The changing nature of the homegrown terror threat

Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly offers insight on what can be done on 'Journal Editorial Report'


This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," December 12, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST:  This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," as new details emerge about the radicalization of the San Bernardino shooters, we'll talk to former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about the changing nature of the home-grown terror threat.

Plus, his opponents are piling on Donald Trump's Muslim ban, but do Republican primary voters agree?

And Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio battle it out over foreign policy and national security ahead of Tuesday's Republican debate.

But first, these headlines.


GIGOT:  Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report."  I'm Paul Gigot.

New details emerged this week about the couple responsible for the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since September 11th with FBI Director James Comey telling Congress that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were discussing jihad online as early as 2013.  


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR:  San Bernardino involved two killers who were radicalized for quite a long time before their attack.  As early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and then married and lived together in the United States.  


GIGOT:  Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is the vice chairman at K2 Intelligence and author of the book, "Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City."

Commissioner Kelly, thanks for coming.  


GIGOT:  So, we have this case of somebody who was born in the United States, Illinois, home-grown radicalization, and very few clues to detect ahead of time.  How do you predict attacks like this?  

KELLY:  With great difficulty.  But if you look back at law enforcement's record since September 11th, it's been very, very good.  But it's the old adage, "We have to be right every time, they only have to be right once."  That's what happened here.  

GIGOT:  In this case, too, there were a lot of clues ahead of time.  

KELLY:  That's right.

GIGOT:  So in a case like this, where they were really surreptitious, keeping it quiet, how do you find out about them?  Is surveillance crucial?  

KELLY:  You need leads, ideally, someone close to them that gives you information, someone calls one of these hotlines, that sort of thing.  Other than that -- and these are not dumb people that we're dealing with.  

GIGOT:  Sure.

KELLY:  They realize that they can be surveiled.  They're doing everything to cover their tracks.  They develop a trade craft that's pretty good, even if they haven't had a contact with some terrorist group.  You can read it on the Internet.  You can read it in the Inspire Magazine --

GIGOT:  Right.

KELLY:  -- as to how to protect yourself from that information.  

GIGOT:  What about visa restrictions?  There's a lot of people who say, look, you've got to be something about fiancé visas, for example.  Can we-- Congress is going to tighten restrictions on visas from Syria and Iraq, people coming from them.  Do we also have to tighten visas from say, Europe?  

KELLY:  It certainly has to be examined.  I think the fiancé visas definitely have to be looked at with great scrutiny.  There's about 40,000 last year, I'm told, which is a very high number.  Some of them, they don't have to meet each other, or physically have known each other.

GIGOT:  Just done it over the Internet.

KELLY:  Just done it over the Internet, which makes really no sense.  

GIGOT:  On the other hand, we don't want to limit people who actually do want their spouses to move and live together as families.  

KELLY:  Well, I think you might want to make it a little more challenging than it is now.  


GIGOT:  OK.  So what about this issue of dealing with local contacts that you mentioned?  You need somebody who might see some evidence that -- of radicalization.  Does this -- you did this in New York, did you not?  

KELLY:  We did.

GIGOT:  You got into the communities.  You got into Muslim communities.  
How did you operate?  How did that work?  

KELLY:  First of all, we do it very openly.  I used to spend a lot of time in mosques doing sort of town hall meetings.  They were very cordial and very receptive.  One of the messages that I put out is, "If you see something, say something."  I still think that's a very valid phrase and concept.  We get some information, not nearly as much as we'd like.  The relationship generally positive but somewhat guarded on the part of the community.  They're not trusting.  

GIGOT:  They're not trusting.  

KELLY:  Right.

GIGOT:  OK.  But is it crucial to have tips from the Muslim community if that's where some of this radicalization -- and we know it takes place here.  How important is it to have them connected to our law enforcement and security agents?  

KELLY: It's important.  Obviously, it would make it easier.  But what we've also seen is people who are suspect will back away from religious institutions.  They won't attend their mosques.  That happened with quite a bit of frequency when you look at these cases.  So they're concerned about being reported by fellow Muslims.  And the whole area is very, very difficult for law enforcement to work in.  

GIGOT:  Did you ever surveil mosques or follow Muslim students, for example, who had come to the United States from abroad surreptitiously?  Do you think that important?  

KELLY:  We followed people, we surveiled people as a result of leads that we got.  

GIGOT:  Right.

KELLY:  We certainly wouldn't do it randomly.  We wouldn't necessarily look at a mosque randomly.  But we would follow leads wherever the leads took us.  If it took us to a mosque, fine.  If it took us to St. Patrick's Cathedral, we'd go there and do the investigation.  


There shouldn't be any sanctuary for people who are being legitimately investigated.  

GIGOT:  So what do you think of Donald Trump's message?  What message does he send to Muslim Americans, whose cooperation you need, with his idea of proposal that you should ban all Muslim --


KELLY:  First of all, I think it's unconstitutional.  Many decisions that say that the Constitution doesn't only apply just to citizens, it goes beyond that.  It appears like it's helping him politically.  

GIGOT:  It might.  

KELLY:  And obviously, there is a concern that it's going to turn off the greater Muslim community --

GIGOT:  Did you agree with that?  

KELLY:  -- and lessen cooperation, to the extent we have cooperation, may be less than that.  

GIGOT:  You said there is wariness naturally anyway.  

KELLY:  Yes, correct.

GIGOT:  So will this heighten that?  

KELLY:  I think it could certainly make people more reluctant to come forward and, you know, the U.S. is against us, and that sort of thing.  

GIGOT:  Right.  OK.  What should the federal government do now?  If you were sitting in a key seat there, what should they do now to reduce the --


KELLY:  I would examine the whole visa program.  The K-1 visas, to me, look very much problematic.  I would reinvigorate the "See something, say something" program.  I think it has validity.  And now, after San Bernardino, people all over the country are concerned.  You know, they thought sort of before that, in general, people thought the big cities were at risk.  

GIGOT:  Right.

KELLY:  Now you have San Bernardino, a city of 200,000.  It's sort of everywhere, USA.  So I think that people want that sort of program in place.  I think, also, the federal government has to reach out now to law enforcement agencies in suburban and rural areas.  Pretty much their efforts have been focused through the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force with major police departments, about 100 of them.  Now, the whole country sees itself as risk.  You have to sort of bring those folks on board, local law enforcement, suburban law enforcement.  

GIGOT:  All right, Commissioner Ray Kelly, thanks so much for being here.  
Good counsel.  

KELLY:  Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT:  When we come back, Donald Trump under fire from his Republican components for his plan to ban Muslims.  But do Republican primary voters agree?  


GIGOT:  Well, Donald Trump's Republican opponents are denouncing his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.  And a new "Wall Street Journal" poll finds a majority of Americans are opposed to the plan as well.  But among Republican primary voters, the picture is mixed, with 38 percent supporting the proposal and 39 percent opposing it.  

Let's bring in Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and "Best of the Web" columnist, James Taranto.  

So, Dorothy, do you think this was a smart move by Donald Trump?  We had the president's speech on Sunday.  Everybody was talking about what failure it was.  Suddenly, Trump comes in a day later and that's all anybody's talking about.  

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER:  He wiped the slate clean of anything Obama did.  But, yes, the answer it was a smart move, it was a hapless move and it was instinct.  But let me tell you that all of the newspaper, all of the media, right, left, and the fevered swamps of the righteous have descended on Trump, and all this does is advance his place in the universe.  The reason that this is causing so much anguish among Republicans, especially, is that they feel that he has something there that people, no matter how much they denounce him correctly for this --


GIGOT:  On the merits you mean.  

RABINOWITZ:  On the merits, that somehow there's something in the hearts of Americans in this desperate time of fear that's going towards Trump.  That's what's disturbing.  

GIGOT:  James, you said it might have won him the nomination.  

JAMES TARANTO, BEST OF THE WEB COLUMNIST:  Well, let's thin about you mentioned the Obama speech.  Remember, Obama's spent the last quarter of that speech hectoring Americans about the evils of Islamophobia.  

GIGOT:  Even though there's no evidence of mass anti-Muslim sentiment.

TARANTO:  Right.  So Trump comes out with this proposal the next day.  Trump isn't running against Obama.  He's running against 13 other Republicans.  All of a sudden, all of his rivals sound like Obama and like the media.  I think that helps him among Republicans.  

I believe there's another poll from CBS that has 54 percent Republican support for this plan.  The difference between the two polls is our poll uses the phrase "complete and total ban," CBS poll referred to it as a "temporary ban."  It really matters how you frame these things.  

GIGOT:  Dan?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  Well, James raises a good point.  Trump is in a political competition with 12 other candidates.  The question is why these candidates haven't figured out a better way to deal with the Trump phenomenon.  So he raises a subject like this, banning all Muslims.  Maybe it's impractical.  But then --


GIGOT:  Maybe it's impractical.  It is impractical.  I mean, is this a really good idea?


HENNINGER:  And these candidates, rather than denouncing him for discriminating, should move on to the next subject, which is defending the homeland.  That's the subject being raised here.  Can we do it by banning Muslims or do we need to do talk about things like surveillance, the encryption of cell phones, Barack Obama's handing of domestic security at the moment.  Change the subject.  Not so much change the subject, but build on what he said rather than letting all this media attention continue to focus on it.  

GIGOT:  Vetting -- on the merits here, vetting visas, immigrants or refugees, more closely and visas, that makes great sense.  The House and Senate are putting together something like that.  

But really saying all Muslims, James, when you send that message, isn't that, in a practical sense, hurting the war on terror because it basically says, look, don't cooperate, as Commissioner Kelly said earlier?  

TARANTO:  Well, the logic of Trump's proposal is very simple.  If you don't let in Muslims, you don't let in Muslim terrorists.  You make a very good point.  It's a powerful argument.  It's also a subtle argument.  


The problem with that kind of argument is -- that kind of argument doesn't really get through when the prevailing argument in the media is, oh, this is terrible, Trump is another Hitler.  I mean, I think people should cool down and rebut this argument rationally.  

GIGOT:  Yeah.

Dan, do you agree?  I mean, Dorothy and James are making the point that the liberal media, the people denouncing him as racist, are playing into his hands because the Republican primary voters hear that, Trump supports says, uh-huh, I get it, he's once again challenging these people we hate.  

HENNINGER:  Exactly.  He does that.  The press denounces him and then his numbers rise.  It's very difficult for the other candidates to combat that.  And I think that James is right that they have got to rebut it -- not rebut.  They're competing with him.  They have to rebut him rationally or build on his argument and try to get some of this media attention pulled away from Donald Trump.  

GIGOT:  Dorothy, briefly.

RABINOWITZ:  But here, again, is that more ink and more vocal power has been expended on Donald Trump than anything that the terrorists did in terms of sheer volume.  

GIGOT:  Sure.

RABINOWITZ:  And this is something.  And but you have to look into the fact that the Republicans are the target of so much of the attacks from the left wing media.  They have used this event to smear all Republicans.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Thank you, Dorothy.  

When we come back, a show down on the campaign trail ahead of Tuesday's Republican debate as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz battle over national security and surveillance, so will either emerge as the Republican alternative to Trump?  


GIGOT:  While Donald Trump remains on top of the Republican presidential field, recent polling finds Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz locked in a tight battle for second.  And on the campaign trail, both candidates are on the attack, trading barbs over national security and surveillance.  


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  On the right, there are some who have called for resurrecting the government's bulk data collection that existed under the Patriot Act.  

Hoarding tens of billions of records of ordinary citizens didn't stop Ft.
Hood.  It didn't stop Chattanooga.  It didn't help Garland.  It failed to detect the San Bernardino plot.  


GIGOT:  Wall Street Journal "Potomac Watch" columnist, Kim Strassel, joins us with more.  

So, Kim, this fascinating debate opening up on the right on national security.  What is Ted Cruz up to here?  Not just on the surveillance issue, but also where he's really, on Syria, saying we don't have a dog in this fight?  

KIM STRASSEL, POTOMAC WATCH COLUMNIST:  Ted Cruz is a little locked down here because he began this strategy a couple of years ago, placing himself more in the Libertarian camp, I think always with an eye to trying to get Rand Paul voters who were out there.  And, you know, this is his play.  The question is whether or not this works for him in light of a public mood shift following Paris and San Bernardino when people want a little bit more muscular approach to fighting terrorism.  

GIGOT:  OK, Dorothy, do you think -- I agree with Kim.  This is a play for the Rand Paul playbook.  It puts him on the same side as Obama against Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush.  Is this going to work for Cruz?  

RABINOWITZ:  It is not.  Not at this moment, when Americans so desperately aware of we are at war.  And to hear him talk about the bureaucratic impulse to misuse all of this metadata, and how he's fighting, of course, the fact that his vote did cancel the use of metadata collection --

GIGOT:  Right.

RABINOWITZ:  -- which was crucial, and which the former Attorney General Ashcroft, among many others, this week, announced, was absolutely essential.  Now at a time when everybody understands that you must use every effort, here he is back in the -- also the swamps of privacy above all fanaticism of the Rand Paul contingent, and it seems like yesterday's news.  


HENNINGER:  Well, he's running kind of an interesting campaign.  He's picking off segments, as Dorothy was describing, and he said Donald Trump raising the issue about not letting in Muslims was at least courageous.  He's kind of running, on the one hand, Trump light, and on the other hand, is Rand Paul 100 proof.  

GIGOT:  He's streaming right behind Trump to say I'm not going to criticize Trump at all --


GIGOT:  -- hoping he gets Trump's voters if Trump fails.  

HENNINGER:  And yet a strong version of Rand Paul.  So, you know, it's a strategy.  And the question is, can he pull that off?  He is going to be attacked at those debates on Tuesday night by people beyond Marco Rubio.  

GIGOT:  Kim, on the Syria issue, where he seems to -- Cruz seems to be agreeing on Trump on Syria, saying, look, we don't have a dog in this fight, we should just stay out and let them kill each other, basically.  Is he appealing -- is there an element to the Republican primary electorate, which really is fed up with U.S. intervention, was unhappy with George Bush, that this might appeal to?  

STRASSEL:  There is, no question.  And a lot of Americans are war weary.  And a lot of them have bad memories of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of the things that will be brought up by Cruz's competitors at that debate is that essentially the strategy he's advocating is what you've seen happen in Libya.  It's the Obama/Hillary strategy there.  You go in, you bomb the heck out of a place, and you leave and chaos follows.  He doesn't seem to have a good answer for that.  So whether or not voters when told about that kind of phenomenon are going to trust him on that, I think is also a question.  

GIGOT:  Dan, Obama's strategy on Syria has basically led to this refugee crisis around the world, in Europe, created a safe space for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which they've now used to attack the West.  I don't know.  This just seems to me to be something where Rubio and Christie could really go after a Ted Cruz.  

HENNINGER:  As well as John Kasich, who came in to see us this week, and does have an understanding of the Middle East, or Jeb Bush.  This is their opportunity to start talking about that subject.  

GIGOT:  All right, thank you.  

We have to take one more break.  When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.  


GIGOT:  Time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.  

Kim, start us off.  

STRASSEL:  A miss to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who this week offered his constituents an apology rather than the answers that they want.  The question of course is whether there was a giant cover-up over this highly controversial shooting of a young black man by a Chicago police officer in 2014.  The dash cam video of that event was kept under wraps for a year, and at a time when Mr. Emanuel was up in a controversial re-election.  The people of Chicago are asking who knew about that video and when, and who made the decision to keep it under wraps.  Not just an apology and not the firing of Chicago police superintendents.  

GIGOT:  All right, Kim.  


TARANTO:  I have the campus madness story of the week.  This is a miss to students at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, who are demanding that the school change the name of Lynch Hall because it reminds them of lynch mobs.  It is actually named for a man named Clyde Lynch, a past president of the university.  My thought is maybe they should ask the attorney general to order the Justice Department to investigate.  

GIGOT:  You mean Loretta Lynch?  

TARANTO:  Was that it?  


GIGOT:  Yes.  OK.  All right, thanks, James.  

HENNINGER:  Paul, a real big hit to the people of Venezuela.  I know that Venezuela has kind of fallen off the radar screen but they had an election for the legislature earlier this week, last weekend, and they voted overwhelmingly against the presidency of Mr. Maduro and he actually achieved a supermajority to challenge him.  This is a country that's lived under Hugo Chavez for many years and shows to us that democracy is actually still alive and well in South America.  

GIGOT:  Good news in Argentina and now, Venezuela.  

HENNINGER:  Exactly.

GIGOT:  All right, thanks, Dan.

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us @jeronfnc.  

That's it for this week show.  Thanks to my panel.  Thanks to all of you for watching.  I'm Paul Gigot.  Hope to see you right here next week.  


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