September 13, 2011, 3:40 PMPeter King in the Hot Seat — in London
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
Representative Peter T. King testified about terrorism on Tuesday before a legislative committee, but the committee was in London, not Washington, and the New York Republican found himself the uncomfortable object of tough questioning. In a hearing on “Roots of Violent Radicalization,” Mr. King was asked about his own past support for the Irish Republican Army.
The radicalization of immigrants has been a matter of intense discussion in Britain, particularly after this summer’s riots. Parliament’s interest was drawn to Mr. King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, because of the high-profile hearings he has held on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans, some of whom bitterly protested that he was unfairly singling them out.
In London, before a House of Commons select committee, Mr. King defended those hearings, saying he “would not back down to political correctness” when dealing with “a dangerous problem.”
But then Mr. King found himself on the hot seat. A Labour Party member, David Winnick, asked about the period when Mr. King, a Long Island politician with strong Irish-American support, drew the attention of authorities on both sides of the Atlantic for his close ties to leading I.R.A. figures during its violent campaign against British control of Northern Ireland.
Mr. Winnick told Mr. King that there had been “some surprise in the United States but also in Britain that you have a job looking into and investigating into terrorism,” according to an account on Salon.com. He read a 1985 quote from Mr. King – “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it” – then asked him, “Do you stand by that?”
Mr. King said, “I stand by it in the context of when it was said,” before delivering a long and unapologetic response. He said that he had gotten to know the leaders of both sides well and thought the United States had an important role to play “as an honest mediator, as an honest broker,” a role he said he had been recognized for expediting.
“I was trying to put it in a perspective to show that there were people — that this is not just the terrorist mayhem it was made out to be — that there were significant leaders on the Republican side,” he said.
In the past Mr. King has called the I.R.A. “a legitimate force,” likening its struggle to that of the antiapartheid African National Congress in South Africa.
According to a statement Monday from Mr. King’s office, citing researchers in both Congress and the House of Commons, Mr. King was the first member of Congress to testify before a parliamentary hearing in London. It was unclear on Tuesday, after his decidedly mixed reception, how much he was able to savor that distinction.http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/peter-king-in-the-hot-seat-in-london/