The Brennan Center was among the first to discuss the shortcomings of the New York Police Department’s August 2007 report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” In its August 30, 2007 memo, the Brennan Center outlined its concerns that the report’s faulty conclusions will lead to racial and religious profiling, which is harmful to both civil liberties and efforts to ensure national security. The NYPD report, citing only five case studies of convicted or alleged terrorist groups within the United States, makes sweeping generalizations about the process of violent radicalization and its coupling with Islam. Not only does the report draw its conclusions from five handpicked, atypical cases, but it also blatantly ignores the fact that the majority of religious activity mentioned in the report as indicators of radicalization does not pose a threat to national security. Though the report claims to disavow racial profiling, the policy suggestions it makes clearly promote this practice. For example, it lists the following as suspicious behavior: wearing traditional Islam clothing, growing a beard, praying five times a day, and participating in community and political activism. The NYPD report shows an alarming negligence in its methodology and conclusion that is counterproductive to counterterrorism policy and civil liberties.
In addition to informing the public about the NYPD report’s flaws, the Brennan Center has been serving in an advisory capacity to a group of New York City Muslim and Arab community leaders, who have formed the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC). MACLC is a New York based organization that is also troubled by the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism measures. The group has met collectively several times with the Commissioner and Mr. Silber, one of the report’s authors, to provide recommendations and foster an environment of collaboration with the NYPD.
On November 20, 2008, MACLC held a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall to mark the official release of is “CounterERRORism Policy: MACLC’s Critique of the NYPD’s Report on Homegrown Radicalism.” The Brennan Center’s Ellen Fisher delivered a statement of support for MACLC’s work.
About a year later, the NYPD inserted a Statement of Clarification in its report without any public announcement. We view the Statement of Clarification as a postive example of the NYPD’s willingness to consider the coalition’s views, but feel that more action is necessary to address the concerns we have previously raised with the NYPD. On September 8, 2009, MACLC responded to the NYPD’s Statement in a letter to Commissioner Kelly.
- MACLC Letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (11/23/07) (PDF)
- Commissioner Kelly’s Response to MACLC (10/06/08) (PDF)
- MACLC’s Letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (10/23/08) (PDF)
- MACLC’s letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (9/08/09) (PDF)
Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition’s Press Conference