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Entries in Hearings (6)

Monday
Jun032013

Congress to Hold IRS Hearings this Week

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Monday, a House Appropriations subcommittee will hear from Internal Revenue Service Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel about what steps the agency is taking to address the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and to hold those responsible accountable.

Also at the witness table will be J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

The House Ways and Means committee will hold their own hearing on Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS after some of those groups filed a joint lawsuit against the agency last week.

On Thursday, George will return to Capitol Hill to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “about a newly-released audit uncovering information about excessive spending at IRS conferences.”

The hearing comes roughly a week after the release of a video showing IRS officials line dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” at a 2010 agency conference in California.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr172012

Senate Holds First Racial Profiling Hearing in Post-9/11 Era

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing on racial profiling in the U.S. Tuesday, marking the first time the legislative body held an official forum on the issue since before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Two panels testified before a subcommittee responsible for civil rights matters; one was comprised of current members of Congress representing minority communities, and the second group was made up of current and former law enforcement officials and civil liberties professionals. Each tried to address a broad range of profiling issues, ranging from illegal immigration to the surveillance of Muslim communities in the name of anti-terror efforts.

During an address before Congress in February 2001, then-President George W. Bush told the chambers that racial profiling was “wrong and we will end it in America.”

Reflecting on that speech Tuesday, subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said that the 2001 terror attacks ended bipartisan agreement on the issue.

“In the national trauma caused by 9/11, we sometimes sacrificed liberty in the misguided notion that it would keep us safe,” he said.

At the center of Tuesday’s debate was proposed legislation that would make it illegal for law enforcement agencies to target an individual based solely on race or religion.

The “End Racial Profiling Act of 2011,” co-sponsored by Durbin, would also seek to terminate existing programs at both the federal and state level that openly use the tactic in their investigations. Neighborhood watch organizations would receive additional training under the law.

The bill was met with friction by some members of the panel, including a vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Calling the legislation “offensive” to law enforcement, Cpt. Frank Gale of the Denver police department told lawmakers that if enacted, the law would make it more difficult for officers and prosecutors to carry out otherwise-sound arrests of minorities.

“The bill is far too broad,” Gale said, stating he was concerned it would prohibit officers from exercising “legitimate” criminal investigations.

Gale, who himself is African-American, also criticized the act for proposing to cut funding to agencies that don’t comply with federal standards.

“How can we fight the battle if we also propose to deny these funds to agencies that need them?” he asked.

Gale blames media and activist movements for over-inflating the issue. He says most arrests occur after laws are broken.

Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union addressed Gale directly during his testimony, citing ACLU statistics from New York City to counter his argument.

“Your very optimistic assertion that all is well is just not borne out by the data that we already have,” Romero said. According to the ACLU, 88 percent of drivers stopped by New York police were eventually found to be innocent. In the overwhelming majority of incidents -- 87 percent -- blacks or Latinos were driving.

The bill is also supported by Richard Davis, police chief of East Palo Alto, Calif. As another black officer, Davis said he saw both sides of profiling. Calling the tactic ineffective, “sloppy” police work, he said law enforcement should focus on actual suspicious behaviors before making an arrest.

Davis said that as a black father, teaching his son how to drive included lessons on what to do if he encountered bias from police and was pulled over for so-called driving-while-black. The officer called it a “mandatory course for young men of color.”

This was the second time Davis testified on the matter, having been present for the original hearing in June 2001. He expressed fear that without federal legislation, the issue of racial profiling would continue as “business as usual” until another high-profile case -- such as the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida -- casts national spotlight on the issue.

Roger Clegg, of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, said he opposed profiling in a traditional law enforcement context, but claims critics are ignoring a “white elephant” regarding the practicality of legislation.

“I think we have to recognize that it is going to be tempting for police and individuals to profile so long as a disproportionate amount of street crime is committed by African-Americans,” Clegg said, adding that the problem is related to the number of black children born out of wedlock.

The comments drew audible murmurs from the room’s audience, prompting Durbin to call the room to order.

Clegg, a justice department official during the Reagan and Bush administrations, also stood by law enforcement monitoring of Arab and Muslim communities.

Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., largely reflected Clegg’s concerns regarding terrorism, and said he hoped sensitivity to the issue would not “unilaterally disarm ourselves.”

“What I hope we’ll do in the course of this discussion is not ignore the threats that do exist,” he said.

Regardless, the senator acknowledged that there is only a fine line separating civil liberties and national security; he said he hoped a bipartisan way forward on the proposed legislation could be found. All members of the panel agreed that profiling eroded trust between law enforcement and their communities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar102011

Muslim Congressman, Religious Leaders Rebuke King's Hearings

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., one of two Muslims serving in the House of Representatives, joined senior religious leaders from various religious communities, including Islam, Christianity and Judaism, in rebuking Thursday’s hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, saying it proved to be a setback for the country.

“At a time when we should be actively working together to strengthen relationships across the Muslim world to help fight extremism, Representative King's hearings risk tearing down some of the bridges that we have built,” Carson said in a press conference.  “These hearings weaken the very foundation upon which this country was built.”

Carson joined Congress in 2008 after winning a special election to fill the seat of his late grandmother, Congresswoman Julia Carson.  Carson’s opponent in the 2010 election, Marvin Scott, was accused of attacking Carson for his Muslim faith during the campaign, but Carson won the election and held onto his seat.

The faith leaders gathered on Capitol Hill to condemn the hearing for grouping the entire Muslim community as extremists.

“We also stand shoulder to shoulder in opposing the singling out of any one religious community in a way that would cast unwarranted suspicion on that part of the American population,” Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said.

They also acknowledged that any religious community could be singled out in the same manner as the American Muslim community.

One Muslim leader admitted that extremism may exist in some Muslim communities but argued it is not indicative of the entire Muslim population as a whole.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Mar102011

Hearings on Radicalization Among American Muslims Not the First

PeteKing [dot] House [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Thursday's House hearing on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" has created a firestorm of criticism by civil rights groups and Democrats who say that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is intentionally isolating Muslims.

Democrats and rights groups say he's guilty of "modern-day McCarthyism," and is using religion to divide Americans.

Critics had sought to have the scope of the hearings expanded beyond Islam to consider radical sects of other religious and belief groups too.

Despite the outcry, it should be noted that King’s hearing is not the first or the fifth or even the tenth hearing in Congress to tackle the issue of violent Islamic extremism.

Independent Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is himself a defense hawk, chaired a series of 14 hearings on "Violent Islamic Extremism" from his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. So Did Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Jane Harmon, D-Calif., who held six similar hearings.

Lieberman's hearings spanned from Sept. 2006 to Feb. 2011.

Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., says his hearings were different in that they examined the ideology of Islamic terrorism rather than spotlighting the Muslim community, but he called King's hearings "important."

In a statement, Lieberman said: "The problem has gotten worse, and thus there is more awareness of it. Chairman King's focus also appears to be on the responsibility of the Muslim American community for dealing with the threat of homegrown radicalization, whereas our focus was on the ideology that spawns Islamist terrorism," Lieberman said in a statement. "But the questions Chairman King is raising are important ones. Our government needs a more comprehensive approach to combating and preventing homegrown radicalization.  I have been saying that for years," he added. "Law enforcement, intelligence, and local police departments do an increasingly good job. But it's clear that if we're really going to prevent the radicalization of Muslim Americans, people within Muslim American communities must be alert to signs that somebody is beginning to turn in a radical direction and then work with others in the community and law enforcement to stop that person from carrying out an attack."

Lieberman continued: "My own hope is that these House hearings will lead to a better understanding of three things: One is the extremely small percentage of Muslim Americans who represent any threat to this country; the rest are patriotic and law-abiding.  Two, we need the Muslim American community to help us reduce this threat.  And three, the administration must issue a comprehensive strategy that engages the public and private sectors to confront and prevent the radicalization to Islamist extremism of people within the U.S."

While hearings of this nature are nothing new, what's different this time, civil rights groups say, is King's rhetoric. They also point to the title and witness list of the hearings, saying they more specifically target the American Muslim community rather than the threat of extremism itself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar102011

Holder Criticizes Focus of Rep. King Hearings on Muslim Radicalization

Chris Hondros/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- The afternoon before House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., kicks off hearings looking at the issue of radicalization of Muslims in America, Attorney General Eric Holder rebuffed allegations by Rep. King that members of the Muslim community had not been helpful to law enforcement in counterterrorism investigations.

At a Justice Department press conference on Wednesday, Holder said, “The Muslim community…have contributed significantly to the resolution of many things that we have resolved over the course last 12 to 18 months....Tips that we have received, information that has been shared has been critical to our efforts to disrupt plots that otherwise might have occurred.”

“What we have tried to do at the Justice Department is reach out to the Muslim Community, to establish relationships that otherwise might not have existed; to establish a dialogue so that information flows to us; so that information flows from us -- so there is a better understanding in the Muslim community about what the aims are of America’s law enforcement,” Holder said. “I think we’ve been pretty successful in that regard and we have a good relationship.”

Last year in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III discussed the importance of outreach efforts and said that in 2009 the FBI had created Specialized Community Outreach Teams to work with specific communities in the U.S. Mueller testified that the case of Somali youths who left the Minneapolis area in 2007 and 2008 to fight with the al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab network in Somalia led to the creation of these teams. 

In testimony Mueller said, “The FBI understands that protecting America requires the cooperation and understanding of the public. Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has developed an extensive outreach program to Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh communities to develop trust, address concerns, and dispel myths in those communities about the FBI and the U.S. government.”

Rep. King and his committee plans to hear testimony from Abdirizak Bihi, the founder of the Somali Education and Advocacy Center, about the youths who traveled overseas.

Asked if the hearings could polarize Americans -- and asked about Rep. King’s assertion that Holder himself is very concerned about radicalization, keeping him awake at night -- Holder said, “My focus is on individuals as opposed to communities and I think that is what we need to be focused on. What is it that drives individuals to do certain things? We don’t want to stigmatize, we don’t want to alienate entire communities, we need to focus on individuals and groups of individuals who might band together, who would try to harm American interests or American citizens, that is what this Justice Department is doing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan282011

House Dems Demand Gun Safety Hearings; Timing Inappropriate? 

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the recent Tucson shootings, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, called Friday on the chairman of the panel to hold hearings on gun safety, but the committee’s top Republican, Lamar Smith, says that the timing is “inappropriate” and could have a “prejudicing” effect on Jared Loughner’s ongoing criminal proceedings.

“We fully recognize and appreciate the sensitivity of the subjects raised by the recent tragedy in Tucson in which our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and 18 others were wounded or killed, including members of her staff, a Federal judge, and several other citizens,” the letter states. “However, we also believe it is not only possible, but imperative that Congress review the relevant issues in a civil and objective matter.”

Among the issues the group would like to review in the hearing are high-capacity ammunition magazines, mental health records of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and illegal drug use in the database.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, responded to the letter in a statement, saying that he believes it would be inappropriate to hold hearings so quickly after the Tucson shooting because it could interfere with Loughner’s prosecution.

“I appreciate the Minority’s interest in the NICS program.  And the Judiciary Committee should, at the appropriate time, undertake a review of the NICS system as a part of our oversight of Justice Department programs.  But to undertake such a review in the context of the tragic shooting in Arizona, as the Minority suggests, could have the unintended effect of prejudicing the ongoing criminal proceedings against Loughner in which his mental status is likely to be a key issue,” Smith states. “Jared Loughner has not been found to be mentally ill.  It is inappropriate for Congress to hold hearings on NICS that presume otherwise while Loughner is facing trial.”

Conyers, however, says that the shooting in Tucson only proves the urgency of the need to hold hearings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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