House Democrats: NYPD should purge spy files, end monitoring of mosques, cafe conversations

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Thursday urged the New York Police Department to purge its intelligence databases of information gleaned from its clandestine spying on Muslim neighborhoods.

They also criticized the Obama administration for offering tepid responses to questions about whether it endorses such tactics.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress and one of the lawmakers who introduced the resolution, said he understood the political difficulties the White House faces in wading into a debate over racial profiling and national security.

“But transformational leadership is about standing up and doing the right thing,” he said.

Dozens of lawmakers have been asking the Justice Department for eight months to investigate the NYPD’s tactics and determine whether they are legal. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the top civil rights official at the department, has not answered questions about the matter. His spokeswoman has said attorneys are reviewing the requests to investigate.

Lawmakers introduced a resolution Thursday calling for an end to NYPD programs that infiltrated mosques and monitored even innocent conversations in cafes and bookstores. Muslim business owners were included in police files, even with no allegations of wrongdoing.

New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday where he blasted Congressional Democrats for “voting to defund the New York police department” due to what he describes as a persistent narrative that the NYPD has been targeting and profiling Muslim citizens without probable cause. He says that this move by Democrats in the House runs counter to the narrative that President Barack Obama is building up ahead of the November election, which is that Democrats are tough on terrorism at home and abroad.