victims for the Fort Hood attack can receive the Purple Heart medal.
The Senate Committee conducted an investigation into the failures that led to the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, culminating in a report that detailed the failures of the Department of Defense and FBI to act on compelling evidence and prevent the attack.
With Daris Long, other witnesses at the hearing were Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs; Jim Stuteville, Army Senior Advisor for Counterintelligence Operations and Liaison to the FBI; and Lieutenant Colonel Reid Sawyer, Director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.