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DHS head Johnson asks Brooklyn groups for help fighting home-grown terrorism

Concerns about lone-wolf terrorists ‘lurking in our communities’

May 8, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Linda Johnson, president of Brooklyn Public Library, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Mohammad Razvi, executive director of COPO. Photos by Mary Frost

Saying that the global terrorist threat has evolved to become more decentralized and complex, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with community and religious leaders in Brooklyn on Thursday to ask for their help in preventing extremist violence from taking root here in our borough.

“It’s your homeland, it’s your streets, it’s your neighborhood, it’s your hometown, it’s your kids’ safety,” Johnson said following the meeting at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza.

 “Al-Quaida is no longer the only dominant terrorist organization today on the world stage — there are other groups such as ISIL out there,” Johnson told reporters gathered at the library. “We have the phenomena of foreign fighters – individuals who are leaving their home countries and going to Iraq and Syria, linking up with extremists, and returning home, potentially to commit extremist acts in their home countries.

“We are concerned about small-scale attacks by individuals, the so-called lone wolf who could be lurking in our own communities and who could strike at a moment’s notice, with little or no prior notice to our national security experts,” he added.

Johnson said he has been traveling to various communities across the country, meeting community leaders and asking for their help.

“Many community leaders . . . know people, represent people who have issues with the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a two-way conversation,” he said.

Many of the leaders he has met with have issues with aviation security, customs, and how DHS enforces and administers immigration laws.

“But I do have an ‘ask,’” he said. “We ask for public participation in our efforts. ‘If you see something, say something,’ is more than a slogan. We’re not asking people to be snitches, we’re asking for public participation in our efforts. Help me to help you, in other words.”

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In Brooklyn, DHS has focused on first response through grant-making.

Between New York City and New York State in FY15, this area has received “something like $260 million” in FEMA grants for homeland security, counter-terrorism and public safety – more than any other state or urban area, Johnson said.

“If you went to the FDNY headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, a lot of the communications equipment there, a lot of the surveillance equipment is funded by our grants. Our efforts are literally on the streets every day here in Brooklyn.”

Participants included Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Community of People’s Organization (COPO); Sidique Wai, president of the United African Congress in America; law enforcement chaplain Rabbi Abe Friedman; and Camille J. Mackler, director of Legal Initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition. Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson hosted the event.

COPO’s Razvi told the Brooklyn Eagle that he found the outreach “very informative.”

He countered the notion that Muslims are afraid to work with law enforcement. “It’s not that they’re afraid — they do want to work with law enforcement. There’s a difference of opinion in the Muslim community,” he explained.

“We have been working for the past five years with the FBI, Secret Service and other agencies to deter the influence of the Internet to brainwash our kids. We are here to work together to keep everyone safe.”

COPO is set to hold a Muslim Youth Career Day on Saturday with the participation of two dozen federal, state and city government agencies.

“All good things start in Brooklyn!” Razvi said. “We look forward to working with them closely to bring this model to the U.S.”

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