NEW YORK — New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Thursday challenged city council members who want to create an inspector general to regulate the department’s surveillance of Muslims, saying his department needs no additional oversight.
In sometimes heated exchanges with council members at a budget hearing, Kelly defended his department’s counterterrorism surveillance program as well as another crime-fighting policy, the stopping, questioning and frisking of people on the street.
Some council members say they are deeply concerned by a series of stories by The Associated Press detailing the extent of the surveillance program, which overwhelmingly targeted Muslim ethnic groups in its hunt for suspicious activity.
CHICAGO — The tip was a surprise when it arrived on the desk of Ted Wasky. Had it not come, the former FBI agent fears five Muslim men in northwest Ohio might have pulled off a plot to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
The source of the tip? A fellow group of Muslims living in Toledo.
The tipsters trusted the police enough to help the FBI infiltrate the group with an informant, and Wasky said that relationship was the “best thing that ever happened” to the local joint terrorism task force when he was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.
That’s what police investigators, prosecutors and mayors in cities nationwide say the New York Police Department is putting at risk by conducting clandestine surveillance of Muslims in the city and across the Northeast. All cite their experience in serving communities that are home to large Muslim communities and other minority populations that have become isolated by events.
NEW YORK — The New York Police Department collected information on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims, according to newly obtained secret documents. They show in the clearest terms yet that police were monitoring people based on religion, despite claims from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the contrary.
The NYPD has faced intense criticism from Muslims, lawmakers — and even the FBI — for widespread spying operations that put entire neighborhoods under surveillance. Police put the names of innocent people in secret files and monitored the mosques, student groups and businesses that make up the Muslim landscape of the northeastern U.S.
Bloomberg has defended his department’s efforts, saying they have kept the city safe, were completely legal and were not based on religion.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Thursday he’s disturbed by what he’s read about the New York Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.
Holder’s brief comments represented the most extensive public discussion of the topic to date by anyone in the Obama administration. The administration has repeatedly refused to endorse or repudiate the NYPD’s tactics, which include cataloging mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, recording the license plates of worshippers at mosques, infiltrating student groups and eavesdropping in Muslim neighborhoods.
NEW YORK — Qazi Qayyoom, an imam in Queens, says he believes the New York Police Department is keeping his community safe, and if that means some Muslims are monitored, so be it.
“The police, they come to us and say, ‘Is everything OK? How can we help you?” he said Monday. “They are not trying to hurt us. For this, I want to say thank you and tell them I support them.”
The rally, held by the American Islamic Leadership Coalition outside police headquarters in downtown Manhattan, illustrated a division even among the faith’s adherents about how far authorities should go in seeking to protect the nation’s largest city from terrorists. Other Muslim groups were quick to say the coalition didn’t represent their views.
Among the speakers was Dr. Zudhi Jasser, the narrator of “The Third Jihad,” a documentary about the dangers of radical Islam that the NYPD showed in the lobby of a police training area and has since disavowed.
WASHINGTON — Months after receiving complaints about the New York Police Department’s surveillance of entire American Muslim neighborhoods, the Justice Department is just beginning a review to decide whether to investigate civil rights violations.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress the status of the review Tuesday.
The announcement bothered some Democrats, who said they were under the impression the Justice Department had been reviewing the matter since last late last year.
Holder told Congress that police seeking to monitor activities by citizens “should only do so when there is a basis to believe that something inappropriate is occurring or potentially could occur.”
Holder responded under questioning by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who as an infant was sent with his parents to a Japanese internment camp during World War II and has compared that policy to the NYPD’s treatment of Muslims. The attorney general was on Capitol Hill to discuss the Justice Department’s federal budget.
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s attorney general told Muslim leaders Saturday that he was still looking into the extent of New York Police Department surveillance operations in the state, yet stopped short of promising a formal investigation during a meeting that both sides characterized as productive.
Leaders from different New Jersey Muslim organizations met with Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and state and federal law enforcement officials for nearly three hours in Trenton to discuss concerns over the NYPD’s activities in the state.
A spokesman for the attorney general, Paul Loriquet, called Saturday’s meeting the start of an ongoing dialogue with New Jersey’s Muslim American community.
“We will continue to reach out to the community and keep the communication channels open as we move forward in our fact-finding,” he said.
New Jersey’s Muslim leaders have been demanding at least a state investigation — if not a federal one — into the NYPD’s activities following a series of stories by The Associated Press that detailed the monitoring or recommended surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, the mapping of mosques in Newark and the monitoring of Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers University and at other schools in the Northeast.
NEWARK, N.J. — The report was stamped top secret.
Inside was a confidential dossier compiled by the New York Police Department documenting “locations of concern” in Newark — the city’s 44 mosques, Muslim-owned restaurants and businesses and Islamic schools.
In 2007, the NYPD began an undercover spy operation within New Jersey’s largest city to find and document where Muslims lived, worked and prayed.
Now, city officials and many of those targeted are voicing anger at the disclosures, which came in the wake of an Associated Press report showing that a secret NYPD surveillance program aimed at Muslims had extended well beyond New York City.
In Newark, the NYPD apparently cataloged every mosque and Muslim-owned business in the city — from fried-chicken joints to houses of worship located in private homes.
There was no mention of terrorism or any criminal wrongdoing in the 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, which described the aim of the surveillance as compiling “the existence of population centers and business districts of communities of interest.”
A spokesman defends the action, but a Muslim student chaplain sees ‘a violation of civil rights.’
The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students more broadly than previously known and at schools far beyond the city limits, including Ivy League colleges Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, the Associated Press has learned.
Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.
Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the U.S. and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the New York Police Department referred to as “MSAs.”
Student groups were of particular interest to the department because they attracted young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training.
NEW YORK — Muslim groups and interfaith leaders are holding a rally in the wake of a report about New York Police Department intelligence.
The rally is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, January 3, 2012, at Manhattan’s Foley Square. It will be followed by a march to police headquarters.
A secret police document shows that the NYPD recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Muslims and their mosques based solely on their religion.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the May 2006 NYPD intelligence report on Iran. It says police should expand clandestine operations at Shiite mosques.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the NYPD never considers religion in its policing. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said police only go where investigative leads take them.