Trump would step up mosque surveillance

Says government could monitor select Islam sites

Lisa Norman-Hudson/REUTERS

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke Monday during a campaign rally in Knoxville, Tenn.

By Alan Rappeport New York Times  

NEW YORK — Donald Trump called Monday for more scrutiny of mosques in the United States and the possible closing of those with radical leadership, as well as more surveillance in general, as fresh fears of terrorism dominated the presidential campaign.

Trump first said last month that he would be open to shutting down mosques as part of the fight against the Islamic State, and on Monday he reiterated his view that the idea should be studied.


“I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred, the absolute hatred, is coming from these areas,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

Trump said that if he were to become president, surveillance of mosques is something that he would “watch and study” because “a lot of talk is going on at the mosques.”

He said the government should increase surveillance in and around mosques and that all Americans must reassess some of their civil liberties in this dangerous time.

‘‘We have to be much tougher,’’ he said in a separate interview on CNBC. ‘‘We are going to have to give up certain privileges that we've always had.’’

‘‘Surveillance took a big turn over the last 48 hours,’’ he added. ‘‘Forty-eight hours ago everybody was saying, ‘Well we want our freedoms, we don’t want this to happen.’ And now, all of sudden, people are saying, ‘Hey listen, you can listen to my phone conversations.’ ’’


The increased surveillance, he argued, should include intelligence-gathering in and around mosques.

‘‘Well you’re going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques,’’ said Trump, who complained that New York City, where he lives, has reduced its efforts to infiltrate places of Muslim worship.

Trump appeared to be referring to the New York Police Department’s Demographics Unit, which in 2011 was reported to be spying on Muslims and mosques around the city with help from the CIA.

The group assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed, infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, and monitored sermons. The department abandoned the program in April 2014 after lawsuits and complaints.

Trump criticized President Obama for not moving earlier to destroy the Islamic State sites that France bombed over the weekend.

He said the United States should be going more aggressively after the group’s oil and financing and pressing other countries to intensify their fighting against the radicals.


Trump told a weekend rally that things would have turned out differently in Paris had the victims of the attacks been armed with guns. He repeated that assertion Monday on CNBC.

‘‘Had there been some guys with a gun, there would have been a shoot-out and probably the primary people that got whacked would have been the killers,’’ he said. ‘‘Had there been other people carrying weapons, you would have had a lot different story, believe me.’’

Trump’s concerns about radical Islam were echoed by another leading Republican presidential candidate on Monday.

Ben Carson, who has been running close with Trump atop many polls, suggested that Muslim clerics should condemn the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“I believe that we need to put a lot more pressure on the clerics, the imams, to make a very distinct line between what ISIS, ISIL, the radical Islamic jihadists, are doing, and what traditional Islam is about,” Carson said in Nevada.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said he would call on allies to form an international coalition to fight the Islamist militancy, whom he has insisted on calling “radical Islam.’’

Rubio also called for waging war not just on the ground, but on social media as well. "Key to the success of this is we're going to have to conduct an increased number of special operations attacks, targeting ISIS leadership, and revealing that they are not invincible,’’ he said.

“In essence, subjecting them to high-profile, humiliating defeats, where we strike them, we capture or kill their leaders, we videotape the operations, we publicize them, because this is a group that heavily uses propaganda to attract fighters and donors from around the world," Rubio said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz said the country needs “a commander-in-chief who takes seriously defeating radical Islamic terrorism."

"I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country,’’ Cruz said. “He may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us, and they’re getting stronger. Every region on earth has gotten worse under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy.’’

“We need a commander-in-chief who says we will defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and let me tell you what that would look like: That would look like, number one, using overwhelming military power, particularly air power,’’ Cruz said. “You know in the first Persian Gulf war we had roughly 11 hundred air attacks a day. Obama right now is doing 15 to 30 air attacks a day. It’s pinprick, it’s photo-op foreign policy.”

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said: "What I would do is . . . to defeat ISIS, and to defeat [Syrian president Bashar] Assad to bring stability because it's in our national security interest to do it.”

“That requires a no-fly zone, safe zones, it requires arming directly the Kurdish forces in Iraq," Bush said Monday on “Fox & Friends.” "It means reengaging with the Sunni tribal leaders that were successful in fighting with us side-by-side with the surge.”

“This president is incrementally getting us into a quagmire without a strategy to defeat ISIS,’’ Bush said.

“This is a threat to western civilization, a threat to our own country. We need to be merciless in this effort. I would listen to the military commanders and build a strategy to defeat ISIS.’’