Ray Kelly nomination to lead DHS? A disaster for We the PeopleSaturday, July 27, 2013 at 9:44 am by Kyla Kuvach
As Janet Napolitano steps down as Secretary of Homeland Security, President Obama has looked for a new candidate to fill the position. Raymond Kelly, Police Commissioner of New York, has been cited as a possible successor to Napolitano, but his appointment would likely exacerbate the profiling and surveillance of Muslims throughout the country.
A Secretary of Homeland Security should be able to protect this country from true acts of terrorism and harm without eroding the civil liberties of American citizens of any faith, but Kelly’s possible appointment puts this possibility into question.
Raymond Kelly served as police commissioner for the NYPD from 1992 to 1994, and again from 2002 to the present. During his second term, New York City was shaken by the attacks of 9/11, and (speaking from my own observations as a native New Yorker) stricken by a xenophobic, anti-Muslim paranoia.
Kelly fed this paranoia, developing the Demographics Unit of the NYPD (now the target of a constitutional challenge), which was specifically designed to map and track Muslim Americans in the Tri-state area absent any suspicion of wrongdoing. The unit did not notify local law enforcement or elected officials when the surveillance took place outside of New York City, essentially subverting local law by fiat.
A discredited and problematic document published by the NYPD called “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” advances a disturbing theory that could justify treating anyone as a terror threat:
Becoming a jihadist is a gradual, multi-step process that can take months, even years, although since 9/11 the pace has accelerated. The journey may begin in a mosque where a radical Imam preaches, in informal congregations and prayer groups—some of which are clandestine—in schools, in prisons, on the Internet.
The Demographics Unit assumed the task of monitoring this “journey” toward radicalization, spying on Muslim Americans in mosques and school groups — even monitoring a student whitewater rafting trip. CUNY Law School’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) Project and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released a report earlier this year detailing this tracking, called Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims. According to the CLEAR report:
NYPD agents were documenting how many times a day Muslim students prayed during a university whitewater rafting trip, which Egyptian businesses shut their doors for daily prayers, which restaurants played Al Jazeera, and which Newark businesses sold halal products and alcohol.
The CLEAR report notes that, in addition to publishing the “Radicalization of the West,” under Kelly’s tutelage, the NYPD had a widely-publicized screening of the vitriolic, overtly anti-Muslim film “The Third Jihad“ on a continuous loop during NYPD cadet training from October to December 2010. Not only did Kelly screen the film ad nauseam, but, according to CLEAR, he was integral in the film’s production.
The anti-Muslim sentiment that permeated NYPD cadet training and characterized much of the department’s activities also infiltrated the problematic stop-and-frisk program endorsed and defended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The program, which unapologetically targets black and brown men, has been ineffective and plainly racist throughout the history of its implementation.
Stop-and-frisk, which serves as yet another example of the NYPD’s systemic mistrust of non-white individuals, has been on the chopping block as two bills were introduced in New York to increase oversight of the Police Department and expand the ability of New Yorkers to sue over police profiling of suspects. As expected, Mayor Bloomberg has vetoed both bills, in full support of Kelly’s anti-brown and anti-black crusade.
President Obama referred to Police Commissioner Kelly as ”well qualified,” and an “outstanding leader in New York.” But if Kelly’s tenure with the NYPD has been tainted by the overreach of the Demographics Unit and the useless stop-and-frisk program, then what would his time as Secretary of Homeland Security look like?
President Obama must consider if appointing Kelly to a national position already characterized by an anti-Muslim tendency would be a good idea. Appointing Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security could very well make federal agencies even more predatory towards people of color in America.