King Critics Tweak His Hearings, Try to Keep Him 'On the Straight and Narrow'

Two of Peter King’s longtime critics took slightly different tacks on his controversial hearings last week, in a symposium on intelligence and security at N.Y.U. this morning.

Bennie Thompson, the ranking member and former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, was a little more critical than John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser who is trying to maintain a repaired relationship with one of his fiercest critics.

Thompson said he wasn’t especially impressed with the evidence presented by King.

“The witnesses put on by the chairman did not really set the woods on fire from the standpoint of scholarly research, and that’s an understatement,” said the Mississippi congressman.

(King’s panel included a Muslim leader from Arizona who shares his concerns about the threat of radicalism, and two relatives of individuals who were recruited into radical Muslim groups.)

Thompson was also critical of King during the hearing last week, but insisted that the two maintain a positive working relationship.

“We’re trying to keep Peter on the straight and narrow: it’s a full time job,” Thompson said.

“Actually, Peter and I get along very good, we just differ. Our committee historically has a reputation on the Hill for being one of the more agreeable committees; most of the legislation we’ve passed has been overwhelmingly bipartisan,” he said. “His Irish accent kind of overrides my Southern accent but beyond that, it’s alright. He’s… Peter.”

The administration has conveyed its displeasure with King’s hearings, without being quite as forceful as other Democrats in denouncing them. And this morning, Brennan took a more diplomatic approach.

“I think what came out of those hearing were a lot of comments, some that were informed and some that were particularly poignant as far as the feelings of individuals within those the communities who have the perception, as well as sometimes the reality, of being singled out,” Brennan said.

He and King had a contentious relationship when King served as the ranking member in the minority over the last few years, which culminated in King calling Brennan an “egomaniac.” But they smoothed things out with a phone call on the eve of the November elections.

Much of Brennan’s speech touted the ability for Article III, or civilian courts, to handle terrorist trials like the one involving alleged September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

“Justice needs to be served,” Brennan said. “This city in particular deserves to have justice for what was brought upon this country and this city in 2001. The longer we delay that and the longer the people, the victims, the families are going to feel that it is incomplete in terms of addressing that period in our history.”

After the speech, Brennan characterized his own remarks as “a forceful defense of the utility of Article III courts for the prosecution of terror suspects. I want to make sure people understand that our decision to go forward with military commissions is part of this framework of prosecutions of individuals who are charged with terrorism-related crimes.”

Brennan ended by cautioning that the county must remain vigilant against the threat.

“Al Qaeda is still determined to carry out a strategic attack against the United States,” Brennan said. “We know that they’re trying to have the ability to penetrate our defenses and conduct an attack that would have grave and major consequences in terms of loss of life and damages to our economy.”


King Critics Tweak His Hearings, Try to Keep Him 'On the Straight and Narrow'