WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser and the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee are offering support for the New York Police Department after an Associated Press investigation revealed a secret police unit that monitored daily life inside Muslim communities.
Muslim civil liberties groups and a Brooklyn congresswoman have called on the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD for its Demographics Unit, which maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with “American Black Muslim,” were considered “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim countries.
Undercover police officers known as “rakers” would then eavesdrop inside Muslim businesses and write daily reports as they kept an eye on mosques, religious schools and social clubs.
The NYPD has denied that the department has ever had anything called the Demographics Unit. Documents obtained by the AP describe the Demographics Unit in great detail, showing how the NYPD singled out minority neighborhoods for extra scrutiny.
The Demographics Unit and other NYPD intelligence programs were created in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as part of an unusual partnership with the police department and the CIA. The CIA dispatched a veteran officer, Lawrence Sanchez, to New York, where he guided and oversaw the programs.