This was supposed to be a reflection on 9/11 and what we’ve learned in the decade since — what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong. It would be foolish, though, to waste time retracing our steps when the lesson is simple and the threat that we will unlearn it is immediate and concrete. What we’ve learned is that the only protection from jihadist terror lies in good intelligence. And what we’re seeing is an attempt to re-establish pre-9/11 roadblocks to intelligence-gathering in the very place where, as 9/11 painfully proved, the threat to us is most profound.
Commissioner Ray Kelly’s police department has pioneered a counterterrorism strategy that has safeguarded New York City, the jihad’s No. 1 target, since jihadists destroyed the twin towers ten years ago tomorrow. Yet, as my column last weekend related, Kelly and the NYPD continue to be targets of an Associated Press smear campaign, bringing down the same hidebound indictment Islamist organizations and the Lawyer Left trot out against any counterterrorism strategy worth having: that it means profiling, domestic spying, and Islamophobia.
This week, that campaign continued with AP’s latest installment, wherein correspondent Adam Goldman bewails the special attention the NYPD has paid to mosques and what he preciously describes as “Muslim student groups.”
Not surprisingly, I caught some flak for contending that the AP is dutifully carrying water for the Obama administration, which has urged a strategy for combatting terrorism that is very different from the NYPD’s — a strategy that resists even using the word “terrorism.” So I am grateful to Mr. Goldman for removing any doubt. Right on cue, he now frets that internal NYPD memoranda “appear at times at odds with the White House’s newly released policy on combatting violent extremism.” NRO readers will recognize this Obama policy as “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” which I outlined in both the aforementioned column and in “Losing Malmo,” another recent column on what the European forerunner of Obama’s strategy has wrought.
As Goldman puts it, Obama’s policy “discourages authorities from casting suspicion on communities or conflating strong religious views with violent extremism.” That’s an accurate reflection of how Obama fans view the president’s policy. It also brings into sharp relief two of the policy’s several flawed premises — misconceptions that Goldman clearly shares.
First, if a threat is coming from a particular community, the police must investigate that community. At the very least, that means monitoring the enclaves that are the source of the peril. In suggesting that the threat to America is not Islamic militancy but rather police investigations that cause Muslims to feel aggrieved, President Obama has it exactly backwards. Not coincidentally, this is the domestic iteration of the administration’s wayward foreign policy, in which past American action, rather than Islamist ideology, is portrayed as the root cause of Muslim aggression.
It is not, as the administration claims and the AP parrots, a matter of the police “casting suspicion on communities.” In New York City, police have reacted as police must react to a threat of unprecedented deadliness. Of course, if one is content to wait until “violent extremism” erupts before responding, one presumably has no problem with the police remaining passive until after innocent people have been killed. But having experienced jihadist terror in a way other American cities have not, New Yorkers prefer to see their police prevent attacks. If that’s where you’re coming from, there simply is no alternative to proactive policing: gathering intelligence and interrupting terror cells before plots mature.
This is not a radical concept. It is why legislatures elected by citizens enact laws against conspiring to commit offenses and providing material support to terrorists. The point is to get police to thwart attacks, not prosecute them post facto (assuming that there are any survivors left to prosecute).