It is a sad reality that more than 10 years after Sept. 11, the NYPD still finds it necessary to conduct undercover surveillance in city mosques. It is understandable that this infuriates city Islamic leaders.
Because of the surveillance and reports that the NYPD had a role in the making of the controversial film “The Third Jihad,” there is a growing demand from Islamic leaders that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne resign.
Browne admits his boss was interviewed for the film. Worse still, the Brennan Center for Justice has uncovered documents that say “Third Jihad” was shown as part of counterterrorism training to nearly 1,500 officers in Brooklyn. This is offensive and the commissioner has apologized and ordered that the film not be shown again.
Nevertheless, the anger of Islamic leaders is misplaced. The NYPD’s intent was not to interfere with anyone’s freedom of religion or speech. The purpose of the surveillance, as we understand it, was to find out if Islamic extremists bent on the destruction of New York City are recruiting inside mosques. There is evidence that terrorist organizations in the past have operated within the walls of at least some of them.
Since taking office, he has done an outstanding job. Violent crime citywide is now at the lowest level in decades. He has treated all of the city’s ethnic and religious groups with fairness and respect.
The extremists should be the target of the clerics’ wrath. They have done damage to the public’s perception of Islam. They must be eliminated.
Showing a controversial movie that was not reviewed and approved at the highest level was a mistake.
And Browne’s history of obfuscation and not cooperating with legitimate inquiries has become a problem. Browne must understand that the media have an important role to play in a healthy society and his role is to provide information when it can be done without threatening public safety.
The city has the right to take reasonable steps to prevent a new attack, and if that means conducting surveillance at a mosque, church or synagogue, so be it.