Raucus Hearing Focuses on Farrakhan
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The official topic of the hearing was ``Rogue Regimes,″ but the hundreds of members of the Nation of Islam who showed up knew its focus really was Louis Farrakhan.
The three-hour hearing ended Tuesday with shouts of ``liar″ directed at the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
Earlier two people were arrested at the hearing and charged with ``disruption of Congress.″
The session also produced a tense confrontation between Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., and Michael Ledeen, a witness who criticized President Clinton’s reaction to the Million Man March, organized last October by Farrakhan.
Farrakhan visited Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan _ all viewed by the U.S. government as rogue nations that support terrorism _ earlier this year.
Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Bob Barr, R-Ga., criticized the Clinton administration for not investigating more aggressively whether the Nation of Islam leader violated U.S. laws.
``We see Louis Farrakhan flagrantly meeting with the worst dictators and tyrants of the world, stating on the record that he’s accepting money from those dictators who are sworn enemies of the United States and yet he was able to come back to this country without even being asked one question,″ said King.
Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was the leadoff witness and King asked him if he thought the administration was enforcing laws that might apply to Farrakhan.
``My answer is no,″ said Barr.
Last week, Justice Department officials said government agents had hand-delivered letters to Farrakhan about his trip to Libya and were watching to see if he acts as a Libyan agent.
The Foreign Agent Registration Act requires that those who try to influence U.S. policies and public opinion at the request of a foreign entity must register publicly with the government. In enforcing the act, the government usually begins by sending letters, such as those delivered to Farrakhan, to people who might be required to register.
At the hearing, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., said: ``I hope we are not going back to the McCarthy era when in practice we stopped supporting the precepts of the Constitution,″ referring to the widely condemned tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., during his anti-communist crusade in the 1950s.
``If this hearing is a thinly-veiled excuse to do a little Louis Farrakhan bashing, we ought to get it up front,″ she said. ``Louis Farrakhan is not above the law, but neither is Louis Farrakhan beneath the protection of the Constitution.″
Ledeen said Clinton made a ``profound error″ when he urged people to focus on the ``faces of the people″ at the Million Man March rather than on Farrakhan’s words.
Ledeen was a consultant to the Reagan administration on Middle Eastern affairs and now is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think-tank.
``I take offense for all of the people who participated,″ said Payne.
``Words are important and we have to pay attention to words,″ said Ledeen.
``You don’t even have a clue,″ said Payne. ``You missed the whole thing.″
People were lined up for hours before the hearing began in midafternoon.
As the hearing opened, Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad, the chief of staff of the Nation of Islam, stood up and asked, ``Can I ask a question?″
``This is not a town meeting,″ said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee.
Moments later, a woman in the back of the crowded room shouted, ``I can’t hear back here.″
Smith called for order and said anyone else disrupting the hearing would be ejected.
After Smith adjourned the hearing, a man called the chairman ``a lying prevaricator.″ The man said the chairman had promised that officials of the Nation of Islam would be given a chance to speak after other witness had been heard.
A committee aide said the only promise made was that they could submit a statement for the hearing record.
Capitol police said they arrested Iris Arafa, 30, of North Potomac, Md., and Jerald Johns, 21, of Severn, Md., after they disrupted the hearing.