An evolving practice in Republican House campaigns against Democratic candidates is the use of Islamophobia: spreading the idea that there is a domestic terrorism threat from Muslims, and that the GOP can better protect the public from "the other."
Drawing on FOX News outlets, talk radio, suspect websites in the blogosphere -- and real events such as the controversy over the prospective building of a mosque near Ground Zero -- Republican House campaigns are becoming adept at transforming factoids and rumors in non-mainstream channels into reported "facts" in local mainstream media. One glaring example is found in the 9th Congressional District of North Carolina, represented by one of the most conservative members of the House and Tea Party caucus member, Sue Myrick. It includes the largest city in the state.
A Charlotte Observer editorial from Aug. 18 -- "Cynical Pols Playing with Religious Hatred" -- commendably criticized former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for taking note of how many Americans harbor hostile feelings toward Muslims, and then finding political traction in riding the bandwagon of peddling "religious paranoia, fear and hatred." Remarkably absent from the indictment, however, was the local congresswoman, Rep. Myrick, who has represented a safe Republican district for 16 years.
Yet she has repeatedly committed essentially the same Gingrich political trick, as evidenced by a trail of front-page stories in the largest paper in the Carolinas since the beginning of this election year. The latest example from the Charlotte Observer on Aug. 25: "Myrick: 'Homegrown' Terrorists are Working Within U.S." She sounded an alarm that she often repeats before local chambers of commerce, Republican women gatherings, and "town hall" meetings held in her district offices. These forums provide protective political cover; sometimes security guard "types" are hanging around.
How the Card Is Played
Two months ago, in the Observer's "Myrick Calls for Look into Terrorists on S.W. Border: Congresswoman Believes Hezbollah is in Mexico," June 30, it was reported that the representative had asserted in a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano: "I believe Hezbollah and the drug cartels may be operating as partners on our border." That department's spokesman replied that the U.S. "does not have any credible information on terrorist groups operating along the Southwest border."
In a cozy July 14 interview with Brian Kilmeade of Fox News -- watched by this writer -- Myrick, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, indicated that she had thus far refused the offer of an "intelligence briefing" on the alleged border threat because she did not want to be bound by secrecy. (A few days later, that portion of the interview had been elided from the clip!) She elaborated on her theory:
It really bothers me because here we are with a porous border, not really paying attention to who is coming over, what's happening with Iran and Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. We know that there are people going to Venezuela learning Spanish and then coming up through Mexico with fake documents trying to cross the border.
Tattooed Hezbollah Agents in Mexico?
Playing the xenophobic card has become part of Myrick's standard repertoire in sounding the alarm over the threat of terrorism at home with: a) dated tales of Hezbollah operatives with tattoos (in Persian) crossing the Mexican border; or b) headline-grabbing use of resuscitated old news reports about a local al Qaeda contact now living in Yemen. ("Myrick: U.S. Failed to Halt Area Jihadist," July 2; an oversight extending back several years into the previous administration, incidentally.) In the process, of course, she exploits her membership on the Intelligence Committee -- which she became a member of only last year -- while broadly criticizing the "intelligence community" in Washington. She has even called for a probe of Muslim intern "spies" working for members of Congress.
Does she really believe the national intelligence directorate would permit Hezbollah terrorists to roam and cross the southern border of the continental United States? Maybe this freshman member of the House Intelligence Committee is denied "compartmented" intelligence about the potentially extralegal, multi-agency, anti-terrorist "strike" squads that the U.S. covertly deploys in several foreign countries to subdue or kill (terminate with extreme prejudice) the enemy. They are not limited to Yemen or Somalia. She could have found out this "black arts" secret by closely reading the New York Times and the Washington Post, starting with the landmark "Top Secret America" series -- under Special Operations -- that ran in the Post this summer.
[Vide: Unconventional warfare or "SWAT" like non-military operations, including Air Force special tactics, Army special forces (Green Berets) and Rangers, Marine Corps special operations, Navy special warfare, including SEALs (sea-air-land); combat search and rescue; the specialized military-like organizations of the CIA, DEA, FBI, ICE, and other civil agencies; and the clandestine units and functions of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).]
So what is Rep. Myrick's purpose, other than to opportunistically spread fear and suspicion for political gain? Does she have any fresh information from credible sources? If she in fact learned of domestic terrorism dangers from top secret Intelligence Committee briefings and is now talking about them publicly, she is in serious violation of House rules, subject to reprimand if not expulsion. (Myrick: "This is not something I'm making up.")
If she recently received such information from a former intelligence agent or, say, a private detective -- or even a fringe website -- why did she not summon the DNI (director of national intelligence) or CIA or FBI directors before her oversight committee and demand answers? (In reference to the case of a former community college student, Samir Khan, Myrick said: "The intelligence community should have been able to discover that. And if they knew it and didn't do something, that raises more red flags.") Or, why did she not simply notify the FBI?
There are some real disconnects in Myrick's spun tales, unless perchance she is trying to have her cake and eat it, too. She lambastes the intelligence agencies -- offering no new evidence from her own sources -- while running around like Chicken Little shouting in effect nobody will tell you these things or nothing is being done. And she gets the ride she hopes for in local mainstream media, such as on the local CBS affiliate, WBTV. Hardline Anchor Molly Grantham has often conducted embarrassingly subservient, softball interviews -- as if taping a campaign commercial -- with the congresswoman on the danger of terrorists on the home front:
"They aren't doing anything, illegal," says Myrick.
"But they know that, don't they?" asked Grantham.
"Yes they do."
"They walk the fine line."
"They do," Myrick agreed.
"And they use our Constitution against us?"
"Yes," said Myrick, "They use our Constitution against us and they know just how far they can go."
[In the interest of full disclosure: In 1996, I unsuccessfully ran in the 9th C. D. Democratic primary for the nomination to oppose Rep. Myrick.]