President Obama cautioned the nation not to rush to judgment about the Boston Marathon bombers. But that’s not stopping Republican Rep. Peter King.
King, who chairs the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, is urging authorities to beef up their surveillance of Muslims in the U.S. following Friday night’s arrest of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Police must “realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there,” the New York lawmaker told National Review.
King—who spearheaded controversial hearings on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans in 2011—also told CNN that “we can’t be politically correct. I think we have to see, has radicalization extended into the Chechen community?”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was taken into custody on Friday night in Watertown, Mass., after a day-long manhunt following an early-morning shootout with police in which his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed. The two are suspected of planting bombs that killed three people and injured more than 170 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
The ethnic Chechen brothers came to the U.S. in 2002 after fleeing the war-torn region. The two were born in the former Soviet territory now known as Kyrgyzstan. Those who knew the family have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had become a devout Muslim in the past few years.
Dzhokhar became a naturalized citizen in 2012, while Tamerlan had a green card and was reportedly hoping to become a citizen.
King is not the only Republican employing arguably Islamaphobic rhetoric this week. South Carolina’s Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Saturday that the Tsarnaev brothers were on a “jihad mission.”
“Radical jihadists are trying to attack us here at home,” the South Carolina Republican told Fox News. “Every day we face threats from radical Islamists and they are coming through our back yard and trying to radicalize American citizens.”
Meanwhile, Graham, King, and GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire have issued a joint statement urging President Obama to treat Dzhokhar as an “enemy combatant” so he can be held and questioned instead of being tried in a criminal court.
The GOP senators argued that a criminal trial would slow down the effort to extract information from Dzhokhar.
“The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent,” they said. “We should be focused on gathering intelligence from this suspect right now that can help our nation understand how this attack occurred and what may follow in the future. That should be our focus, not a future domestic criminal trial that may take years to complete.”
After Dzhokhar’s capture on Friday, President Obama cautioned about making rash decisions. “It is important we do this right. That is why we have investigations. We relentlessly gather facts. That is why we have courts.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said in a statement that the Obama administration should resist the calls to treat Dzhokhar as an enemy combatant.
“This is not a foreign national caught on an enemy battlefield, but an American citizen arrested on American soil. The Justice Department has demonstrated a far greater ability to successfully prosecute suspected terrorists in federal courts than the military commissions have thus far been able to show. Nothing must be done to compromise the public safety, the ability of prosecutors to seek justice for the victims or our constitutional principles,” he said.