WASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers in the House Committee on Homeland Security have urged greater vigilance against the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and its potential to carry out attacks within the United States.
Congressman Peter King (New York-Republican), head of the committee's counterterrorism and intelligence section, said at a June 12 hearing that LeT was "operationally active in this country," raising the threat of a strike.
"LeT practices good communications security and is proficient at surveillance skills, making it a difficult target for our intelligence-collection efforts, which should be immediately increased on this target," King said.
The group is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 100 people, including six Americans.
It is thought to receive support from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.
"When our special operatives raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, they reportedly recovered correspondence between the late Al-Qaeda leader and the LeT leader Hafez Saeed," King added.
"Certainly, working with other members on the intelligence committee, I believe that as much [as possible] should be done to declassify as many of the documents [as possible that were] recovered in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, which could well amplify the relationship [between Al-Qaeda and] LeT. That is an ongoing process. I think it should be done sooner rather than later."
Committee member Representative Brian Higgins (New York-Democrat) added, "Given that there have been Americans that have cooperated with Lashkar-e Taiba [and] the group's connection with Al-Qaeda, I agree that a threat from that group [should] be examined and evaluated."
Stephen Tankel, an LeT specialist at American University, testified that while there is no evidence the group has ever planned a U.S. attack, it could do so if the ISI's control weakens.
"There's no evidence that [LeT] has ever attempted an attack against the U.S. homeland and the question is, what's stopping it? LeT's restraint, I would argue, has more to do with strategic calculation than ideological inclination," Tankel said.
"Ideologically, it would be more than prepared to attack the U.S., but it does not want to risk its position in Pakistan and, as one of its members admitted to me, it remains tamed by the ISI."
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