This was originally posted on AAI’s newsblog on July 19, 2013 under the title, “Why Commissioner Kelly is the Wrong Choice to Lead Homeland Security.”
Recent press reports have suggested that President Obama may be considering Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), for the recently vacated position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, formerly held by Janet Napolitano. Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praisedCommissioner Kelly, saying, “There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary” and “Kelly’s appointment… would be a great boon for the entire country.”
Under Commissioner Kelly’s leadership, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has violated the civil liberties of Arab Americans and American Muslims in New York City and surrounding areas. In addition, Commissioner Kelly has a history of making inflammatory and slanderous comments about Islam and Muslims. In so doing, he has compromised the efficacy of the NYPD by damaging relationships with communities who should be his partners.
AAI has published extensively about the NYPD’s widespread and warrantless surveillance of Muslim American communities in New York and across the tri-state area. Over a period of ten years, at least 550 places of worship, privately owned business, non-profit organizations, student associations, schools and more were unknowing subjects of NYPD surveillance and intelligence collection activities. These communities were targeted and profiled solely on the basis of religion and national origin without evidence of suspected criminal activity. Furthermore, the Commanding Officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division himself, Lt. Paul Galati, admitted during sworn testimony that this surveillance program did not produce once single criminal lead in his six years of oversight.
Many have spoken out against this program and taken legislative measures to prevent a recurrence. New York’s City Council passed two bills last month to establish an independent Inspector General to provide New Yorkers with oversight and accountability over their police force. There’s an irony here that should not go unnoticed: these bills are collectively known as the Community Safety Act, a testament to the reality that many New Yorkers feel less safe as a result of Commissioner Kelly’s persistent and aggressive profiling measures.
Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA have voiced concerns about the lack of oversight and unethical tactics that have characterized the surveillance of these communities. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security itself found that $4.1 million in grants to the NYPD were awarded without following the appropriate procedures, wasting valuable resources.
Programs under Commissioner Kelly’s direction aren’t the only thing that reveal his views about American Muslims. He was interviewed in a propagandistic and Islamophobic film, The Third Jihad, where he stated that Muslims want to “infiltrate and dominate” America. The egregiousness of that comment stands on its own, but it gets worse: the film was later used as part of a standard training program for nearly 1,500 NYPD cadets. Use of the film and Commissioner Kelly’s comments in it are both dangerous and counterproductive, fomenting unwarranted suspicion against a community, and, in so doing, eroding the trusting relationship necessary for effective counter-terrorism enforcement.
Commissioner Kelly’s record of profiling goes far beyond the Muslim American community though. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), since Commissioner Kelly’s appointment in 2002, the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Program has stopped over five million persons, 86% of whom were black or Latino.
In a recent interview with Chris Hayes, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) echoed our concerns about Commissioner Kelly’s potential appointment: “He’s been a good administrator, and perhaps I could even support his potential appointment to this position in the absence of the massive aggressive stop-and-frisk program that he’s run, and the unconstitutional Muslim surveillance program, but that’s kind of like saying, I had a good year, if you don’t count the winter, spring, and fall.” He continued,
“There’s got to be an effective balance between national security or effective law enforcement on the one hand and a healthy respect for our civil rights and civil liberties on the other. Ray Kelly, during his tenure as police commissioner under Michael Bloomberg, has consistently disrespected that balance, and that’s why I think he would be a poor choice for Secretary of Homeland Security.”
Because of his disregard for the rights, liberties, and trust of thousands of Americans, and his consistent inclination toward profiling despite its inefficacy, Commissioner Kelly would be a highly inappropriate choice for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.