Rush Holt has had a tough week leading the progressive left's attack on the New York Police Department (NYPD) and its anti-terrorism surveillance activities.
This attack came to a head last Wednesday when Mr. Holt introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have restricted funding for NYPD anti-terrorism surveillance activities focused on the tri-state Muslim community.
The amendment went down to defeat on a largely party line vote, as it should have, but the extreme left has not given up the fight.
Mr. Holt's chief complaint in introducing the amendment was that the NYPD has been conducting warrantless anti-terrorism surveillance that amounted to ethnic/religious profiling of Muslim Americans. Mr. Holt evidently believes that existing Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines that prohibit such profiling are not strict enough to comply with the ACLU's higher standard of civil liberty.
Instead, Mr. Holt would have us completely ban the use of race and ethnicity as qualifying criteria when conducting police surveillance, even when included in a specific description of targeted suspects. This point of view is a radical departure from DOJ guidelines that law enforcement agencies reference nationally, guidelines that comply with both existing law and the Constitution.
Any elected representative should be commended for recognizing the importance of protecting civil liberties. However, there is always a balance that must be drawn when the fundamental rights of self-defense and privacy present a paradox. DOJ guidelines on profiling were updated in 2003 in an effort to reflect this balance by clarifying what profiling is, and to communicate the DOJ's intolerance toward attempts by law enforcement to use profiling in practice. Since that time, these guidelines have worked effectively to guide law enforcement while helping to avoid another major terrorist attack.
When I replace Mr. Holt, I will ensure that our families and communities remain safe. I will not play political games or attack police departments in an effort to gain attention from special interest groups.
Should Mr. Holt decide to stay the course and continue to call for a ban on what he considers profiling, he should at least openly acknowledge that such a change to DOJ standards would place the public at higher risk to acts of terrorism. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
Or, alternatively, Mr. Holt could find another issue he can use to distract voters from the anemic economic record he and the Obama Administration now share, a record that has delivered an unemployment rate of over 8.0% for 39 straight months.