Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch today charged in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV that U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder is “dead wrong” about the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.
In a wide-ranging interview, Koch also said that he planned to once again campaign for President Barack Obama, that he believes the Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare. He also said that a grand jury should ultimately decide if there was any crime committed in the case of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was slain by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a case that has ignited a nationwide debate on race and captured the attention of the president.
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Holder recently told Congress that he was disturbed by what he read about the NYPD's controversial surveillance operation, in which undercover officers were dispatched into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the city, and on the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C.
“He’s dead wrong, dead wrong,” snapped Koch. “In order to collect intelligence you’ve got to do exactly what Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is doing. He has police officers in Europe, in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania — elsewhere in the country gathering intelligence.”
Police used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing. "And these are things that are under review at the Justice Department," Holder told Congress.
Koch believes that the NYPD operation is consistent with a federal court case, which established boundaries for city police in investigating political groups.
The former three-term mayor accused the Department of Justice of “injuring the security of the country” if it pursues action against the police for carrying out “what they think is necessary to protect the City of New York and all pursuant to a federal court judge’s permission” in accordance with the so-called Handschu agreement.
That agreement, subject to amendment by U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight, sets forth what the NYPD can do in such cases, according to Koch, who served as New York’s 105th mayor from 1978-89.
“This is not like you’re investigating a crime and you’re going after a criminal matter. What you’re investigating is what’s happening in the community,” Koch stressed, adding that more than 200 homegrown Islamic terrorists have been convicted of crimes in the United States.
“Many of them yell ‘entrapment’ but not one of them has been able to establish [that] to the satisfaction of a judge or a jury, and they were convicted,” said Koch, who is also a Newsmax contributor. “The advocates for the Islamic terrorist community are saying you shouldn’t investigate them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in investigating them.”
NYPD at one time also conducted investigations of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in New York, according to Koch. The IRA used terrorist tactics, including bombings, in opposing British rule in Northern Ireland though the organization never carried out any attacks on U.S. soil.
“Nobody said any words about that in opposition,” Koch recalled. “I think that what Kelly is doing has protected the city. And he has said that since 9/11 there have been 14 efforts in New York City to engage in major terrorist acts. They were prevented by the intelligence which he has gathered.”
Koch also points to comments by Kelly which suggest that appropriate authorities in New Jersey were notified of NYPD’s surveillance operations in the Garden State — up to and including the governor. “There is no law that says they cannot look at websites. There is no law that says they can’t attend public meetings, and hear what’s being said — and that’s what they were doing,” Koch insisted.
The 87-year-old Koch, who was one of the most colorful figures in New York politics, proved that he still holds sway with voters last year when he broke ranks with fellow Democrats to support Republican Bob Turner in New York’s 9th Congressional District to replace Anthony Weiner, who resigned his position after being caught up in a sex scandal.
At the time, Koch urged voters to register a protest against the positions of the Republican Congress with respect to privatizing Social Security and President Barack Obama with respect to his policies on Israel and other issues important to voters in what Koch described as the largest Jewish district in the country.
“When I thought he was falling away and not doing enough, I made sort of a referendum in the congressional race for the Anthony Weiner seat in Queens,” Koch said of Obama. “And saying, ‘if you want to send a message to President Obama, vote for the Republican — and they did.”
The message was apparently received, and Koch said he once again plans to campaign for Obama in Jewish communities of the important swing state of Florida. “I’ve had my conversations with the president. I believe he is honestly in support of Israel, and will do all the things he said he will do.”
Koch laughed when asked if he plans to now support Turner in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand since winning the liberal House seat. “No. I’m a good friend at this point. We’ve worked together — a very decent man,” Koch explained. “I’m never going to say anything mean about him. But he is a Republican whose domestic positions, with some exceptions, are not acceptable to me.”
In throwing his support behind Turner for the House seat, Koch made certain that Turner would break ranks with the GOP leadership in opposing the privatization of Social Security and Medicare and opposing block grants for Medicaid.
“He said, ‘I agree with you on those issues and he has spoken out on them,” Koch explained. “But when he called me, ‘I told him I’m supporting Kirsten — Kirsten Gillibrand. I won’t say anything mean about him, but we don’t agree on a huge area of domestic issues. And the point of my supporting him initially, he knew, was to send a message. The message was sent and apparently very effective.”
Koch believes that the Obama administration has missed an opportunity to gain public support for the president’s sweeping healthcare law, which has been the subject of three days of intense oral arguments this week before the Supreme Court.
“They really have screwed it up — in not sending out into the media and into the arena of public discussion — people who can explain it,” according to Koch. “But I think they have learned their lesson. I also believe that at the end of the road, which they say is probably June, that the United States Supreme Court will ratify the legislation.”
With respect to the Martin case, Koch said that a grand jury should be empaneled to examine evidence and determine whether charges should be brought against Zimmerman.
“But there is nothing that prevents people in the court of public opinion from voicing an opinion as to whether or not they think this guy who killed a kid is guilty,” he insisted, adding that if a black kid had killed a white man he wouldn’t likely have remained free. “I personally think he is, but a trial jury should decide that. Instead he’s walking around.”
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