In a speech to Fordham Law alumni yesterday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly defended his department's vast surveillance network watching Muslims across the Northeast. “The notion that the Police Department should close our eyes to what takes place outside the five boroughs is folly, and it defies the lessons of history,” Kelly said. “If terrorists aren’t limited by borders and boundaries, we can’t be either."
The depth and scope of the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims as reported by the Associated Press, along with the lack of any criminality found in the investigations, makes it difficult to believe that the department was merely "following leads," but Kelly insisted that's what happened. "We did not look at these groups on the basis of their religious affiliation…Undercover investigations begin with leads, and we go where the leads take us." Kelly also told the audience that the NYPD's tactics were legal and approved under Handschu, and thus constitutional.
A New York Times editorial published today calls that theory into question:
Under a federal court decree, it is permissible to collect information from public sources. But going to public places apparently selected on the basis of religion and recording information having nothing to do with terrorism—including religious and political views expressed in mosques and campus gatherings—is another matter.
"The Police Department will not apologize for our lawful efforts to protect New York, and we will not change our methods to satisfy those who would impugn them without understanding them," Kelly said. That is, unless an investigation by the Department of Justice determines the tactics to be unlawful.