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Homegrown Terrorism: Truth or Consequences

August 20, 2007

What are we to make of the police department’s much ballyhooed report on “homegrown” terrorism?

Your Humble Servant has read all 90 pages of “The Homegrown Threat” [excluding its 143 footnotes]. Its conclusions — that homegrown terrorists pose a greater threat than Al Qaeda overseas — may not be new. But the painstaking detail the report presents in its selected case histories leaves this reporter shaking his head in admiration.

Having provided an unaccustomed kudos to the department, this reporter, nonetheless, sees a giant red flag.

Buried deep inside the report [so naturally ignored by the media] is a disturbing paragraph. If true, it indicates how truly vulnerable we in New York City are. For the first time, the police department seems to place the blame for homegrown terrorism squarely on the city’s Muslim communities.

“Unfortunately,” the report reads, “the city’s Muslim communities have been permeated by extremists who have and continue to sow the seeds of radicalization. …Radicalization is indiscriminate and those attracted to it include New York City citizens from all walks of life.”

Admittedly, the 9/11 attackers, as well as nearly all of subsequent plotters, have been Muslims. Still, the department seems to be painting with a pretty wide brush, which blankets an entire community.

If what the department says is true, we can only hope, and suspect, that the NYPD has infiltrated every mosque, book store, internet café and hookah parlor on Atlantic Avenue.

Presumably, such infiltration is legal under the U.S. Constitution and the Handschu guidelines, which supposedly govern the conduct of the NYPD [and which, in the case of Handschu, demands a criminal predicate — i.e., the belief that a crime has, or is about to, take place before the department can legally begin an investigation.]

We say supposedly because the Handschu guidelines keep shifting, due to the peregrinations of federal judge Charles Haight, who like most of us, can’t seem to decide how much leeway the police department should be allowed and how much it should be monitored.

In fact, under the police department’s greater transparency promised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly than existed under Rudy Giuliani [That’s a joke, folks] we don’t even know if the Handschu Authority still functions or even whom the mayor has appointed as its civilian member. Or even if he has made the appointment.

But since Kelly released the Homegrown Threat report, the editorial writers at the Post are already pounding it out in support of no restrictions whatsoever on the police. As the Post said of the report: “[I]t underscores the relentless efforts by civil libertarians and leftist groups — with the New York Times in the lead of the line — to thwart counter-terrorism efforts.”

The Post is, of course, referring to the lawsuit, filed by the Civil Liberties Union, extensively reported on by the Times, involving groups who planned to protest Printable versionat the 2004 Republican National Convention. The NYPD was co concerned these groups might be terrorists it sent detectives across the country and around the world trying to infiltrate them.

Earlier this month a federal magistrate rejected arguments by the police department’s David Cohen, the former CIA chief turned Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence, that the release of any speck of information concerning the NYPD’s spying, including even naming the group spied upon or the time or date of police surveillance, would hinder the department’s ability to fight terrorism.

We’re about to learn who these groups were and how serious a terrorism threat they posed. We’re also about to learn whether the department’s spying was conducted within the law.

Cynics suggest that the release of the Homegrown Threat report may signal the beginning of the police department’s defense in that matter.

The Black Beat.
Here’s Police Commissioner Kelly’s explanation of why he hired back former Chief of Patrol Wilbur L. Chapman.

“Having previously succeeded in recruiting the most diverse pool of candidates for the Police Department in its history until that time, he returns to make certain we deliver the best education and training available to new recruits… The department needs Bill Chapman’s depth of experience and talent to tackle the enormous training needs of conventional crime-fighting, counter-terrorism, and community relations in the nation’s largest police department.”

Kelly goes on like that for eight paragraphs. Not a word about the real reason he took in Chapman.

But here’s a hint. Over the weekend Kelly became the first police commissioner to visit the National Acton League home of the Rev. Al Sharpton. What more evidence do we need that Kelly’s running for mayor?

The line Kelly gave was that he and the Rev. have been friends since Kelly walked a beat in the 20th precinct on Manhattan’s West Side. Hmm. Just when was that? Late 60s maybe? How old was Sharpton then? Maybe 14, and attending high school in Brooklyn. Funny how he and Kelly should have become friends then. Long way for Al to walk.

Oh, and hasn’t Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne — known here as Mr. Truth — told us that Kelly was promoted to sergeant so quickly, he never walked a beat?


[On page four of Saturday’s Times at the Brooke Astor funeral] Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Barely Seem Behind Him: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Unseen: Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne attempting to get a better picture of Kelly into The Times.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt