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In Defense of Police Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD - Commentary by Ed Koch

In Defense of Police Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD - Commentary by Ed Koch

March 5, 2012 
 
         According to an Associated Press story in the February 24th 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 announcement 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.  Commissioner Kelly’s efforts have kept New York City and its residents safe for the 10 years that have passed since 9/11.  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.  It reported, “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 Times 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.  Kurzman reports that since 9/11, “The number of Muslim-Americans indicted for support for terrorism is more than double the number indicted for violent plots – perhaps not surprising, since it would appear to be far less of a commitment to engage in financing than to engage in violence.  Nevertheless, this finding underscores the relatively low level of radicalization among Muslim-Americans.”

          With respect to the actual number of Muslim-Americans involved in terrorism, Kurzman states, “In cases where the connection to terrorism is publicly known, 151 individuals were prosecuted for financing terrorist plots or organizations; 12 individuals were accused of making false statements during terrorism investigations; and 43 individuals had other connections with terrorism, such as producing a video for a foreign terrorist organization, sending cassette tapes or raincoats to members of a terrorist organization, or personal associations with members of terrorist organizations.”

          Kurzman states, “However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls 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 is seeking 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).  The New York Times of April 26, 2011 reported, “Al Qaeda has long had a fascination with suspension bridges, especially the Brooklyn Bridge. New documents reveal that before Sept. 11, 2001, methods for bringing down bridges were being taught at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.  After 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the attacks, got even more specific, telling an operative, Iyman Faris, to ‘destroy the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting the suspension cables,’ according to a 2006 assessment of Mr. Mohammed that is among the hundreds of classified Guantánamo files made available recently to The New York Times.  The Brooklyn Bridge plot was revealed in 2003 with the arrest of Mr. Faris, a naturalized American citizen from Kashmir.”

          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 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 Times reported on February 28th, “Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly defended the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism program on Monday, saying ‘people have short memories as to what happened here in 2001.’  Mr. Kelly’s remarks, made during an appearance on WOR-AM, were in response to growing criticism of the department’s surveillance methods, including monitoring of Muslim communities in New York City and beyond, and its reliance on stop-and-frisk interactions as a crime-fighting tool.  He defended the surveillance conducted by the Police Department, saying, ‘It would be folly for us to focus only on the five boroughs of New York City, and we have to use all of our resources to protect everyone.’”

          The Times article continued, “Speaking on WOR, during a segment hosted by Representative Peter T. King, Republican of Long Island, Mr. Kelly continued his defiant tone, saying that regardless of criticism, the Police Department was going to do ‘what we believe has to be done to protect our city.’  He criticized the news media as being shortsighted, saying that ‘they forget’ that New York City has been the target of numerous terrorist plots — Mr. Kelly put the number at 14 — since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.”  I say three cheers for the Police Commissioner.

          Commissioner Kelly went on, “What we’re trying to do is save lives, and the tactics and strategies that we’ve used on the streets of this city have indeed saved lives.”

          The New York Post, Daily News, Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have congratulated Police Commissioner Ray 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.
 
          Apparently The New York Times in an editorial dated yesterday, 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 amongst 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 NYPD should use all lawful measures available to it for that purpose.

          The Times’ editorial will be used by Islamic terrorists and their supporters to weaken our resolve and defenses to terrorism.  The Times should reconsider its position.
 
           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.
 
         
          In the summer of 2011, the New York University Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice issued a report dated May 11, 2011 entitled “Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the Homegrown Threat to the United States,” alleging that Muslims in the U.S. have been targeted by law enforcement unfairly.  I asked Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security to comment on the report.
         
         Congressman King sent a letter dated August 29, 2011 to Dean Richard Revesz of NYU Law School stating “The 81-page report charges that ‘the United States government has been targeting Muslims’ by sending ‘paid informants into Muslim communities without any basis for suspicion of current or eventual criminal activity.’  The purported ‘abusive use of informants’ has allegedly ‘been instrumental to perpetuating the government’s claim that the United States faces a ‘homegrown threat’ of terrorism.’  The report concludes that our government fails to guarantee, without discrimination, the right to a fair trial and the freedoms of religion, expression and opinion.  In the context of our ongoing War on Terror, and the upcoming tenth anniversary of the deadly attacks upon Lower Manhattan, these words can fairly be described as incendiary.”

          After discussing the three cases cited in the report as examples of entrapment, Congressman King went on to state, “The report argues that each of these three men, as leading representatives of a class the Center identifies as consisting of over 200 (unidentified) Muslim men accused of terrorism, were entrapped by the government.  Yet as the report sheepishly admits in a footnote, ‘since September 11, 2001, in six trials, ten defendants ‘charged with terrorism-related crimes have formally argued the entrapment defense,’ but none have prevailed.’  Legal scholars are entitled to disagree with the results of any jury verdict or judicial decision.  Yet the fact that not a single juror or judge has found entrapment in these cases, in a decade’s worth of litigation by able defense and petitioners’ counsel, speaks to the weakness of this argument.  The Center might, upon reflection, give greater weight to the results of our legal system.  Targeted and Entrapped was published under the imprimatur of NYU Law School.  Especially during wartime, attorneys and academics have responsibilities as both citizens and scholars.  Asserting that our law enforcement agents target, entrap and imprison fellow Americans on the basis of religious discrimination, in violation of these officers’ oaths to the Constitution, is as gravely serious a charge as can be imagined.  My ancestors experienced bias in Ireland on the basis of our Catholic faith, and Mayor Koch’s fellow Jews suffered persecution and, ultimately, genocide in Europe because of theirs.  As such, we would be among the first to investigate and criticize any religiously-motivated abuse of government power in this country.  While no one should ever shrink from honest patriotic dissent, neither should anyone make inflammatory charges of misconduct against the government, on the basis of what can generously be described, in the case of Targeted and Entrapped, as unfamiliarity with basic facts.”

          We are very lucky to have Ray Kelly, a stand-up guy and great police commissioner in charge of the NYPD.  The City of New York 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.

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