Capitulation in a time of conflict is demoralizing to the rank and file charged with protecting the community they serve. This appears to be the case in the latest legal go round between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Muslim activist groups.
U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr, is about to accept an agreement that will hand over control of the NYPD's Intelligence Division investigations to a civilian monitor appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. This is the same mayor who loudly cheered President Obama's last-minute commutation of FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who will be freed in May. De Blasio extolled the works of a man whose organization was responsible for more than 100 bombings, many in New York City, including one that killed four innocent people.
To understand the impact that this proposed settlement, between the NYPD, and the activist organization known as the Muslim Advocates will have on existing counter terrorism measures, we have to understand how vitally important is the issue of protecting cities against attacks by radical Islamist terrorists. The activist groups claim that the police department unfairly singled out Muslim communities in the greater New York/New Jersey area for investigation and surveillance. They also claim that gathering specific information about the neighborhoods amounted to unprecedented "profiling." They point to a little known NYPD unit that collected the data and accuse it of spying.
Their argument belies the fact that collecting demographic statistics has been used for years by the U.S. Census Bureau to map out trends and changes in neighborhoods. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have used this practice for decades to investigate criminal organizations such as the Mafia, or Columbian drug cartels. The normal investigative process would include forensic examination of the communities most likely to be victimized by criminal organizations. The FBI did not set up surveillance in Chinatown when taking down the Cosa Nostra. They went to Little Italy.
Radical Islamist organizations have in the past infiltrated Muslim neighborhoods in the United States and exerted harmful influence on those communities.
For example, in 1990 a little known Islamic cleric named Omar Abdel Rahman came to live in the greater New York area. He visited mosques in Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City and elsewhere, and before long forced out any clergy who were not in line with his radical ideology.
In Brooklyn's Al Farooq mosque on Atlantic Avenue, where Mustafa Shalabi served as a treasurer, an argument occurred over how the money should be spent. Shalabi was found murdered in his Coney Island apartment not long after that fight. Another of the mosque's clerics, a Sudanese imam named Zakaria Gasmalla, was forced out and moved his entire family to the Buffalo area to escape the pressure from Abdel Rahman and his followers. The Blind Sheik and his followers continued to use Muslim communities to raise money for their plots, to hide weapons, and to build the truck bomb that was placed in the garage of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. Six people died and more than 1,000 were injured in the resulting explosion.
The first soldiers in the jihad against America lived within the Muslim neighborhoods in the New York/New Jersey community.
In 2000, two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, settled into an apartment in a San Diego neighborhood near the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque. There Anwar al Awlaki, a young Islamic clergyman, welcomed them. Today we know the American-born Awlaki as one of al-Qaida's most influential preachers and most effective radicalizers and recruiters.
Terrorists will seek out the neighborhoods where they feel most at home, a place where they can use the community to their advantage. Members of the Ribat mosque provided both transportation and language education skills to the two terrorists not knowing their true objective.
Minneapolis' Cedar Riverside neighborhood has been dubbed "Little Mogadishu" because of it large Somali population. It is a community that has seen more than 50 of its members go overseas to join the Islamist terrorist organization Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab preyed on second generation immigrants who felt a disconnect between American society and their ancestral home. To stem the tide of continued recruitment by radical Islamist terrorists like Al Shabaab, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force successfully focused its investigation on the Muslim community in the greater Minneapolis area.
On the other hand, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seek to portray law enforcement as sinister characters sneaking through neighborhoods in trench coats looking to do harm to the community. One chapter urged community members to "Build a Wall of Resistance" and not cooperate with investigators in ongoing terrorist investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Thankfully, many members of Minneapolis' Somali community rejected this approach.
To blindly think that neighborhoods are somehow immune from the nefarious tactics used by either criminal or terrorist organization is to cede ground to those who would do us harm. Police departments exist to protect and serve communities and one of those tools most helpful is knowing the makeup of each neighborhood they patrol. Turning that responsibility over to a terrorist-friendly mayor will only handcuff police with the ambiguity of political correctness and lead to greater harm.
IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.