It would appear that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vocal support for the Ground Zero mosque – not only did he come out in favor of it, he labeled opponents as un-American – is coming back to haunt him. Some leaders of New York’s Muslim community apparently believe he will bend over backward to accommodate their concerns, however wrongheaded.
Several months ago, the Associated Press reported in a series of articles that the New York Police Department, following 9/11, was working together with the Central Intelligence Agency in a program of surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods and institutions in order to track people of interest and incipient threats. Muslim leaders promptly complained about racial profiling, and several very publicly boycotted an annual mayoral interfaith meeting as a way of registering their protest. The mayor and the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, strongly denied the accusations in the articles and the complaints, insisting the NYPD did not target Muslims, but simply followed leads.
We are reminded of the response attributed to the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton (but which he claimed he never said) when a reporter asked him why he seemed so obsessed with robbing banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
We do not deny that the NYPD/CIA project is a departure from the reactive approach to law enforcement we all grew up with. The challenges posed by Muslim extremists who blend in with law-abiding citizens of the Muslim faith are a different order of business than the lone felon of yore. Plainly, what constitutes reasonable cause for police action had to change unless we were prepared to commit suicide.
Notwithstanding the anger of Muslim leaders, since 9/11 and the inception of NYPD/CIA cooperation, there has not been one successful terrorist incident here, though several attempts were thwarted. Nor do we know of any wholesale targeting of individual Muslims.
To be sure, as members of a minority group we are always anxious about any expansion of police powers, especially when they could be subverted by people of ill-will. But Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly are not threats to the liberty of any New Yorker, and no amount of grandstanding will change that fundamental fact.
Plainly, the importuning of the Muslim leaders is meant to intimidate the mayor into abandoning the program. If he were to do so, it would put the city and its residents at immeasurably greater risk – and constitute as impeachable an offense as anything we can think of.