Senate Committee Refuses Thompson's Request to Speak about Domestic Terrorism

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has requested that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hold an additional hearing into domestic terrorism threats and the nation's critical infrastructure.

In a letter dated May 19, 2005 sent to Senate Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Thompson voiced his dismay at being refused the right to testify earlier this week before the committee when it held its hearing examining activities of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Thompson claims Inhofe's refusal to allow him to speak is the only time a member of Congress has been denied permission to testify before a Senate committee when he has formally requested to do so.

As part of his testimony, Rep. Thompson was prepared to deliver remarks based upon a House Committee on Homeland Security report released last month titled, "10 Years After the Oklahoma City Bombing: the Department of Homeland Security Must Do More to Fight Right-Wing Terrorists." The report examined recent news items indicating that the department had not included all domestic terror threats in the threat/vulnerability assessment section of its long-range budget-planning document. These threats include bombings perpetrated by right-wing terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh and abortion clinic bombers such as Eric Rudolph.

The day before the hearing was set to take place, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said Thompson would be unable to testify because it would be limited to eco-terrorism and that the Committee lacked jurisdiction over the domestic terrorism issue – although it oversees the nation's critical infrastructure. Concerned with the apparent exclusion of the committee's jurisdiction over critical infrastructure and the threats to it, Thompson notes in his letter that while "Wednesday's hearing clearly included discussions on the 'economic damage' to smaller-scale infrastructure, such as SUV dealerships and new home developments ... harm to critical infrastructure is posed by both left-wing and right-wing" terror groups.

"Only once in recent memory has a Congressional Committee Chairman refused to the request of a member of Congress to testify," Thompson notes. "Even then, a subsequent hearing was held specifically so the member would have the opportunity to provide relevant testimony, which would have been the case in this instance. It is extremely disappointing that your denial was not provided in writing, as was my original request."

Thompson is awaiting a response from Sen. Inhofe as to whether he will convene another hearing so that Thompson's concerns can be addressed.

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