Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is more than justified in his surveillance of some Muslim groups. When he talks of his strategy to protect the city, he is more than convincing. He is doing what he thinks it takes to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.
He met Tuesday with a half dozen Muslim leaders he had invited to police headquarters. The meeting was closed. The topic of the discussion: the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities in places like New York City, New Jersey and Long Island -- and the tracking of Muslim student organizations at colleges in the Northeast.
Some Muslim leaders denounced him for selecting the participants and then meeting them privately. Kelly insists his policy is to monitor specific leads in a lawful, constitutional way.
Radical, fanatic terrorists were behind both attacks on the World Trade Center, in 1993 and 2001.
Since then, Commissioner Kelly and his troops have foiled 14 terrorist plots. These are the facts.
In Kelly’s view, some people have faint memories. There does appear to be a memory gap. It seems like only yesterday that commandeered airplanes smashed into the World Trade Center, and about 3,000 died.
And Kelly sometimes attracts criticism by being tough. I spoke to Commissioner Kelly Monday afternoon.
“This is a war we’re engaged in,” he told me, “we have conducted our surveillance strictly,according to law. The plots that have been uncovered have saved many lives. This is a war and it will go on for many years, for a long, long time.”
Most Muslim Americans are loyal citizens. It would be extremely unjust to paint them with a racist brush. Yet a small number of fanatics were behind both attacks on the World Trade Center, in 1993 and 2001.
Most were Muslims. Kelly knows that, even as he understands the need to enforce the law impartially. In a speech at Fordham Law School, the commissioner said he was proud that no attack on New York had happened in the past 10 years. ‘We are also very clear about the nature of the threat we face. It is persistent and dangerous. The police department will not apologize for our lawful efforts to protect New York and we will not change our methods to satisfy those who would impugn them without understanding them. “
The commissioner talked about cases that the NYPD investigated intensively that took officers outside New York, to London, Europe and throughout the world. Governor Christie of New Jersey recently chided the NYPD for conducting investigations in his state.
Kelly’s reply, in the speech, was sharp: “The notion that the police department should close our eyes to what takes place outside the five boroughs is folly,” Kelly said, “and it defies the lessons of history.” He told the law school audience that 25 percent of the people killed on Sept. 11th were residents of New Jersey.
Kelly is feisty. He is convinced his counter-terrorism strategy is the right one. And his determination to succeed is passionate. In the last half century I have known many police commissioners, none as dedicated or devoted to law enforcement as this one.