Latest update: March 8th, 2012
According to an Associated Press story in the February 24 Daily News, “Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly dispatched his detectives to surveil every Muslim-owned business and community center in Newark [in] the clearest sign yet that the NYPD’s fight against terrorism has gone terribly awry.”
This has set off a debate on police tactics and surveillance of the Muslim community by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
I have full confidence in Police Commissioner Kelly and believe that whatever police surveillance he directs is done in accordance with the laws that govern what police can do to protect the people of New York City from terrorist attacks.
Instead of saying “the NYPD’s fight against terrorism has gone terribly awry,” I would say the efforts and tactics of the NYPD have been hugely successful and the NYPD, Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg should be congratulated and supported.
The tactics used by the NYPD must conform to the guidelines first laid out in a federal case that are now referred to as the Handschu agreement. Wikipedia describes the Handschu agreement as follows:
According to the terms of the agreement, purely political activity can only be investigated by the Public Security Section (PSS) of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, and then only when the Section suspects criminal activity. When the PSS does suspect criminal activity on the part of political groups, it must obtain a warrant from the three-person Handschu Authority, a commission made up of two deputy commissioners and a mayor-appointed civilian. The agreement also prohibits indiscriminate police videorecording and photographing of public gatherings when there is no indication that unlawful activity is occurring. The department is also prohibited from sharing information pertaining to political activity with other law enforcement agencies unless those agencies agree to abide by the terms of the Handschu agreement. The court order mandates the compiling of annual, publicly-available reports listing the surveillance requests made by the NYPD and the number of such requests granted.
On some occasions, a police officer or program may go too far in carrying out surveillance, in which case, the recourse is to apply to a federal court for relief. As far as I know, those who have criticized the police commissioner – unfairly in my opinion – have not availed themselves of that right and opportunity.
Those seeking to reduce America’s concern about Islamic terrorism had to be elated by an article in The New York Times on February 8 by Scott Shane. According to Shane, “A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.” The article continued: “Charles Kurzman, the author of the report for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, called terrorism by Muslim Americans ‘a minuscule threat to public safety.’ Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.”
I obtained a copy of Professor Kurzman’s report. Its thrust is that Muslim-American involvement in terrorist-related activity is far less than was expected by U.S. government officials.
With respect to the actual number of Muslim-Americans involved in terrorism, Kurzman writes that “the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls [to engage in domestic terroism] continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011.”
Equating terrorism with criminality is ridiculous. They have no relationship to one another. Criminality is generally for the purpose of enrichment of oneself by breaking the law. Modern day terrorism seeks to achieve political or military goals by the use of indiscriminate terror directed primarily at innocent civilians. Further, terrorists seek to demoralize their victims and enhance their perceived power by the destruction of iconic projects, buildings such as the World Trade Center towers, subway systems in large cities such as London and Madrid, and world famous bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge (not attacked, but surveyed for attack).
So to refer to 14,000 murders in 2011 committed by criminals compared with a far lesser number killed by terrorists in any year since 9/11 is ridiculous.
In addition, no matter how good our intelligence services are – and they’ve uncovered and convicted since 9/11 about 200 Muslim-Americans – in all probability the number of undetected plots and conspirators are surely several times the number detected. Surely by aggressively – but within the law – monitoring the activities of suspected places and groups, in which terrorism may be discussed, we will prevent more attacks against us.
According to The New York Times, New York City has been the target of 14 terrorist plots since 9/11.
The New York Post, Daily News, Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have congratulated Police Commissioner Kelly for the superb job he has done, with the police officers of the NYPD, in protecting New York City. I want to add my voice in congratulating them and believe most of the residents of New York City do too.
The New York Times, in an editorial dated March 4, in effect takes the position that it is unacceptable for the NYPD to gather intelligence in the Muslim community here in New York City, other states and elsewhere in the world unless it is investigating a specific crime. The Times apparently doesn’t understand that there is a war going on, one declared by Islamic terrorists against the U.S., including U.S. civilians, as demonstrated, among other things, by the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the destruction of both towers on 9/11/2001.
By condemning the NYPD for securing intelligence pursuant to the federal court-administered Handschu Agreement, the Times takes a position that endangers the lives of the eight million residents of New York City where Islamic terrorists have already succeeded in destroying two iconic buildings and ending thousands of lives. There are Islamist terrorists walking among us here in the cities of the U.S. The NYPD is doing its level best to find and arrest them before they do us great harm. The Times editorial will be used by Islamic terrorists and their supporters to weaken our resolve and defenses to terrorism.
If the NYPD’s critics believe the unlawful surveillance charges are well-founded, they should seek redress in a federal court and allow the court to decide whether the law enforcement agencies have violated the Handschu agreement. Making unsupported claims does nothing more than enrage the members of the Muslim-American community who are told they are being illegally surveilled or entrapped by U.S. law enforcement agencies, when that is not true.
We are very lucky to have Ray Kelly, a stand-up guy and great police commissioner, in charge of the NYPD. New York City is the prime target of the Islamic Jihadists and we are fortunate not to have suffered a successful terrorist attack since the catastrophe of 9/11 which was perpetrated by 19 Islamist terrorists. That safety record following 9/11 didn’t happen on its own.
Ed Koch served as mayor of New York from 1978 through 1989.
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