In a New York Times book review, Tara McKelvey criticizes Matt Apuzzo’s and Adam Goldman’s recent book detailing the state of counterterrorism and intelligence in a post 9–11 America as “less than persuasive.” In Enemies Within, Apuzzo and Goldman (both Pulitzer-prize winning journalists) lay bare the complex nature of counterterrorism in the U.S. through the pursuit of Najibullah Zazi, a terrorist bomber who attempted to blow up the New York City subway in 2009. McKelvey calls the book’s arguments “confused” and lacking sufficient evidence to make their case.
Below is a response to McKelvey’s review as it appears the New York Times.
Published: November 3, 2013
To the Editor:
Tara McKelvey’s review of “Enemies Within” (Oct. 13), an account of the New York Police Department’s Muslim surveillance program, by the Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, made us wonder if McKelvey read the same book we did. The book we read contains detailed investigative journalism about a sprawling and invasive program of police spying on innocent Americans based on their religion — and documenting the failure of the program to stop any actual terrorist plot. Unlike McKelvey, we didn’t think these were “amusing if less-than-shocking revelations” that show the N.Y.P.D. is “clownish but relatively harmless” — odd opinions given that she compares the N.Y.P.D. to the East German Stasi. Our work with Muslim communities in New York City has shown us firsthand the chilling effect of the N.Y.P.D.’s widespread spying: justifiably fearing police informants, mosques are excluding new worshipers, imams are recording their sermons so they can’t be misconstrued, and Muslim students are avoiding discussions of politics in and out of the classroom.
McKelvey’s conclusion sums up the problem with her review, as she faults the authors for not having an “actual argument” and failing to present evidence either that the program is ineffective or that it has harmed Muslims. But “Enemies Within” was written by journalists who presumably want readers to draw their own conclusions. Many of us have, and The A.P.’s reporting contributed to three pending civil rights lawsuits and was one of the reasons the City Council established an inspector general to watch over the police.
The writer is director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
The writer is a co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law.