Staking Out Holy Ground

Matthew Harwood criticizes our expensive, resource-intensive infiltration of mosques – a tactic he argues never would be tolerated if aimed at ultra-conservative Christian churches:

[T]he chief of the NYPD Intelligence Division admitted in sworn testimony last summer that the Muslim surveillance program did not even generate a single criminal lead. The incredibly invasive, rights-eroding program was a complete bust, a total waste of the resources of the New York City Police Department.

And that’s without even considering what is surely its most harmful aspect: the likelihood that, at least in the short term, it has caused irreparable damage to the Muslim community’s trust in the police. Surveillance, concludes the Mapping Muslims report, “has stifled constitutionally protected activity and destroyed trust between American Muslim communities and the agencies charged with protecting them.”

When people fear the police, tips dry up, potentially making the community less safe. This is important, especially given that the Muslim-American community has helped prevent, depending on whose figures you use, from 21%-40% of all terrorism plots associated with Muslims since 9/11. That’s grounds for cooperation, not alienation: a lesson that would have been learned by a police department with strong ties to and trust in the community.