One of President Barack Obama's key national security advisers voiced support Friday for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the department's counterterrorism efforts in the face of criticism of its information-gathering and surveillance of the Muslim community.
At the same time, John Brennan, who also serves as an Obama adviser on terrorism, said that involving the Muslim community in law enforcement efforts was an important part of the nation's counterterrorism program.
"I may say in my interactions with Commissioner Kelly over the course of many years, I have confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, it is something that has again been responsible for keeping the city safe over the past decade," Brennan said during a briefing with reporters at police headquarters in Manhattan.
Brennan, who was in town to brief hundreds of private and government security officials, wouldn't respond to anything reported by The Associated Press in its Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the NYPD program. But, with Kelly standing next to him, Brennan said the government had to do its job regardless of what the news media reported.
"In my conversations with Commissioner Kelly, he has assured me he is doing everything in accordance with the law, working very closely with the local community," Brennan said.
Reports of the information-gathering and surveillance by the NYPD counterterrorism bureau led to criticism by some Muslim and government officials. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently said he found such reports disturbing and started a preliminary investigation. City and police officials have insisted that the NYPD activity is legal and in compliance with a 2002 federal court decree that relaxed previous restrictions on surveillance and incorporated guidelines developed by the FBI.
Brennan also said that the Muslim community was part of the solution to the fight against terrorism and had to be involved.
Kelly said recent testimony in Brooklyn federal court by admitted terror plotter Najibullah Zazi about plots to blow up the subways was a sobering reminder of the threats to the city.
"The testimony of Zazi, it should really be jolting," Kelly said. "It shows that people are willing to kill large numbers of New Yorkers. We have to remain vigilant."