The reporter goes on a mission to expose what he claims is the improper questioning of individuals arrested and being held in jails. Specifically, he decries the singling out of a specific group of criminals, Muslims. The reporter gets it dead wrong — and in the process puts in jeopardy the lives of many who have helped police fight terror.
The article claims that law enforcement personnel changed their focus of questions to home in on a specific area, religion. The writer states: “They [NYPD] showed that religion had become a normal topic of police inquiry in the city’s holding cells and lockup facilities.”
A new technique of interrogation? I think not. As the former deputy inspector general of the New York State Department of Corrections, I can state emphatically that arrestees have been asked the question “what is your religion” for more than 40 years. It is a core part of the initial intake assessment of an individual about to be admitted to a jail. It goes part and parcel with height, weight, color of eyes, ethnicity, etc.
The writer wants the reader to believe that this type of questioning only began after 9/11. Why? It goes along with the mantra that Muslims were being singled out arbitrarily by police and intelligence officials when it comes to crime. Not so. I doubt the reporter has ever really sat in on an intake interview of an arrestee. If he had, he would have seen the line of questioning of an arrestee/inmate is founded in the historical fundamental belief by cops that, whenever a crime is committed, either someone in jail did it or knows who did it.
In gathering intelligence on specific threat groups — be they the Mafia, the Latin Kings, the Chinese Ghost Shadow Gangs, the Russian Mob, etc. — you’re going to ask a specific group of people about a specific group of criminals, and radical Islamic terrorism is a form of criminal activity. My good friend John Cutter, former deputy chief of NYPD’s Intelligence Division, put it most succinctly when he said, “I know we’re the Police Department, and we deal with crime, but terrorism is just a higher level of crime, and we have to know about it. If it’s in our midst, I need someone to investigate it.”
There are numerous examples of successful cases where terrorist acts were thwarted due to intelligence gathered from speaking to an individual in jail.