The New York Police Department announced Tuesday that it would disband a special unit charged with detecting terrorist threats by secretly conducting surveillance on Muslims in New York. Applauded by Muslim and civil rights organizations, such a move could actually boost U.S. counterterrorism efforts, according to data from the Muslim American National Opinion Survey (MANOS) of which I am the principal investigator.
The Muslim-American community has served as a major resource for law enforcement since 9/11, with some scholars citing Muslim-Americans as the single largest source of initial information leading to disrupted terrorism plots since 2001. Such community assistance is particularly important in stopping homegrown attacks which tend to involve more “lone wolf” actors, making them more difficult to detect by law enforcement. Indeed, it was a Muslim immigrant who first reported suspicious activity in the 2010 case of Faisal Shazad, convicted in the Times Square bombing attempt.