Attorney General Eric Holder doubled down on his threats of a federal investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Asked to comment on the brouhaha about NYPD personnel performing surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York region, including those in New Jersey by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Politico reports that Holder repeated his previous pledge that the Justice Department is reviewing these activities, clearly with an eye toward hamstringing the department’s work.
The NYPD’s post 9/11 attack surveillance program was both prudent and lawful. To his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has slammed the attacks by Holder, the New York Times editorial page (here and here), as well as politicians like Lautenberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to turn the issue into a “political football.” Sadly, the campaign to restrain law enforcement agencies from taking a close look at groups and mosques where Islamists gather is taking its cue from those groups that purport to represent American Muslims but whose real agenda is to promote the myth there has been a wave of discrimination against this group when there is no evidence to back up their claims. The upshot of this grandstanding will be a blow to the effort to root out homegrown terrorists.
At the bottom of all the outrage generated by a series of articles by the Associated Press about the NYPD’s surveillance efforts is the assertion by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that American Muslims are somehow being deterred from attending religious services or gatherings because of this. Critics of the program believe there is no correlation between any information the NYPD might obtain from legally monitoring communities whose members have expressed support for foreign terrorist groups such as Hamas (CAIR was founded as a political front group for the Holy Land Foundation, that terrorist organization’s fundraising outlet in this country.) Given that the NYPD has foiled a number of terror attacks in recent years, the idea that it should cut back on its intelligence efforts aimed at seeking to stop terrorists and their sympathizers before they strike is the sort of politically-motivated mischief that could potentially cost lives.
It is also important to note that the claim, repeated by the New York Times in its latest editorial on the subject, that Muslims “are now wary of praying in public, joining faith-based groups or patronizing some restaurants and shops” is put forward without a shred of proof. If there has been a decline in attendance at mosques, particularly those led by figures such as Christie’s friend Imam Mohammed Qatanani, who have expressed support for Hamas, we have yet to hear of it. The Times believes “the real life consequences” of the surveillance has been to impede the government’s law enforcement activities because they undermine American Muslims’ trust in their fairness. But this is an absurd distortion of the truth.
The NYPD’s counter-terrorism record is exemplary. The mere fact that its members sought to keep tabs on those communities where Islamists might be found did nothing to harm law-abiding Muslims. Rather, like everyone else, they were protected from potential killers.
Groups like CAIR who promote the myth of the post-9/11 backlash do so to advance their own political agenda. The same can be said of outlets like the Times and liberals like Holder who seem determined to return to the mentality of September 10 when concern about Islamist terror was marginalized. Should they prevail the consequences for all Americans, no matter what their faith or ethnic background, will be serious.