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Wisconsin: From Showdown to Lockdown; Muslim Radicalization Hearing Ends; 'Q&A'
Aired March 10, 2011 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Faith, freedom, homeland security and politics all part of this highly controversial hearing on the radicalization of American-Muslims. Now the hearing wrapped up moments ago after testimony from lawmakers, activists and relatives of American-Muslim kids who turned to terror.
Right there, you're looking at video from moments ago of Peter King leaving the hearing room.
We knew there would be emotion and pushback from those who feel that Muslims are being unfairly singled out, some who say that they have been left out of this debate. Arguments, claims and debates we've heard for days now, though, couldn't prepare us for the testimony of the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, Keith Ellison; he's a Democrat of Minnesota.
He struggled when telling the story about a 23-year-old New York police cadet and part-time medic who died at Ground Zero. His name was Mohammad Salman Hamdani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try to help others on 9/11. After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character, solely because of his Islamic faith.
Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers because he was a Muslim. But it was only when his remains were identified that have these lies were exposed.
Muhammad Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.
I yield back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We're going to bring you much more from Capitol Hill over the course of the next hour.
First, I want to take you to Madison, Wisconsin, and the fallout from some are calling the nuclear option.
Remember that standoff over the so-called budget repair bill that would strip most public workers of most of their union bargaining rights? Well, it's almost a done deal.
Last night, state Senate Republicans passed the bill on their own after taking out a few fiscal provisions that required a larger quorum. Now, that's how it went down. This is how it's going over -- not very well with union members, teachers and other critics of Wisconsin's governor and majority lawmakers.
Late this morning, police moved to lock the Capitol down and clear the protesters out. That's ahead of a final vote in the state assembly which was supposed to happen two hours ago. It's still expected sometime today.
We'll of course cover it when it does. But before we go much further, let me show you, let me tell you, remind you what this fuss is all about.
The Wisconsin bill would let public employees negotiate wages only, not working conditions or anything else. It would limit pay raises to the inflation rate unless there's a public referendum. It would sharply increase worker contributions to health CAIR and pension funds, and workers in fact have agreed to that. It would also bar unions from deducting dues from members' paychecks.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in the thick of things and joins me now for "Two and the Top."
Last we talked, Ed, things were getting a little loud, a little hot behind you. What's happening right now?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ali, the last time we talked the assembly members hadn't even convened in the assembly hall that was just up there. We now understand that all of the members of the assembly are in there, and they started the process of beginning to vote.
What's interesting here is just a little while ago, one of the speakers here into the crowd asked everyone to turn around and face toward the assembly hall that is up there, and that's why you see everyone chanting. Those members who are in there can clearly hear what is going on outside here.
And just to kind of give you a sense of how tense it is, the Republican Speaker had started off debate essentially shutting off debate, introducing the bill that was controversially passed out of the Senate last night, and now a Democratic legislator is speaking and criticizing the Speaker for bringing this bill to a vote here. So all of that slowly playing out upstairs. We thought it was going to be a much faster development here.
Several hours ago is when this vote was supposed to have been held, but it has not been held so far. But it seems like we're here on the verge of holding this vote here shortly, Ali. So you can see people shouting and hear people shouting "Shame!" toward the gallery windows that are over there.
And before all of this started, in the tense morning hours, several protesters forcibly removed from the area just outside the assembly area, and a lot of those people are now being held back here from being up close to where the gallery windows are. So, all of these people here -- and it's also been extremely tense outside from, where several hours this morning, people were not allowed to come inside the Capitol building. And that created quite a bit of tension outside, where several thousand more protesters have been camped out throughout the day -- Ali.
VELSHI: All right, Ed. We will come back to you if that vote starts to happen, the final passage. Let us know. We'll come back and get the reaction from around there, live, when it's happening.
Ed Lavandera is in the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, following this vote that's about to happen.
VELSHI: All right. Fighting terrorism overseas and in our own back yard. Up next, we'll talk to a former CIA officer who says terrorists are at their weakest point right now, and now is the time to strike.
VELSHI: During today's hearings on the radicalization of Muslim- Americans we didn't hear from the FBI or CIA on the possible threat of homegrown terrorism. We're going to in a moment. But here is Peter King. He is the chairman of the committee.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: This mike? OK. OK.
Thank you all for being here.
This was an extremely productive, worthwhile hearing. I am more convinced than ever that it was the appropriate hearing to hold.
I think we broke down a wall of political correctness on an issue which has to be addressed. And today, I can not in any overly modest way and not to reflect on Mr. Lungren and Mr. Marino, who were here today, but the committee members were really -- we were the observers today. Those who made the hearing what it was, who provided the testimony that was needed, who provided an insight into the threat that most directly affects the Muslim-American community were the witnesses today.
And I also want to thank Sheriff Baca, who was not here, but also -- even though he was called by the Democrats. I want to thank him for his testimony and his service.
I think Dr. Jasser, Mr. Bihi, and Mr. Bledsoe provided such an insight into the Muslim-American community, the challenges that that community faces, and in many ways how the worst victims, those who are worst victimized by the radicalization of the Muslim-American community by al Qaeda, are the Muslim-Americans themselves, especially in view of the lack of support they receive from the people in their leaders to the people in their community, who should be the leaders.
Now, before I asked the witnesses to say a few words, I just want to ask Congressmen Lungren and Congressman Marino if there's anything they want to add.
REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), CALIFORNIA: The only thing I'd say is that this is a follow-up to a hearing that was held four years ago in southern California, when then Jane Harman, then congresswoman and chairman of a subcommittee, had -- held a hearing on the radicalization of the prison population, where we learned of the facts of radicalization and of plots, at least a single plot in that case, that was located in southern California.
Frankly, we should have had these hearings before. For four years we haven't had anything like this. This is necessary to get facts out on the table and to hear from members of the community as to what they go through when they want to raise the voice of moderation in the Muslim community and the difficulties they have.
I think the chairman did a very good job of allowing them a platform so that they could be heard. And hopefully we can go on from this and receive other testimony, and also see what is appropriate for us to do to enable those in the Muslim-American community to be able to stand for what they really believe in and to know that those of us in Congress stand with them.
KING: Now Congressman Marino from Pennsylvania.
REP. TOM MARINO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the chairman for his courage to set this hearing. It's a critical hearing that was needed. We need more of these hearings.
I think we broke a barrier down today. The American people are going to hear just exactly what we need to do in this country to defeat terrorism, to promote the welfare and the love among the people in this country. And behind me stand three very, very brave individuals who testified today, Americans, who stood up before the public and told the facts and the truth. And I commend these gentlemen for what they did and I thank them very much.
KING: I'm now going to ask the witnesses to come forward.
Let me just say also, I would hope now that this hearing is over that the media in particular would look back and reflect upon the mindless hysteria that occurred over the last two or three weeks and not in the future rely so much on what opponents such as CAIR and others, who do not want these type of hearings, say. Again, I think the hysteria and the madness leading up to this hearing did nobody much good. It certainly didn't reflect well on those who were reporting it. And with that, I would ask Dr. Jasser, Mr. Bihi, and Mr. Bledsoe if they want to step forward and say a few words. And again, thank them from the bottom of my heart for the courage and the articulateness and the knowledge and the passion that they bring to this.
DR. M. ZUHDI JASSER, FDR. American ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY: Thank you, Chairman King.
And I hope what I gain from this and what we all should gain is that this is the beginning of a conversation. As somebody that loves my faith -- and I do this from an aspect of I really think that there's nothing more pro-Islamic or pro-Muslim than helping us get through -- figuring out radicalization, knowing that it's not just a final step, but there's a process, and that we want to begin the process of healing that pathology that exists that's in a minority, but yet is a pathology and needs a modernization and needs reform.
This needs a national conversation. It needs platforms like this and others. And it needs the political will to deal with it. And it needs a patient and understanding and thoughtful communication process that doesn't label anyone that discusses this as being Islamophobic or hateful, and understands that there are those of us within the community, the vast majority, that want to deal with this, but have not had the resource or platforms to do so.
So, thank you for the opportunity. And I hope this is the beginning of a national conversation.
KING: Mr. Bledsoe.
MELVIN BLEDSOE, FATHER OF SELF-DESCRIBED AL QAEDA MEMBER: I want to thank you commenting and giving me an opportunity as well on this platform to talk to the American people and to the world.
I'm an ordinary businessman from Memphis, an ordinary citizen. But I don't understand why we have so much fear of talking about what is real.
It is a real threat to America. As I said earlier today, it came into my house. But it's at your doorstep. And we need to talk about it as the American people.
If I could have just reached out and saved one other child from what my son -- what happened to my son and what he went through, then I think my trip to Washington was very much worthwhile today.
KING: Mr. Bihi.
ABDIRIZAK BIHI, DIRECTOR, SOMALI EDUCATION & SOCIAL ADVOCACY CENTER: Thank you.
Today's my happiest day. For two and a half years, I've been demonstrating with loud speakers, talking to people, door-knocking to turn out more families, empower them so they can ask for their loved ones.
Thanks to Chairman King and the committee, today I come to the chambers of the U.S. Congress to speak for those mothers that were intimidated, lied to, and their loved ones stolen. I think this will empower Muslim-Americans in my corner, Muslim and Somali-Americans to come out easily and remove those fake leaderships that pressure them to silence and be quiet. Today is a victory for all those seeking justice and the liberty, the right to speak up.
KING: Do you have any questions?
QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, I'm with CAIR (OFF-MIKE).
KING: The fact is that CAIR was named as an unindicted conspirator in a major terrorist funding case. The fact is the FBI director has ordered members of the FBI not to deal with CAIR. And I just hope by a hearing such as this, that local enforcement will realize the danger that CAIR presents.
Also, I would hope the media would realize that rather than just taking CAIR handouts and reporting them as if they're the Knights of Columbus or the Masons or B'nai B'rith, they would realize that this is a group that was named as an unindicted co-conspirator, and they would at least give them some of the analysis and critique that they give to people like me when I schedule a hearing.
So I would hope that the media would. And also, I think, hopefully, as Dr. Jasser and Mr. Bihi have said, that it will empower people in the Muslim-American community to realize they are not well served by CAIR, that they need leaders to step forward who represent a modern Islam who want to come to terms with the United States the way rank and file Muslims do, and not allow a group like CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator, to be their spokesman.
KING: Actually, that is more for the Judiciary Committee. I think today's type hearing, where we can reflect on and what CAIR has done and hasn't done, is a way to get that out to the American people. So, to that extent, our hearing today was informative and educational, and hopefully will have consequences in the Muslim-American community.
QUESTION: Some people believe that you're not addressing the real cause of this Islamic (INAUDIBLE). You are just addressing the center. And these centers (ph) fall over the Muslim world.
(INAUDIBLE) election on the base of their opposition to Israeli foreign policy. By not giving them right training (INAUDIBLE) are done by certain people. So by not issuing those (INAUDIBLE)? KING: No. First of all, part of a democracy, you don't carry out terrorist attacks if you disagree with American foreign policy. I think Dr. Jasser can address this more than I can, because he lives in that community. But the fact is the one point we were trying to make at the hearing today, that if you are part of American society, if you are in American society, you have an obligation to abide by the laws of that society and work within it, and not look for excuses to justify murder and carnage the way too many people have done when it comes to terrorist attacks.
But Dr. Jasser, you may want to address that.
JASSER: Yes. And actually, as I said --
VELSHI: That's Dr. Jasser stepping up to the mike. He was one of the gentlemen testifying today -- we spoke to him earlier this week -- at these hearings that Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, has held to discuss how Muslims in this country become radicalized, get drawn into terrorism and extremism.
This was the conclusion of a hearing that came under a great deal of criticism for singling out Muslims without inviting some of the people who felt that they could shed some light on whether or not Islamic mosques, and Muslims and imams actually hold back investigations into terrorism or participate in those. We've heard from a number of people who have said that mosques and imams and Muslims have been participating.
Peter King has repeated his fact that 80 percent of this country's 1,8000 mosques are headed by radical imams. That's the problem that we're seeing play out right now.
We'll continue to cover this for you.
Richard Quest joins me next for this week's "Q&A." We're going to break down how conflicts like the one going on in Northern Africa right now affect your fuel prices.
VELSHI: "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," and so do I.
We are here together in the CNN NEWSROOM and around the world.
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Ali, it is good of you to join us this Thursday.
You and I, from around the world, talking business, travel, innovation. We like to say nothing is off limits, and that's pretty much true. And so, with the revolutions taking place in North Africa as a backdrop, Ali, we really have to get to grips with Texas gold. Talking oil.
VELSHI: That's right. When the revolutions in Egypt started, we saw oil hit levels that we hadn't seen in two years, even though the world's oil -- only about two percent of the world's oil goes through Egypt's Suez Canal. The fear was that if unrest were to spread throughout the region, it would slow production and distribution of oil.
And then, Richard, Libya happened. Again, so little of the world's oil supply is actually affected.
So today's question: How do conflicts affect the price of oil?
Richard, take it away. You've got 60 seconds.
QUEST: Starting now. I thought you had already started.
The global demand for oil is roughly 90 million barrels a day. But look at the countries that are involved in that. They are Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Angola, Nigeria, Libya, all countries where there is the potential for instability, disruption of supply.
In 1973 it, during the Yom Kippur War, prices rose by 400 percent, over seven percent was at risk.
In the Iran/Iraq War, 10 percent of the oil supply was at risk, and prices rose accordingly.
There's roughly 1.5 billion barrels in the Strategic Reserve, but that would only last 15 days at full strength.
The truth is on today's oil price, roughly $10 to $15 is built in for this speculation, this worry.
And the big problem, of course, Ali, if Saudi Arabia gets involved. Any instability there, and prices head towards $140 a barrel.
VELSHI: There's very little I can add to that, Richard. You know so much about this. But what I can add to this is something that your viewers may not have seen on a nightly basis, and that is my trusty oil barrel. Let's start with that. I'm going to take one minute.
VELSHI: The answer of whether conflict affects the price of oil depends on where the conflict is. Take a look at Libya, which produces less than two percent of the world's total of oil. So any disruption to oil there shouldn't put more stress than already exists on global supply. But as you mentioned, don't tell that to the investors who speculate that if these popular uprisings spread into the real oil-producing nations, as you said, Saudi Arabia, then we could be in for some trouble.
So, Richard, it's not the actual conflict driving oil prices, it's the fear of that conflict spreading.
What I would worry about, however -- you didn't say it -- is Nigeria, America's fifth largest source of imported oil. It's a country that's long dogged by civil conflict in that Niger Delta region.
In 2008, rebels made headlines. They hit the Royal Dutch Shell pipeline. They kidnapped oil workers. They disrupted output. It hardly budged oil prices, which were already high for a host of other reasons.
Investors just shrugged it off, assuming that Nigeria would get back to normal. So conflicts sometimes affect the price of oil, but not always and not everywhere.
Hope you liked my barrel -- Richard.
QUEST: Well, it could do with a lick of paint, but I guess times are hard.
VELSHI: Times are tough.
Let's separate the men from the boys here, Richard.
It's time to introduce "The Voice" for the quiz.
THE VOICE: Hello, gentlemen. Let's jump right into it.
Question number one: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are the top three oil producers in the world. Who is next on this list? Is it A, Canada; B, China; C, Iran; or D, Venezuela?
THE VOICE: Ali?
VELSHI: What are you talking -- people are always -- you never give Canadians credit for anything.
THE VOICE: Don't take it personal.
QUEST: That's because you're wrong. Try Venezuela.
THE VOICE: You're wrong, as well.
(BELL RINGING) VELSHI: China.
THE VOICE: Wrong again.
VELSHI: Well, then, Richard, you better get this one right.
QUEST: It's Iran. Iran. Iran.
THE VOICE: Well done, Richard.
Iran is the fourth biggest oil producer in the world, producing over 4.1 billion of barrels per day.
On to question two. Which of the following countries consumes the most oil? Is it A, Brazil; B, India; C, Russia; or D, the United Kingdom?
THE VOICE: Ali?
THE VOICE: Nice job. India consumes the most oil. They consume almost three million barrels of oil a day.
The biggest consumer of oil is the United States though, consuming over 18 million barrels of oil a day.
Yes, I said 18. Canada and Mexico are the biggest --
QUEST: Hang on. Hang on, Voice. Hang on.
Ali, did you know that or was it just a good guess?
VELSHI: India? Look, I claim all sorts of heritage. Right?
I claim I'm Canadian. I claim I'm Indian. All that kind of stuff. So since my Canadian heritage got blown off, I figured, let's try India as a lucky guess.
THE VOICE: OK. Enough of the small talk.
Question number three: Canada and Mexico are the biggest suppliers of oil to the U.S. Which country is the third biggest supplier? Is it A, Angola; B, Iraq; C, Saudi Arabia; or D, Venezuela?
THE VOICE: Richard? QUEST: I'm going to go with Saudi Arabia.
THE VOICE: Well done. Saudi Arabia is the third biggest supplier of oil to the United States, supplying just under one million barrels of oil per day.
And you know what, Richard? You're today's winner.
VELSHI: I'm going to check the sources on that stuff again.
You know why -- I didn't even ring in on that because I thought you were going to say Venezuela and it was going to give me a chance to take the victory.
QUEST: I just wonder how much more citizenship, ethnicity, or otherwise you're going to claim before this contest is over.
VELSHI: A pleasure to see you, Richard.
QUEST: That will do it for this week.
Remember, we are, each of us here, Thursday on "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," 19:00 GMT.
VELSHI: And in the CNN NEWSROOM, 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
Keep the topics coming on our blogs at CNN.com/QMB and CNN.com/Ali. Tell us each week what you want the two of us to battle about.
Richard, see you next week.
QUEST: Have a good one, Ali.
VELSHI: Some back-breaking work trying to get ahead of record- breaking rains. Flood watches and warnings today from the Mid- Atlantic to Maine. Some stories you might have missed, coming up in just a minute.
VELSHI: Let's hit some stories you might have missed today. Forceful and emotional testimony at the House Homeland Security Committee's first hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims. Minutes ago, chairman Peter King defended the session as productive despite some critics' claims of bigotry and stereotyping. Among the witnesses, relatives of two young American Muslims who embraced militant causes.
An incredible scene today at Wisconsin's state house. Angry crowds faced out with police, causing the building to go on lockdown over a controversial bill passed by the state Senate last night. The assembly was supposed to vote this morning on the legislation limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers, but that has been delayed by the chaos you're looking at here.
An inch and a half of rain soaks the Seattle area overnight. A new record. And all that water slopping around is causing the ground to give way. At least two mudslides have blocked major roads.
Meantime, more serious storms are barreling up I-95 to the Northeast. One to three inches of rain possible in the next 48 hours for all the major cities from Washington to Boston. Heavy flooding including flash floods are a big threat.
The president and first lady have just hosted the first-ever White House conference on bullying prevention. They brainstormed on how to address the problem. Students, parents, teachers and community leaders brainstormed on how to address the problem. President Obama told all of them he hoped to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless right of passage.
Libyan citizens gunned down in the besieged town of Zawiyah. An extraordinary eyewitness report you that don't want to miss is just ahead.
VELSHI: The Obama administration today moved a step closer to cutting diplomatic ties with the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is suspending all ties with the Libyan embassy in Washington and that it must shut down.
In France, president Nicolas Sarkozy met with a top Libyan official today in Paris. He became the first government leader to recognize the rebel leadership, the National Transitional Council, as Libya's legitimate government.
In Libya, more heavy fighting reported in several key towns, including Zawiyah, just 30 miles from the capital of Tripoli. Alex Crawford of Britain's "Sky News" is the only foreign journalist who's managed to enter Zawiyah. She spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Some of you may find her report and her pictures disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: One of the things I found so moving, beyond the injuries and the courage of people who were defending themselves against this onslaught, was them coming up to you and saying, please, please, get these pictures out, please tell our story, because otherwise their deaths will be in vain, and no one will know really the truth about what is happening there right now and continues to happen there right now at this hour.
For you, you used the word massacre. Are you saying what is happening there is a massacre? ALEX CRAWFORD, "SKY NEWS": Well, the true sense of the word massacre is large-scale deaths, right? There are large-scale deaths going on there, and these are primarily -- I mean, seriously, they are -- 99 percent of them are civilians.
They are women. They are children. They are old people. They're not fighters. They're not soldiers. They're just people who are criticizing and who want a change of government. I don't -- if that's not a massacre, I don't know what is.
They actually can't do much to defend themselves. They are (AUDIO GAP) to even leave. They can't even get out of the way of the firing. And they are continuing to be (AUDIO GAP). And that's why, at the end, there was almost constant firing, but one particular brave individual managed to get us out under fire.
And it was so important for them to know that we were going to be able to broadcast the pictures to the world, because as far as Gadhafi authorities are concerned, that didn't happen. The march didn't happen. There aren't tens of thousands of people in Zawiyah who are critical of him, Gadhafi, and they aren't being shelled and they aren't being killed.
And if we hadn't actually had the help and support of these incredibly courageous people, they would still be saying that. But now -- now that the pictures, I would suggest, have put a -- put (INAUDIBLE) to those lies.
They -- how can we make up those pictures? We saw people dying with horrible injuries, and they are civilians. They are -- boys are as old as my son, who is 15. They are young men. I saw one young man who looks he was -- he might be a university student, if he was living in Britain or America.
He had glasses on. He was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. He didn't look at all like a soldier. He was being shown at the last minute as these tanks were rolling into the square how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. And someone was saying, put it on your shoulder, put it on your shoulder. Just try to kneel a bit and just fire.
And he says Allahu Akbar and goes off to fight and probably is not alive now. This is -- these are civilians. So, I don't know what -- if that isn't a massacre, I really don't know what is.
COOPER: Well, Alex, I have been just so struck by your reporting over these last several days. And thank you for talking with us. And I'm so glad you're safe. And I'm so glad you have been able to tell the world what is really happening, the truth about what is happening in Zawiyah. Thank you.
CRAWFORD: Thanks for asking me on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The anger rages in Wisconsin. How did Republican lawmakers manage to pass that controversial budget bill without the Democrats in town? I thought they left to keep that from happening. We'll explain the ins and outs right after this.
VELSHI: Time now for the "Big Breakdown." And today, it's all about a showdown that let to a smackdown and then briefly today a lockdown. This is, of course, the Wisconsin state capital after police started clearing protesters out and blocking everyone else from coming in. Protests reignited after the state senate, minus all of its Democrats, who are still in Illinois, tweaked a so-called budget repair bill just enough to get around a requirement for a 20-member quorum.
Now, the measure still contains everything the Democrats and organized labor hate. It would allow public employees to negotiate wages only, not working conditions or anything else. It would limit pay raises to the inflation rate unless there's a public referendum. It would sharply increase worker contributions to health care and pension funds. And workers in fact, have already agreed to that. And it would bar unions from taking dues straight from members paychecks.
Politically, it is a powder keg. Legislatively, it bears zero resemblance to anything you learned in the civics class or "Schoolhouse Rock." Two weeks before that senate vote, the state assembly rushed the bill through in five seconds - literally five seconds -- while most Democrats were out of the chamber. The assembly has to vote again on the senate changes, but that is a foregone conclusion.
Now, Democrats are claiming Republicans have broke the state's open meetings law, and both parties are targeting each other's lawmakers with recall campaigns.
I need some expert help to break this down further. That's as far as I can go with it. Jeff Toobin joins me, though. He's CNN's senior legal analyst. Joins me by phone from New York.
Jeff, first of all, your initial reading of this. Any laws broken?
JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (on the phone): I hate to wimp out on you, Ali, but it's really tough to tell. This is a very specific situation, and the open meetings law has specific provisions. There are arguments on both sides.
But I think the important thing to remember is this is much more a political controversy than a legal controversy. The courts will get involved. But ultimately, the voters of Wisconsin are going to decide whether this law stays in effect not the courts.
VELSHI: Well, that's my question. If something did go wrong with the way -- if there was a law broken in the way this al happened, what does that do to laws? I mean, I know laws are challenged in courts for their -- you know, whether they are legal. Is the way a law is passed something that gets challenged in court?
TOOBIN: Usually not, but it is possible under certain circumstances. I think the key issue though is if, for example, it is found that this law did not comply with the open meetings law, they'll just pass it again after opening the meetings. The composition of the Wisconsin senate and house is not going to change unless there are these recall elections. The recall elections are ultimately what matters.
VELSHI: Let's talk about those a little bit.
The recall elections mean you have to get a petition, and you have to get enough people on there to have a senator who's been in office for a year or more put up for recall. And we've seen examples of this across America where somebody who's been put up for recall actually does lose office. Do these recall elections stand a chance?
TOOBIN: Certainly the polls suggest they are going to be close. There are a lot of people very upset about both sides here. It is possible that Democrats and Republicans both could be recalled in this situation. And both sides are agitating for it.
But you know, there is a real history of successful recall elections in this country. The most famous recent example was Governor Gray Davis of California, which opened the door to Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor there. Recall elections are very perilous for incumbent politicians because instead of maybe voting between the lesser of two evils, you are simply saying thumbs up or thumbs down on a specific politician. And a lot of people on general principle say thumbs down.
VELSHI: Yes. Very interesting, because while I said this doesn't resemble your civics lessons or "Schoolhouse Rock," the reality is we're seeing an entirely different way of politics playing out in Wisconsin and we're going to see it in other states. We've seen it happening in some other state legislatures.
It is fascinating, I know, for somebody like to you watch how this happens, a way of making loss and repealing laws that doesn't look like the way we learned.
Jeff, good to see you, or good to talk to you, at least. Always a pleasure. Jeff Toobin is CNN's senior legal analyst.
Well, the congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America wrapped up last hour. We're taking on the controversial topic in "Stream Team," right after this break.
VELSHI: We spend much of the morning and part of the afternoon here on CNN watching a congressional hearing on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. Despite strong criticism from Muslim Americans and accusations of McCarthyist revivals, House Homeland Security Committee chairman and Republican from New York Peter King defended his controversial hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIR: Let me make it clear today that I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward and they will. To back down would be a (INAUDIBLE) surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee to protect America from a terrorist attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Republican representative Paul brown from Georgia also defended the hearings.
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REP. PAUL BROWN (R), GEORGIA: The focus of this hearing today is not Islamic religion. It's Islamists. It's the radical jihadists. It's the radicalization of our youth.
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VELSHI: Arguably, the most emotional testimony of the day came from the first elected Muslim member of Congress, Democratic representative Keith Ellison.
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REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Mohammed Salman Amdadi (ph) was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.
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VELSHI: The sheriff of L.A. County, Leroy Baca, also testified in the hearing that we should be on the hunt for radicalization on all fronts and that we shouldn't single out individual groups.
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SHERIFF LEROY BACA, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Evidence clearly indicates a generalize of violent extremism across ideologies. Therefore, we should be examining radicalization as an issue that affects all groups regardless of religion.
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VELSHI: And one of the most heated comments came from Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: This hearing today is playing into al Qaeda right now around the world. It is diminishing soldiers that are on the front line that are Muslims, those who lost their lives. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Okay. Those hearings are the focus of our Stream Team discussion today. Let's get right to it.
I want to talk to Foria Younis, who is a former FBI agent because I'm so hungry to hear from somebody who's actually got something to do with law enforcement. The sheriff from L.A. County gave some statistics and offered some good stuff, but it seemed Peter King was really resistant to hear from law enforcement.
Here's the question for you. Are Muslims in America and mosques and imams, are they reluctant and not cooperative with the U.S. government when it comes to ferreting out radicals and terrorists?
FORIA YOUNIS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: No, Ali, I firmly believe that over the last ten years, many, many more Muslims are communicating with law enforcement. And I think that's really in part due to a lot of the law enforcement activity in trying to bring all members of the community into their fold so that they can all work together to deal with any issues in the community.
VELSHI: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst. Peter, there is this is backdrop where Peter King, the congressman, is saying this is about keeping America safe and this is about ferreting out terrorism. Is he right?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, Representative King has every right to investigate whatever he wants as the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. But one of the principal claims that he's made in the run-up to this hearing is that the American Muslim community isn't cooperating with law enforcement. And in fact, that is simply a false assertion.
The New America Foundation where I work and also Syracuse University has just released a study which is on CNN's Web site. We looked at 175 jihadi terrorism cases since 9/11. We found using a conservative methodology that one in five of those cases originated from a tip of the Muslim community, all because of the cooperation of a family member turning in someone they thought was becoming increasingly militant or radical.
So, just one of the principal, kind of underlying ideas of this hearing is just factually incorrect. We heard a lot of rhetoric today, as we hear in any congressional hearing, which is highly politicized. Other than Lee Baca, who was the lone (ph) law enforcement officer, we really didn't hear much about what the central point of the hearing was. Which is that the supposed idea that Muslim Americans aren't cooperating.
We just heard from for Foria Younis, a former FBI agent. She is in a good position to say whether that's true or not. And we can say just based on the facts that it's not true.
VELSHI: Father Albert Cutie, formerly a Catholic priest, now an Episcopal priest and author. Let's put aside Peter King's seemingly strange obsession with Islam and Islamists or whatever you want to call it. I don't quite understand how when you put an -ist at the end of it, it changes the subject.
But let's just say, putting that aside, should Muslims be looking more carefully at themselves? Is there something that law abiding American Muslims should be doing simply -- to be doing to satisfy this call to action that Peter King has put out?
REV. FATHER ALBERT CUTIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST/AUTHOR: Well, listen, in my conversations with the ecumenical community, with rabbis, with imams, with pastors and priests, everybody agrees that the big problem for some people is that Muslims have not come out in thousands and thousands of numbers marching down the street, maybe in New York City or other places and saying we are against terrorism. This is what some people need and want.
I'm not sure that that's going to do anything. I think that the sheriff said it right. My concern is the radicalization of people in all faith groups. I think we have to be very careful when we single out one group.
Certainly when are you in charge of Homeland Security, are you worried about terrorism. We're all worried about terrorism. But how are we going to end this stigma of Muslim equals terrorist? That's what I'm concerned about. I've seen over and over again and the hearings, unfortunately, only confirm that in some people. Some people are appalled, and some people think, oh yes, you got to do that with these Muslims because they're all suspicious.
VELSHI: Foria, let's ask you this then. As a former law enforcement -- former law enforcement, former FBI agent, if you are trying to gain the cooperation or greater cooperation of an identifiable group like Muslims in America, is this a good step in the right direction? Or are there more effective ways for law enforcement to do this?
YOUNIS: Well, absolutely there's more effective ways for Congress to do this. There's more effective ways for law enforcement to do this. But I don't think too many law enforcement people have actually participated in this hearing.
The fact of the matter is, Ali, there may be some radicalization issues out there. They may be very minor. They may be larger than we think. But these type of hearings, all they produce is alienation even further. I think there's proper ways to do this, there's proper ways to collect this information. Peter Bergen just quoted some of his research and his statistics. Those are the ways to do it.
By producing a hearing like this, you are actually doing probably more harm than good, and that is pushing people from communities further away. Because they feel they are being judged as a whole, and if you start looking at some of the recent cases, you will see that there are many Muslims that went over to the FBI and helped out in many investigations. And that is what we should foster.
And if there is any radicalization in the community, which I believe there may be minor pockets, what we need to do as a large community is work with these parents, work with these community leaders and try to identify these issues with the assistance of the community. Not pushing them up against the wall where you almost are going to have a counter-effect.
VELSHI: Peter Bergen, aside from the fact we're discovering American Islam seems to need a better PR effort, is there some degree of apologism going on for Islam in America in this debate? Do Muslims need to come out and say maybe there is a greater instance of - of radicalization or extremism in the community. Or is it not the responsibility of American Muslims to do that? Give me an answer in 30 seconds.
BERGEN: There is a problem. I mean, to pretend that there isn't would be equally wrong to say as to say the sky is falling. You know it, certainly there's been an uptick in cases in 2009 and 2010. And the Muslim American community is well aware of that.
At the end of the day, if there is an attack, they're going to suffer the most. They have the highest possible motivation to make sure that there are militants in their midst to basically raise their hands, and they're doing that.
VELSHI: All right. Peter, Foria, and Father Albert, thanks to all of you for shedding more light than heat on this conversation.
We're taking a quick break. I'll be right back.
VELSHI: That's it for me. Brooke Baldwin continues with NEWSROOM. Brooke?