New York: Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that New York police used "terrible judgment" in showing counterterrorism trainees a documentary-style film that says Muslim extremists are masquerading as moderates to destroy America from within.
Bloomberg said police have stopped showing officers The Third Jihad, a 72-minute movie that has been branded inflammatory by some Muslim organisations and was produced by a conservative group called the Clarion Fund.
"Somebody exercised some terrible judgment," he said in Albany, the state capital. "As soon as they found out about it, they stopped it."
The criticism was unusual for Bloomberg, who in recent months has vigorously defended the police department's counterterrorism efforts after an Associated Press investigation exposed a secret program to gather intelligence on Muslim neighbourhoods.
Bloomberg said neither he nor Police Commissioner Ray Kelly knew about the film being shown.
The Third Jihad contains TV images of Hezbollah rocket attacks, children being held hostage by Muslim militants and a woman it says was arrested in Iran for wearing immodest clothing. It shows pictures it says were taken from Islamic videos and websites, including a doctored image of an Islamic flag flying over the White House.
It accuses Muslim extremists of posing as moderates and charges several Muslim organisations with being soft on terrorism. Speakers interviewed in the film say "Islamism is like cancer" and urge a "battle for our civilization."
The film is narrated by M Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Foundation for Democracy, based in Phoenix. Jasser rejected Bloomberg's criticism.
"I could not disagree more," Jasser said. "For him to say that without contradicting any of the facts that are presented in the movie is, I think, careless."
The film features interviews with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other experts. Kelly himself appears on camera, talking about Muslim converts in prison and the danger of terrorists using nuclear weapons.
But Kelly found the video objectionable and regretted consenting to the interview five years ago, said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne, a department spokesman.
The New York-based Clarion Fund did not return calls for comment. Its website, Radicalislam.org, says Clarion was founded in 2006 by Raphael Shore. Shore is a former leader of Aish HaTorah, a chain of Jewish educational centers.
The movie was shown on a continuous loop while officers were signing in for counterterrorism training sessions from October to December 2010, according to police documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank at New York University. As many as 1,489 officers who underwent training, including 68 lieutenants, may have seen it, the documents say.
Browne said that the police brass did not approve the use of the movie and that the decision to play it was made by a sergeant, who has since been reprimanded.
"This was never used in training, period. It was never authorized for use in training, period," Browne said.
The screening of the film inside the 36,000-member police department has been known for months, but police previously said only a few officers had seen it. They stopped showing it after a trainee complained.
The film was used as "intermission filler" and to "provide information for students during breaks to keep their attention focused on counterterrorism issues," Assistant Chief George W Anderson wrote in one of the documents obtained by the Brennan Center.
Anderson wrote that he believed the video was given to police by someone in the US Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security said it didn't authorise the distribution of the movie.
This is not the first time a law enforcement agency has come under fire over its counterterrorism training materials. The FBI was criticised last year for presentations used in a training session that painted a negative picture of Islam. The FBI and other federal agencies pledged to review all their training materials.
Muslim activists said films like "The Third Jihad" are one-sided and teach police cadets that all Muslims are suspect.
"It's clearly a propaganda, anti-Muslim film," said Linda Sarsour, a member of the Muslim-American Civil Liberties Coalition. "It's overly dramatic, piecing together things out of context and threading it together to make this very false narrative about Muslim Americans."
A recent AP series detailed efforts by the New York Police Department to infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and mosques with aggressive programs designed by a CIA officer. Documents reviewed by the AP revealed that undercover officers known as "rakers" visited businesses such as Islamic bookstores and cafes, chatting up store owners to gauge their views. They also played cricket and eavesdropped in ethnic clubs.
The surveillance efforts have been credited with enabling police to thwart a 2004 plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station.
Critics said the efforts amount to ethnic profiling and violate court guidelines on intelligence-gathering.
Updated Date: Jan 26, 2012 08:15:09 IST