Profiling? It’s Called Intelligence

Certain elementary facts about the way we live now appear to have escaped the notice of some members of the City Council. That much was evident the other day when they questioned Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about published reports concerning police intelligence-gathering in the city’s Muslim neighborhoods.

Here are the facts that the Council members chose to ignore as they in essence accused Commissioner Kelly of racial profiling:

Fact No. 1: The United States currently faces a deadly terrorist threat from groups that mobilize language and imagery from a distorted form of Islam.

Fact No. 2: New York City has been attacked by men who drew their inspiration from Islamic religious figures. In 1993, followers of a sheik based in Jersey City bombed the World Trade Center. The terrorists of 9/11 regarded Osama bin Laden not just as their commander in chief but as a self-proclaimed arbiter of Islamic teaching.

Fact No. 3: Militant Islamic groups have sought to follow up on the attacks, inspired by other quasi-religious figures. Remember the recently deceased Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a drone in Yemen two weeks ago? He was a terrorist firebrand and a cleric who, a decade ago, led a mosque in Virginia.

These facts, it seems fair to say, suggest a pattern. The United States may have many enemies, both foreign and domestic, but terrorists who adhere to a militant, intolerant form of Islam would appear to be the most immediate danger to U.S. civilians at home and abroad

It follows, then, that those who seek to protect American lives would have some interest in the activities of Muslims who might be inclined to act on the teachings and instructions of their dead leaders. The New York Police Department has reinvented itself since 9/11 as a counterterrorism agency, collecting information at home while sending officers abroad to work with law-enforcement agents in other nations to monitor radical Islamic groups and foil their ambitions to bring death and destruction to their countless enemies.

It is entirely possible that among the hundreds of thousands of good, hard-working Muslim New Yorkers there are a few who have been sent here to strike when the moment presents itself. The N.Y.P.D. operates on the assumption that tomorrow may be that moment. Preventing such an attack requires information. Gaining access to that information requires surveillance as well as strong community relations.

But make no mistake: the immediate threat comes from militant Islam. Countering the threat means that Islamic institutions and neighborhoods inevitably will require special attention. Some Council members call this racial profiling. Wiser New Yorkers, including the vast majority of the city’s Muslims, should regard it as simple common sense.

Would the Council members argue that Mr. Kelly should deploy his counterintelligence resources according to a quota system? If there is an undercover N.Y.P.D. presence in, say, an Islamic community group or even a mosque, would Council members argue that, in fairness, Mr. Kelly should monitor Temple Emanu-El, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Abyssinian Baptist Church as well, just so it doesn’t seem like any one group is being singled out?

The terrorist threat comes from a perverted ideology that is intertwined with a distorted form of Islam. Mr. Kelly has to deal with this reality, as do law-enforcement officials all over the world—including those in some Islamic nations.

Council members apparently would prefer the N.Y.P.D. to monitor all of us, or none of us, rather than focus its attention on a single dangerous ideology. Luckily, they are as powerless as they are clueless. Profiling? It’s Called Intelligence