Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) slammed Congressman Peter King (R-NY) on Fox News Sunday for trying to link the Boston bombers, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to Islamic extremists without any evidence. (Related story: CAPTURED: Second Boston Bombing Suspect in Police Custody)
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace interviewed the two politicians on the news show where the New York politician justified targeting Muslim communities for investigations. “Listen, the threat is coming from within the Muslim community in these cases,” King said. “In New York, that’s why Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly has 1,000 police officers out in the community. Unfortunately, he gets smeared by the New York Times and the Associated Press (AP), but the fact is we’ve stopped 16 plots in New York because we know that al-Qaeda is shifting its tactics…If you know where the threat is coming from that’s where you have to look.”
Feinstein argued in favor of allowing the investigation to do its work. “Well, that’s exactly where they will look. I don’t think all of this is very helpful. I think the important thing is to get the facts. Let the investigation proceed. The FBI has very good interrogators. They know what they are doing and I believe that they will put a case together that will be very strong,” Feinstein said. “With respect to whether we are doing enough in the Muslim community, I think we should take a look at that, but I don’t think we need to go and develop some real disdain and hatred on television about it.”
Wallace stepped in at that point and told Feinstein, “I don’t think that’s what Congressman King was saying. He was saying that’s where the threat is coming from and we have to address the threat.”
But Feinstein pointed out that there was no evidence establishing the involvement of a Muslim community. “Well, this came at this point from two individuals. That’s what we really do know. We do not know what their connections are so I think we ought to find out before we begin to charge them with all kinds of associations.”
Wallace then asked Feinstein, who is one of the strongest advocates for a ban on assault weapons, about people’s access to guns. “There are some conservatives who say – some conservatives who say that, when a million people in Boston were forced to stay in their homes, that a lot of those people – particularly in Watertown where they (the police) were going door to door and there was a real concern that this fellow might be on the loose, might break into their house, might take hostages – would people like to have guns?”
“Oh, some may have, yes,” Feinstein replied without skipping a beat. “But if where you're going is do they need an assault weapon? I don't think so. As the vice president said …”
Wallace interrupted with another question. “Shouldn't they have the right to decide whatever weapon they feel they need to protect themselves?”
“Well, how about a machine gun then?” Feinstein retorted. “We did away with machine guns because of how they're used. I think we should do away with assault weapons because of how they're used.”
While King supports increased surveillance of Muslim communities, the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) targeting of Muslim communities by its “Demographics Unit” stirred a huge controversy in 2011 when the Associated Press released a report on its investigation of the undercover project. The investigation found that the NYPD put American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, shopped, prayed and worked, infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants everywhere, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their religion. The detailed descriptions in documents the news agency collected undercut the NYPD's claim that its officers only follow leads when investigating terrorism.
In a lawsuit following the release of the report, the NYPD acknowledged in court testimony that its spying on Muslim neighborhoods for more than six years did not generate a lead or trigger a terrorism investigation.
This is not the first time King has targeted Muslims – or other minority groups – without evidence. In his enthusiasm to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian nations on their sovereign lands, King joined a chorus of Republican legislators in 2008 in broad unsubstantiated allegations linking Indian nations’ cigarettes sales to groups listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. The allegations were based largely on a report of an “investigation” prepared by the Republican staff of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. But King, the ranking member of the committee, had launched the investigation making its outcome questionable from the start. (Related story: Politician’s Unsubstantiated Indian Tobacco-Terrorist Link Targets Oneida)