The Radicalization of Peter King

| Mon Dec. 20, 2010 1:31 PM EST

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), last seen calling WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, is back in the news after annnouncing plans to hold hearings next year on the radicalization of America's Muslim communities. King believes Muslim leaders have been less than helpful in combatting extremists in their ranks, and he'd like to find out why.

The timing is a little curious: Just two weeks ago, members of a mosque in Orange County became so concerned about a possible extremist in their ranks, they reported him to the FBI (It turned out he was an FBI agent; this is basically Fletch for the terror age). But the larger issue is King, whose ability to spot terrorists is unmatched. That is, he constantly spots terrorists where there are none at all, like an Icelandic clairvoyant tasked with inspecting construction sites for the presence of elves. Here's what he told Sean Hannity back in 2004, for instance, while promoting his novel, Vale of Tears:

"I would say, you could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists...Those who are in control. The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police."

80-85 percent! Run for your lives!

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But there's more to the story. In the '80s and 90s, King was himself captivated by a bearded, charismatic leader dismissed by many as a radical extremist. King's friend was driven by an unshakable religious conviction, and a centuries-long list of grievances; his network was known for its brutality—dismembered digits were a hallmark—and for the fear they instilled among the general public. Oh, and bombings. Especially the bombings.

Although he's since severed his ties to the group, for most of his career King viewed the Irish Republican Army, and its political mouthpiece Gerry Adams, as freedom fighters, and believed this so fervently, he spoke at fundraisers for an aid organization that had been accused of funnelling money to the organization. From the New York Sun:

[King] once called the IRA "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland," he was banned from the BBC by British censors for his pro-IRA views, and he refused to denounce the IRA when one of its mortar bombs killed nine Northern Irish police officers...

The GOP in Nassau tried, unsuccessfully, to muzzle him, and he complained that the FBI was opening mail sent from Ireland, including letters from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. In 1984, the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.

Emphasis mine. Plenty of American politicians have expressed their sympathy for Irish Republicans. But to my knowledge, King's the only one to ever dismiss an IRA hit as a "pub dispute." All of which is just to say that, for a man who sees terrorists everywhere he looks, King's actual record of confronting terrorism is a wee bit dodgy.