SODOM & GOMORRAH: Reports that the New York Police Department crossed into New Jersey to carry out surveillance on terror suspects have renewed the debate over how best to react to the threat of international terrorist groups. Supporters of the NYPD say that the measures were completely justified, while people in New Jersey and the Obama administration have suggested that the police shouldn’t be spying on people just because of their faith. Platitudes won’t work in convincing people that the New Jersey and federal government actually care about spying on Muslims.
US Attorney General Eric Holder made a few brief remarks on the subject. He said that he was disturbed by what he read in the newspapers regarding efforts made by the NYPD. Over the past decade, New York City has developed a crack team of investigators to foil terrorist threats. They hired a former CIA spy to head its intelligence division, have posted detectives all over the world, and are rumored to have more Arabic speakers than the FBI.
The Associated Press recently released a report that showed that New York police officers had been monitoring Muslims in New Jersey – and have been doing so for no other reason than the fact that they practice Islam.
Eric Holder and Governor Chris Christie responded that the reports were disturbing. Not only were New Jersey officials not notified of the activity, but critics contend that the government shouldn’t be spying on people just because they follow a specific faith. Certain Muslim groups have added fuel to the fire by demonstrating in favor of the police’s efforts to stop terrorism.
The issue for Eric Holder and Chris Christie isn’t about Muslims. Holder made it clear that he heard about the incident from the papers, which reported on the 60-page “demographics” report compiled by the NYPD – covering information on Muslims in New York and New Jersey and detailing how undercover police interacted with them. Holder apparently reads the news, which means that the AP story wasn’t entirely new to him: in 2007, Time Magazine reported that the NYPD issued a report that said that new converts to Islam were more likely to commit acts of terrorism.
The issue for Eric Holder is not that the New York police were targeting Muslims but that Eric Holder’s bureaucracy wasn’t involved. When the American government unilaterally decides to kill citizens abroad without a jury trial, Eric Holder is perfectly ok with that. When the United States decided that travelers coming from certain Muslim countries should undergo extra security screenings, not a word of protest from the Attorney General. No, the issue is that the NYPD compiled the 60-page document and that the FBI didn’t. Christie’s sincerity is also a little doubtful; when he was the US Attorney for New Jersey, the defendents’ religion in the Fort Dix case was the main thrust of the prosecution’s arguments, much to the ire of Muslim attorneys who said that in a post 9/11 world, such a heavy emphasis on religion can cause people to target innocent Muslims. Christie is siding with the administration on this issue because New York police – without even so much as calling New Jersey officials – were spying on Muslims.
If they would have at least made the phone call, targeting people based on their religion might not be so bad.