NYPD chief Kelly sets meeting with Muslims

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly pointed to foiled terrorist plots against the five boroughs while defending the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim student groups outside of the city. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has pushed back against critics of the NYPD’s policy about monitoring Muslims.

Kelly and the NYPD have been the focal point of criticism from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, which have called for investigations into the Police Department’s practice of infiltrating Muslim student groups and mosques in the five boroughs and beyond.

Kelly was set to meet with Muslim leaders this week to discuss the outcry, the Associated Press reported, which came a few days after protesters and the commissioner both made their arguments known.

On Saturday, a crowd of protesters formed outside a Manhattan breakfast for Fordham Law School alumni and chanted slogans accusing Kelly of racism for unfairly targeting Muslims solely based on their religion.

Inside Kelly was defending his tactics to the people gathered at the event.

The NYPD released a transcript of Kelly’s remarks later that evening.

“If terrorists aren’t limited by borders and boundaries, we can’t be either,” Kelly said in the statement. “It is entirely legal for the police department to conduct investigations outside of city limits, and we maintain very close relationships with local authorities.”

Kelly was referring to a set of rules known as the Handschu Guidelines, which stipulate the NYPD can only follow up on credible leads that are vetted by the city Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence — a position currently held by former Central Intelligence Agency member David Cohen — when they infiltrate student groups or conduct surveillance inside a mosque.

Otherwise, Kelly defended the department’s right to access public information and send officers into public places.

Kelly said the NYPD generates leads and acts on them to catch terrorists the same way it arrests drug dealers or other criminals, and that the NYPD only infiltrates private gatherings after being vetted under the guidelines.

“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,” he said, invoking 9/11 and the previous World Trade Center bombings in 1993.

Kelly then described foiled terrorist plots against the city that originated in New Jersey, Colorado and Connecticut.

Kelly and the NYPD have come under fire recently by Muslim activists, who have called their infiltration of student groups a violation of privacy and even racist.

A group of protesters congregated outside a Manhattan restaurant where Kelly gave his remarks Saturday morning and protested the NYPD’s surveillance practices.

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, recently criticized the NYPD as well for operating in the Garden State without alerting authorities there to the department’s actions.

“What bothers me is that they seemed to have abandoned the key lesson from Sept. 11, which was that we should be sharing information with each other,” he said.

On Monday, a small group of Muslims activists came out in support of the NYPD’s policies at a rally with U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Massapequa Park), who has held congressional hearings on home-grown terrorism in the radical Muslim community.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 7:19 pm, March 7, 2012
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