Bowing to Political Pressure, New York Cedes Ground in the Fight Against Terrorism
Capitulation in a time of conflict is demoralizing to the rank and file who protect the public. Yet capitulation is what has occurred in the latest legal battle between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Muslim activist groups.
US District Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr., is about to accept an agreement that will hand over control of investigations at the NYPD’s Intelligence Division to a civilian monitor appointed by New York City 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. Yes, 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.
Muslim activist groups have claimed that the NYPD unfairly singles out Muslim communities in the greater New York-New Jersey area for investigation and surveillance. They also claim that gathering specific information about certain neighborhoods amounted to unprecedented “profiling.”
Their argument belies the fact that collecting demographic statistics has been done for years by the US 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 Colombian drug cartels. The normal investigative process includes a 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; it went to Little Italy.
Radical Islamist organizations have, in the past, infiltrated Muslim neighborhoods in the United States, and exerted a 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, he forced out any clergy who were not in line with his radical ideology.
During that time, a fight broke out at Brooklyn’s Al Farooq mosque about how that organization’s money should be spent. The mosque’s treasurer, Mustafa Shalabi, was found murdered in his Coney Island apartment not long afterwards. 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 — known as the “Blind Sheikh” — and his followers. The Blind Sheikh and his followers then 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 February 26, 1993. Six people died, and more than 1,000 were injured, in that attack.
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 Qaeda’s most influential preachers, radicalizers and recruiters.
Terrorists will seek out the neighborhoods where they feel most at home and where they can use the community to their advantage. Members of the Ribat mosque provided both transportation and language education skills to the two 9/11 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 travel overseas to join the Islamist terrorist organization Al Shabaab. 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.
Despite these facts, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seek to portray law enforcement officials as sinister characters sneaking through neighborhoods in trench coats looking to harm the community. One CAIR chapter urged community members to “Build a Wall of Resistance,” and not cooperate with police in ongoing terrorist investigations.
Thankfully, many members of Minneapolis’ Somali community rejected this approach.
To blindly think that certain neighborhoods are somehow immune to the nefarious tactics used by 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 the tools most helpful to them is knowing the makeup of each neighborhood they patrol. Turning that responsibility over to a radical mayor will only handcuff police in the name of political correctness, and will lead to great 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. This article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.