It's not entirely clear what a "cluster" means here. ABC reports that the NYPD identifies specific "mosques, bookstores, cafes, prisons and flop houses" as incubators of jihadism, but the 90-page report seems to attempt to craft a psychological and sociological understanding of the conditions that may set American Muslims on a radical path. That's a responsible approach: understanding and addressing pre-radicalizing behavior is key to preventing terrorist attacks. But an over-broad or insufficiently specific profile risks targeting innocents and diverting law-enforcement resources from an actual threat.
"It is completely un-American; it goes against everything we stand for," said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We do not want to alienate any segment of any community, and by using that language you are actually aiding the extremists in their recruiting efforts."
Homeland security experts, it should be noted, consider the NYPD a sophisticated counterterrorist organization, especially under the former leadership of Michael Sheehan, an ex-State Department counterterror chief. During Sheehan's post-9/11 tenure, which ended in 2005, the NYPD partnered with law enforcement and intelligence services around the world to intercept and prevent terrorist plots, instead of waiting for the FBI or Department of Homeland Security to feed it information the feds considered pertinent.
As ABC notes, however, the recent National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism focused far more on threats to the U.S. germinating abroad, calling the threat of homegrown jihadism "not likely to be as severe as it is in Europe." But if the NYPD is concentrating on what a potential homegrown threat might look like, rather than warning about one that's ready to strike right now, the NYPD may not entirely disagree.
Given the immense task of protecting a city of over 8 million people, the NYPD can be expected to lean forward in its assessment of how severe the threat is. The model employed by the cops has the burden of plucking out anonymous and probably law-abiding citizens before they set themselves on a path for radicalism.
The dense, 90-page NYPD analysis is the nation's first full analysis of the potential for increased homegrown terror in the United States and the first to develop a matrix on which to plot the course of "unremarkable" people as they move toward the potential for violent action, multiple persons familiar with the report told ABC News.
Months in the drafting, the report makes use of a novel "cluster" model to determine where on the path from preradicalized and self-identification to indoctrination and jihad an individual and immediate peer group may be. As such, it is a valuable tool for assessing individuals that come to law enforcement's attention and in making cogent arguments in court cases, sources who reviewed the report's drafts told ABC News.
A recent analysis in New Jersey used a predictive model employed by the U.K. -- put together after homegrown jihadism struck on July 7, 2005 -- to identify prisons, schools and the internet as places where radicalization "appears to occur." If that model isn't too generic, the last season of The Sopranos might have been on to something.
Update: Here's the NYPD report.