By Elaine S. Povich
Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King said Wednesday that efforts to convert American prisoners to a perverse form of the Muslim faith have created "an assembly line of radicalization" that has increased the risk of homegrown terrorist attacks.
Democrats, however, maintained that gang activity behind bars is at least as big a problem.
In his second hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, King (R-Seaford) called several witnesses from law enforcement who ticked off cases of Muslims who were "radicalized" in prison and had plotted violence against the United States. They included:
Michael Finton, who pleaded guilty to plotting to assassinate Rep. Aaron Schock (D-Ill.) and destroy the federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill.;
James Cromitie, who will be sentenced Thursday for conspiracy to attack troop transports at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y., and to attack a synagogue and Jewish community center in New York City;
Kevin James, who formed a jihadi group and hatched a terror plot from behind bars at Folsom Prison in California.
Kevin Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney in California, told the committee that James "quarterbacked the plot, created the plot, from prison. He was able to set up the operational cell in Southern California," where targets included Los Angeles International Airport.
But Democrats and some civil rights groups criticized King for singling out Muslims in his hearing.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, said that to "single out one group is discriminatory," when other radical groups including neo-Nazis, White supremacists and Asian and Hispanic gangs also present threats.
King replied curtly: "I disagree with the gentlelady 100 percent. She is entirely wrong." Richardson tried to respond but King gaveled her down, saying her allotted time had expired.
After the hearing, King noted that gangs "are a tremendous evil. For the purpose of this hearing, the difference between the Bloods and the Crips and the radical jihadists coming out of prison are that the jihadists are allied with a foreign enemy."