Did Christie’s ‘Islam Problem’ Lead to the Ahmad Terrorist Attacks?

In a recent column, Bret Stephens recognized that one of the lessons from this past weekend’s terror attacks is that “there is [a]… benefit in the surveillance methods that allowed police in New York and New Jersey to swiftly identify and arrest Mr. Rahimi before his bombing spree took any lives.” A Wall Street Journal editorial that same day noted that “Since 9/11… the NYPD has made great progress in being able to track down terror suspects.” And while the New York and New Jersey police departments deserve high praise for their handling of these attacks and quick apprehension of those involved, I cannot help but wonder if the injuries to its 29 victims could have been prevented.

In the years following 9/11, the NYPD, under the leadership of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, organized the Demographic Unit, a creation of CIA officer Lawrence Sanchez who established it in 2003 while working at the department. The unit was designed as a surveillance program in which undercover officers infiltrated New York and New Jersey Muslim-owned businesses, mosques, and Islamic schools in order to detect terror threats before they were executed. According to a New York Times article:

The goal was to identify the mundane locations where a would-be terrorist could blend into society. Plainclothes detectives looked for “hot spots” of radicalization that might give the police an early warning about terrorist plots. The squad, which typically consisted of about a dozen members, focused on 28 “ancestries of interest.”

Unfortunately, the program was discovered in 2009 and under public pressure from local Muslim communities as well as legal challenges to the program, Kelly’s successor, William Bratton, ultimately closed down the unit. One of the loudest critics of the undercover surveillance was New Jersey governor Chris Christie who, joined by then-Newark mayor Cory Booker, called the program “disturbing” and “deeply offensive.” Christie took issue with the fact that, notwithstanding the Newark police department’s involvement with the program, neither he nor the feds were informed. In 2012 Christie stated, "I know they think that their jurisdiction is the world. Their jurisdiction is New York City. My concern is this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe."

Christie also reportedly approached Attorney General Eric Holder with his concerns. However, after a three-month investigation, New Jersey attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa “concluded there was no evidence to show the NYPD’s activities in the state violated New Jersey’s civil or criminal laws.” Nonetheless, within several months of that finding, the NYPD caved to pressure and pulled out of New Jersey and by 2014, much to the delight of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, the program was shuttered completely.

One has to wonder what universe Christie is living in in which he believes that terrorists abide by geographic and law enforcement jurisdictional lines. When this story broke, the Associate Press reported that the NYPD was also secretly monitoring the activities of campus Muslim student groups at over a dozen colleges in the Northeast. While not exactly the politically correct thing to do (as we all know from the degrading treatment every American receives going through TSA lines), PC behavior is not going to save us from radical Islam. An honest discussion about the indoctrination that occurs within local Muslim communities, and most especially their mosques, is warranted and necessary rather than the indefensible focus on offending a demographic that is taking no outward steps to help prevent terrorism.

Not surprisingly, the president of the American Arab Forum, expressed his disappointed in the AG’s conclusions about the legality of the NYPD program by saying, "We thought the AG was on our side.” Unfortunately, we should all be on the same side -- the side that fights terrorism -- but instead Christie seems to be on the wrong side of this war. Further evidence of that was seen when Christie, unsatisfied with the NYPD pulling out of his state, subsequently signed into law a bill that provides that out-of-state law enforcement must notify New Jersey officials before conducting counter-terrorism operations in that state. Christie stated:

As a former U.S. Attorney appointed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, I strongly believe we need to do everything in our power to prevent terrorist attacks on our country and keep our people safe. I also believe we must protect and maintain civil liberties, especially those of the citizens in New Jersey’s Muslim community.

So while Christie is busy protecting the civil rights of New Jersey’s Muslim community, one of those members planted bombs, not just in his state but in New York City, where 29 victims were lucky to survive the explosion. Thank you, Governor Christie.

In the face of a possible Romney/Christie ticket in 2012, terrorism experts, Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, documented what they called Christie’s “Islam problem.”  In addition to his stance regarding the Demographic Unit, their evidence included the following:

2008: When serving as U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie embraced and kissed Mohammed Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, and praised him as “a man of great goodwill.” He did this after Qatanani had publicly ranted against Jews and in support of funding Hamas, a U.S. government-designated terror organization, and on the eve of his deportation hearing for not hiding an Israeli conviction for membership in Hamas. In addition, Christie designated a top aide… to testify as a character witness for Qatanani…

2010: After Derek Fenton burned three pages of a Koran at a 9/11 memorial ceremony, his employer, New Jersey Transit, got Christie’s approval to fire him. Protecting Islam at the expense of the constitutional right to free speech, Christie endorsed Fenton’s termination: “That kind of intolerance is something I think is unacceptable. So I don’t have any problem with him being fired.”

2011: Christie appointed an Islamist, Sohail Mohammed, to the New Jersey state superior court. Mohammed’s record includes serving as general counsel to the American Muslim Union (which has stated that a “Zionist Commando Orchestrated The 9-11 Terrorist Attacks”), acting as spokesman for Muslim prisoners who went on a hunger strike after being jailed during Ramadan, defending Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian (his indictment, Mohammed said, was “nothing but a witch-hunt”), and helping Qatanani’s legal defense…

Pipes and Emerson summarized:

In short, Christie has hugged a terrorist-organization member, abridged free-speech rights, scorned concern over Islamization, and opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts. Whenever an issue touching on Islam arises, Christie takes the Islamist side against those -- the DHS, state senators, the NYPD, even the ACLU -- who worry about lawful Islamism eroding the fabric of American life.

Since failing to win the Republican nomination, Christie has figured out another way to further his political future and perhaps carry his Islam problem to the White House. He has joined himself at the hip with Donald Trump and endeared himself to the point of a huge reward. Trump has named Christie chair of his transition team -- a powerful and influential position if Trump wins the election. This poses a potentially serious national security issue that must be raised in the debates and by reporters covering the Trump campaign. How can Trump justify elevating the man whose policies arguably abetted the most recent terrorist attacks to such an important position and what on-going role will Christie have in a future Trump administration? What is Trump’s position on surveillance programs that involve undercover agents monitoring Muslim communities from which these terrorist attacks emanate? The king of anti-PC should feel comfortable answering these questions honestly and if he does, Christie should be fired immediately.

Christie’s legacy will not be Bridgegate and the dangerous situation in which his administration placed tristate residents with their politically motivated lane closures on the GW Bridge. With each new act of terrorism, many of us will be wondering if it could have been prevented had Christie taken the right stand and supported the efforts of the NYPD’s counterterrorism program. But one thing is clear, Christie’s Islam problem should not be permitted to move from New Jersey’s to DC where the entire country’s national security will be at risk. As Pipes and Emerson concluded, “Whatever his reasons, we conclude that Chris Christie lacks the moral compass and integrity needed to serve as vice president of the United States.” Trump needs to rethink his alliance with a man with an Islam problem.