Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

How To Become Terror-Torn Europe — And How Not To

Recoiling from the terrorist carnage in Brussels, Americans may be attracted to the “tough” posturing of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The casino mogul wants to bring back torture, while the Texas senator hopes to bomb indiscriminately until the desert glows. Trump would bar any Muslim from entering the United States, while Cruz would dispatch special police patrols into Muslim neighborhoods. Both eagerly stigmatize Muslims in America and worldwide.

Yet we know that the leaders of ISIS or Daesh, the self-styled Islamic State, welcome such signs of panic. That is why they recently featured footage of Trump in a propaganda video, ranting about the Brussels attack. The would-be presidents vying for the Republican nomination consistently serve as useful idiots, their declarations of hostility to Islam only alienating that faith’s billion followers here and abroad, while in no way advancing our security.

Our success in defeating Daesh depends on achieving the opposite – that is, winning the cooperation of the great majority of Islam’s believers against the murderous apostates whose victims include thousands of Muslims.

Despite the rash of bigotry and violence encouraged by Islamophobic demagogues like Trump, the Muslims who live here remain as stable, patriotic, and peaceful as they have been for many, many years. Their integration and assimilation into our political culture is an important reason why we, as a nation, don’t confront the same challenges as France, Belgium, and other European countries with socially isolated Muslim ghettoes.

Last year’s mass murder in San Bernardino is actually a case in point. Horrible as it was, the assault by a deranged couple differed significantly from the mass killings perpetrated by teams of jihadis in Paris and Brussels. After months of investigation, the FBI has found no evidence that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were in contact with Daesh, let alone any broader conspiracy that operated within a local community. (The neighbor who helped them obtain weapons was quickly detected and arrested.)

By contrast, there is already plenty of evidence that the Paris and Brussels killers were part of a multinational network rooted in local districts, where the killers could hide and plot. Security experts believe more conspirators are yet to be found in Belgium, France, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe.

That fundamental difference between here and there is why American law enforcement officials are appalled by the aggressive, Muslim-baiting rhetoric emanating from Trump and Cruz, as Michael Hirsh reports in Politico. According to Hirsh, the Republican message has “distressed U.S. law enforcement officials actually involved in the counterterror effort,” because “Muslim communities already are highly wired by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence.” And contrary to being radicalized, those communities “have proven astonishingly cooperative on the whole.”

Having interviewed law enforcement and national security authorities, Hirsh found that in Muslim communities like Dearborn, Michigan, sophisticated outreach programs have produced real advances in security — including bold action by parents seeking to protect their own children from recruitment. When New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton bluntly told Cruz to shut up because he “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” the city’s top cop wasn’t kidding. Bratton noted that New York has about a thousand Muslim police officers, many of whom are combat veterans.

This isn’t “political correctness,” as Cruz and Trump always sneer; it is common sense.

Meanwhile, those two politicians and others of their ilk are quickly becoming the most valuable recruits ISIS could imagine. With their irrepressible impulse to denigrate the Obama administration’s counter-terror effort, both of them have been trumpeting Daesh’s central message – namely, the lie that the Islamic State is winning when, in fact, they are slowly but steadily losing. In recent weeks, American forces have reportedly killed the group’s second-in-command, even as the Iraqi Army prepares a major campaign to take Mosul, the oil city that ISIS has held for the past two years.

Should we have the misfortune to elect one of these useful idiots to the presidency, we may well suffer the consequences of their ignorance and prejudice. For if Trump or Cruz ever enacts the kind of repressive policy they now advocate, then eventually we will become much more like Europe in its ethnic and religious polarization.

That would not only be morally wrong and contrary to our constitutional traditions. It would be a path toward national disaster.

NYPD Monitored Muslims Long Before Ted Cruz’s Proposal

New York City’s police department has emerged as one of the biggest opponents of Ted Cruz’s call to patrol specifically Muslim neighborhoods following the Brussels attacks. However, that same police department was a pioneer in monitoring American Muslims for over a decade following the September 11 attacks.

Following the Brussels attacks, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, riding high off his appointment of a man who thinks President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, said counterterrorism strategy must be approached in the same way police deal with gangs, by having increased levels of patrolling and policemen in the area. “I’m talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism,” he said on CNN, shortly after the attacks.

The NYPD criticized the Texas senator almost immediately. The police department’s spokesman, J. Peter Donald, tweeted at Ted Cruz:

That message was reiterated by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who also lambasted Cruz for his comments. “The statements he made today is why he’s not going to become president of this country. We don’t need a president that doesn’t respect the values that form the foundation of this country,” he said. “As the mayor mentioned, I have over 900 very dedicated officers in this department, many of whom do double duty, and they serve as active duty members of the U.S. Military in combat, something the senator has never seen.”

While American Muslims were undoubtedly relieved that the country’s largest police force was standing up for them, the NYPD has not always seen Muslims under its jurisdiction as a trustworthy population. Less than six months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, now-former police commissioner Raymond Kelly created the Demographics Unit out of the skeleton of the police department’s Intelligence Unit, a specialized unit that once focused on breaking into drug and criminal networks.

The two men leading the unit’s transformation into an ethno-religious program were former CIA agent David Cohen and then-current CIA agent Larry Sanchez, despite a federal ban on the CIA engaging in domestic spying. The two were inspired by the Israeli military’s method of monitoring and controlling the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank, according to an in-depth report by New York magazine. The system relied on thousands of “rakers” — informants who patrolled neighborhoods — collecting information as inconsequential as what TV channels were on at a local restaurant, what people wore, how often they went to pray, and a whole variety of other markers that mapped out the intimate details of thousands of Muslims in the city.

When the program was made public in a 2011 Associated Press report, American Muslims finally had confirmation of what they suspected for years since the 9/11 attacks: They were being monitored on the basis of their religion. Commissioner Kelly denied that religious identity played a role in what neighborhoods were monitored, saying only that the police force went where their investigations took them. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a similar statement, saying that the NYPD did not consider religion in its policing, due to a ban on singling out communities due to their religion.

By that point, the Demographics Unit was expanding beyond its already broad mandate to monitor the entire Muslim population of the country’s largest city. They were monitoring anti-police brutality groups and antiwar protesters, cataloguing contact information and keeping tabs on their activities. Sanchez once even tried to share the information collected by the unit with the FBI, but his offer was refused after the agency discovered how information was obtained, which would have violated federal law.

Leonard Levitt, a columnist for Newsday known for his insider reporting on the NYPD, alleged that the NYPD hired another CIA official, Marc Sageman, as the department’s scholar-in-residence. That was not the only controversy surrounding the hiring. Even more troubling was the way in which Sageman was paid — through secret donations made to a secret non-profit whose directors included Stephen Hammerman, the NYPD’s former Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters, and Joe Wuensch, Kelly’s chief of staff. “Just think about it. A municipal agency seeking funding for terrorism-related programs by secret donors. That’s how a municipal city agency does business?” he wrote, calling the Demographics Unit a rogue division of the police force.

In the end, the NYPD acknowledged that it failed to bring up a single case of alleged terrorism with the Demographics Unit, not to mention that the program damaged the relationship between the city’s Muslim population and its governing institutions. “The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, head of the Arab American Association of New York, to the New York Times. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

The city’s new administration, under Bill de Blasio, has charted a different course with its Muslim residents. The unit was disbanded by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in April 2014 following several months of inactivity that began after de Blasio took office. The officers involved in the unit were reportedly reassigned to other departments. Former Commissioner Kelly has continued to play word games with the mission of what is perhaps his most infamous legacy, insisting that the program was perfectly legal and designed only to know where certain groups of people lived — even though the U.S. Census Bureau already does that.

If Kelly still thinks unwarranted surveillance of Muslim citizens was worth alienating an entire group of innocent Americans, he should endorse Ted Cruz.

Endorse This: Ted Cruz ‘Doesn’t Know What The Hell He’s Talking About’

Ted Cruz got flustered today when CBS’ This Morning’s anchors pointed out the logical fallacies in his argument that the U.S. needs to spy on Muslim communities to weed out radical jihadists.

Co-host Norah O’Donnell was having none of Ted Cruz’s political posturing.

“How many Muslims are in America?” she asked him.

Ted Cruz admitted he didn’t know.

“There are three million Muslims in America. Law enforcement is overwhelmed…It’s impractical what you’re suggesting. Also, it doesn’t suggest it would lead to anything. It’s more of a political point that you’re making.”

She was referring to the police surveillance program that was initiated after the 9/11 but was disbanded under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, due to its ineffectiveness.

The CBS anchor weren’t the only one who found Cruz’s logic ridiculous. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton blasted Cruz for his ignorance on the same program earlier:

“He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, to be quite frank with you. I took great offense to that statement. I have almost one thousand Muslim officers in the NYPD. Ironically, when he’s running around here, we probably have a few Muslim officers guarding him.”

Cruz dismissed Bratton’s comments, calling him and his partner John Miller, the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism,“Democratic political henchmen” under de Blasio’s command.

“It could be because he simply thinks that patrolling Muslim neighborhoods is a bad thing to do in the interest of New York?” Rose asked.

But Cruz, sticking to his political talking points, instead blamed de Blasio, Hillary Clinton and the President for sticking to “political correctness” in refusing to use the words “radical Islam” when referring to ISIS, a statement he has used repeatedly.

The hosts don’t take the bait, continuing to press the oily Texas senator. Watch as the journalists do their jobs — pointing out errors, inaccuracies, and bluster in a presidential candidate.

Screenshot via YouTube/CBS This Morning

Artists Demand NY Police Return Snowden Bust

New York (AFP) — Three artists on Tuesday demanded that New York police return a bust of fugitive U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden to public display or threatened legal action.

Civil rights lawyer Ronald Kuby said the artists would remain anonymous because they feared arrest and prosecution after authorities removed the sculpture from a Brooklyn park last week.

“We hope New York City will release the statue so it may continue to spark healthy conversations about issues central to our freedoms,” the artists said in a written statement.

They erected the 100-pound bust at an American Revolution war memorial in Fort Greene park shortly before dawn on April 6, but within hours it was confiscated by police.

At a news conference on the spot where the bust was impounded, Kuby described the sculpture as a “valuable and well-crafted piece of art” that took six months to create.

“It is somewhat ironic that as Edward Snowden is in exile in Russia his statue is being held hostage in the basement of a police precinct in New York City,” Kuby said.

“Whatever the right of the parks department to remove an unauthorized sculpture, that does not translate into the right of the police to indefinitely detain a work of art,” he added.

A Manhattan gallery wants to put it on display next month as part of an exhibition on surveillance and privacy, Kuby said, threatening to prepare litigation if police do not respond.

A New York police spokeswoman told AFP that the statue was erected without permission and is being stored as evidence.

“All property that is confiscated for investigatory purposes may be returned to the rightful owner after the investigation is completed,” said deputy chief Kim Royster in an email.

Geoffrey Croft from the NYC Park Advocates watchdog called for the statue to be exhibited in a public park as part of program that has put hundreds of works of art temporarily on display.

“Art and the freedom to express ourselves are the cornerstones of our society and they must be protected,” Croft told reporters.

In a letter to police commissioner Bill Bratton demanding the statue’s return, Kuby said the artists had displayed the bust on a war memorial to draw a link between martyrs for freedom in the American Revolution and those who suffer for freedom today.

Snowden, 31, a former contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing mass spying programs by the United States and its allies.

The U.S. administration has branded him a hacker and a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of the NSA spying program

Photo: AFP/Jewel Samad