Tomorrow’s Democratic Primary in New York City offers a variety of personalities for voters to choose from but very little diversity when it comes to attitudes toward the efforts of Gotham’s Police Department to ensure the public safety of its citizens. All the Democrats seem to be intent on trashing the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” procedures that have helped reduce crime in the city. But it should also be noted that none seem willing to come to the defense of the cops as they come under attack for their equally successful efforts to combat homegrown terrorism. As I wrote last month, a report (that is the core of a forthcoming book on the subject) by a pair of AP reporters that seems to be largely based on information leaked by the FBI and dissident cops aims to discredit the NYPD’s counter-terrorist program. Though there is no evidence that the police broke the law or did anything unethical or inappropriate in their surveillance of places where Islamists gathered, including mosques, liberals and others determined to forget the lessons of 9/11 seek to shut down these efforts. That campaign was endorsed again today in a New York Times editorial that was short on evidence of wrongdoing and long on innuendo about Islamophobia.
Over the last several years the Times editorial page has been a consistent campaigner for reinstating a 9/10/2001 mentality about terrorism. But what is particularly troubling this week as we observe the 12th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center is how these destructive attitudes have been allowed to become mainstream political opinion among New York Democrats who ought to know better. While some have speculated on the likelihood that whoever emerges from tomorrow’s primary as the likely nominee and therefore the favorite to be the next mayor will replace the NYPD’s dynamic leader Ray Kelly, the real issue isn’t personnel; it’s policy. If the Times and other left-wing critics get their way on effectively shelving the department’s counter-terrorist unit, the safety of New Yorkers will be put at risk.
Though the Times and the AP duo huff and puff about the law, they know this is a dead end since the NYPD has rigorously followed court rulings about what they may and may not do. But the problem here is more about institutional rivalries and politics than legal concerns. As I’ve noted previously, part of the pushback against the NYPD’s reasonable decision to keep an eye on local Islamists stems from a turf war with the FBI. The Bureau is famously jealous of its prerogatives. It is also deeply committed to a politically correct version of counter-terror surveillance that buys into the false notion that the government should be more worried about offending the sensibilities of some Islamists than in ferreting out radicals who encourage, aid, and abet terror. While the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are hard-working, law-abiding citizens, the myth of a post-9/11 backlash against Arabs and adherents of Islam in this country has led some to treat any effort to monitor the Islamist minority as an act of prejudice against all members of this religious group.
The point of these critiques as well as the nuisance civil-rights lawsuits brought against the NYPD is to create a zone of immunity around all Islamist institutions that would render them off limits to police surveillance. While that might sound like a defense of that community’s First Amendment rights, what it really does is give impunity to radicals who have repeatedly sought to inspire Muslim individuals to commit acts of terror. Should New York’s next mayor put such an anti-anti-terrorism policy in place, the result will not be a strengthened defense of individual rights but a return to the September 10th mentality where cops and federal authorities slept (and failed to cooperate with each other) while Islamists plotted mass murder.
We can only hope that in the weeks left before the November election, somebody on the ballot, no matter which party they represent, speaks up for the NYPD and sanity and against the Times’s effort to rout common sense on counter-terrorism.