NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ted Cruz had some fiery words in response to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s comments on the GOP candidate’s recent proposal to step up patrols of Muslim neighborhoods in order to combat radical Islamic terrorism.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Bratton appeared on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday, saying he took offense to Cruz’s statement on “empowering law enforcement to secure Muslim neighborhoods” in order to prevent radicalization.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD used its intelligence division to cultivate informants in Muslim communities. In a series of articles, The Associated Press revealed that authorities had infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds of them.
Cruz specifically talked about the former NYPD program — and slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio for ending it.
“New York City under Mayor Bloomberg had a program that focused on and worked proactively with the Muslim community to stop radicalization; to prevent attacks from radical Islamic terrorism before they occur,” Cruz said. “Now what happened? Mayor de Blasio came in and decided political correctness mattered more than keeping people safe, and he disbanded the program.”
Appearing with Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday, and Bratton was not pleased with Cruz’s comments.
“He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” Bratton said. “To be quite frank with you, I took great offense at that statement.”
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Bratton pointed out that nearly 1 million Muslims live in New York City.
“I have several thousand – including almost 1,000 New York City police officers, many of who are veterans; many of whom are combat veterans,” Bratton said. “So for him or any presidential candidate to disparage the men and women who are working to secure this country and this city, shame on them.”
Cruz fired back, calling Bratton’s comments political.
“It’s not surprising that the Democratic political henchmen of Mayor de Blasio are coming after me,” he said.
Cruz repeated to CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer that moves to curtail surveillance in Muslim communities come from political correctness.
“People are tired of the political correctness of the Obama administration, that rather than fighting the enemy, lectures America on Islamophobia,” he said.
Law enforcement officials have admitted the Muslim surveillance program, which began in 2003 in wake of the 9/11 attacks, never generated any viable leads, CBS New York reported in an earlier story.
The program was disbanded in 2014 amid complaints of religious and racial profiling.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) also said the Muslim surveillance program should resume. He told CBS2’s Kramer it is the only way to protect New Yorkers in this age of encrypted phones.
“No matter how much security you have at an airport or at a train station, once a person arrives with a bomb, odds are the damage is going to be done. People are going to be killed,” King said. “So it’s essential that we get intelligence, and you can only get that by being on the ground; having people in the community.”
King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, demanded that the NYPD return to conducting undercover surveillance of Muslims – a program that was attacked by many. He underscored the need for the officers involved to be undercover.
With terrorists able to cover their tracks with sophisticated phone and computer encryption, King said such surveillance is the only way to know what’s going on.
“I’m talking about the same thing that was done against organized crime – get undercover police, get informants, get infiltrators,” King said.
But the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said calls for surveillance send “an alarming message to American Muslims who increasingly fear for their future in this nation.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a U.S. group that battles anti-Semitism worldwide, said Cruz’s plan hearkens back to the relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she fears for armed groups “who are emboldened by the commentary from people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.”
“What’s scaring me more is the kind of potential fueling of these vigilantes and people who might want to take up arms and go patrol Muslim neighborhoods,” she said.
Cruz stressed the importance of knowing the difference between traditional Islam and radical Islamism and said other Democratic politicians aren’t doing enough.
“Here’s the consequence of what President Obama and Hillary Clinton and de Blasio refusing to acknowledge what we’re fighting,” Cruz said. “You end up with policies that don’t keep us safe.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Cruz’s comments “are not about safety and security, it’s demagoguery.”
The mayor, police commissioner and president have all said mass surveillance is un-American.
“We focus on individuals who are committing or about to commit a crime,” Bratton said. “We don’t focus on a whole community.”
Bratton calls it “precision policing.” He told CBS2 that even since the attack in Brussels on Tuesday, people have been added to the watch list – mostly because of red flags raised by their social media posts.
Cruz won Utah’s Republican presidential caucus, and is on pace to take all of the state’s delegates by finishing with more than 50 percent of the vote.
Former GOP candidate Jeb Bush also announced his endorsement of Cruz Wednesday morning, saying that “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has shown he can unite the party.”