When Disrupting Terrorists, LAPD Prefers Inoffensive to Effective

Are you “iWATCHing” yet? No, it’s not some new product from Apple, but rather an innovation from the Los Angeles Police Department that, like a local neighborhood watch program, enlists citizens across the country in the effort to ferret out any potential terrorists who might be lurking among us.

Boiled down to its essentials, the iWATCH program asks citizens to report, via a toll-free telephone number or website, any suspicious activity that might indicate that some terrorist plot is afoot. It was just such a tip, authorities say, that led to the September arrest of Najibullah Zazi, the Denver man suspected of having al-Qaeda connections. Zazi came under investigation after purchasing large quantities of chemicals from Denver-area beauty supply stores. When a curious employee at one such store asked him why he was buying the chemicals, Zazi reportedly answered that he had “lots of girlfriends.”

And maybe he does, but it seems more likely he was looking forward to an afterlife of rollicking with the 72 virgins he was promised after blowing up himself and as many New Yorkers as possible with the truck bomb he was planning to detonate before he got himself pinched.

We must note here, for you surely never would have expected it, that Zazi is a Muslim -- born in Afghanistan and raised in Pakistan before America threw open the golden door for him in 1999. Purely a coincidence of course, because as all right-thinking Americans know, there is no connection whatsoever -- none, none, none! -- between the Islamic faith and terrorism.

And the folks down at iWATCH headquarters want you to bear that in mind as you keep your eyes peeled for any signs of an embryonic terrorist plot. Responding to criticism of the program from -- surprise! -- the American Civil Liberties Union, LAPD Commander Joan McNamara said police would not accept reports based on race or ethnicity, and that operators at the iWATCH centers would explain this to any callers so ignorant as to assume dark motives in their peace-loving Muslim neighbors.

So, although Zazi and his collaborators were undone by a tip from an appropriately curious citizen, one can well imagine that the iWATCH program, once it’s thoroughly bureaucratized and hamstrung by politically correct policies, will fail to connect some important dots, especially if those dots happen to wear beards and come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or thereabouts. If you doubt this, you probably haven’t traveled by commercial airline lately, for if you had you would have seen small children and pensioners alike taken aside for added scrutiny at the security checkpoint even as swarthy young men of apparent Middle Eastern heritage were whisked through with nary a raised eyebrow from the screeners.