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War on Terror

Counterterrorism Chief Lauds NYPD in Visit to Police Headquarters

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Counterterrorism chief John Brennan is confident the NYPD is acting legally and ethically in its surveillance activities.When news broke that the New York Police Department was conducting surveillance of Muslims in New York City as part of the Department’s counter-terrorism efforts earlier this year, media outlets, politicians, and laypeople from across the political spectrum weighed in. Awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the subject earlier last week, the Associated Press ignited discussion when it published a series of articles about the NYPD’s seasonal tracking of Muslim Student Association (M.S.A.) activity at universities in the Northeast. The Left overwhelmingly cast such activities as groundless and examples of ethnic profiling; supporters of the NYPD said the Department’s activities did not break any laws and were legally, and justifiably, performed.

However, while the ire surrounding the surveillances has gone down some notches in recent weeks, suspicions about the Department’s motives and activities are still being raised. Following the media storm that erupted after the AP reports were released, more than 30 members of Congress asked for a federal investigation to be initiated, and Attorney General Eric Holder said he found the maelstrom of controversy surrounding the NYPD probes “disturbing.” Under his direction, the Justice Department is reviewing the NYPD’s surveillance measures.

In his visit to the NYPD’s headquarters in New York this past Friday, John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President, seemed to dispel any concerns the NYPD may be operating illegally or immorally. In a string of comments about the NYPD’s counter-terrorism history, and its work in the context of the national War on Terror, Brennan felt certain Commissioner Ray Kelly was running an effective and ethical operation.

“I can just say that in my interaction with the commissioner over the course of many, many years, I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law,” Brennan said, according to the New York Daily News. “And it’s something that has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade.”

At the heart of the dispute regarding Muslim surveillance was one question: Was the NYPD monitoring being performed at the expense of individual rights?

Brennan answered that two need not be mutually exclusive.

“It’s not a tradeoff between our security and our freedoms and our rights as citizens,” he stated. “We want to make sure that we’re able to optimize our security at the same time we optimize those freedoms that we hold and cherish so deeply.”

Brennan suggested that rather than growing disillusioned with the NYPD’s tactics, local Muslims should empathize and understand the security challenges posed to the force. To counter terrorism in New York, acquiring the help of the Muslim community is an essential ingredient, Brenan explained, and added that he would be meeting with local imams to repeat this point later during his stay in the City.

“The Muslim community here is part of the solution to the terrorist threat,” Brennan noted. “And they need to be part of that effort, and that dialogue needs to continue.”

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