Using a Would-Be Subway Bomber to Justify Sweeping Surveillance

Najibullah Zazi, coffee vendor, is such a useful captured terrorist.

 

Question why the New York Police Department sends undercover “crawlers” to monitor mosques and Muslim students, and the department’s partisans point to Mr. Zazi. How do you think, they ask, we caught that Queens kid who was ready to blow up subway cars in 2009?

Last week, the Obama administration laid its own claim to Mr. Zazi’s scalp. Under fire for covertly harvesting phone calls and e-mails of millions and for peering under our electronic covers, they pointed by way of self-defense to the imprisoned terrorist.

CAIR is calling on all people of conscience to contact the SUBWAY restaurant chain to request that a formal apology

CAIR is asking people of conscience to contact the SUBWAY restaurant chain to request that a formal apology be given to a Louisiana Muslim who was allegedly locked out of a sandwich shop in that state because of his faith. [SUBWAY, based in Milford, Conn., has more than 38,000 locations in 100 countries.]

A retired 63-year-old U.S. citizen of South Asian heritage who lives in New Orleans reported to CAIR that on November 21, 2012, he and his wife stopped at the SUBWAY restaurant in Shreveport, La. Before ordering, they went to the restrooms in the facility. The husband exited the restroom first and went outside the restaurant to wait for his wife in anticipation of re-entering to order their food.

While his wife was still inside the restaurant, the victim attempted to re-enter, but was blocked at the door by a female SUBWAY employee who allegedly asked him “Are you Muslim?” When the victim replied that he is indeed Muslim, the SUBWAY employee reportedly responded, “We can’t serve you.” The employee then went inside the restaurant and locked the door behind her. Fearing for his wife’s safety and distraught at the violation of his civil rights, the man called 911.

When the Shreveport Police Department arrived, an officer went inside the SUBWAY restaurant and later came out to tell the victim that the manager was “scared” of him and that he “better leave.”

Experts at panel discussion examine whether NYPD should have inspector general

NEW YORK — The city police department should have an inspector general to examine its conduct, but the monitor would need independence and a broad mandate to be effective, a panel of criminal justice and legal experts said Wednesday.

The City Council is weighing a proposal to put the nation’s largest police force under the scrutiny of an inspector general. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s no need for one, but the idea has gained currency among civil liberties advocates and others troubled by some New York Police Department practices, including widespread spying on Muslims.

Proponents say an inspector general could build public confidence by looking at issues such as the surveillance and the department’s extensive use of a tactic known as stop and frisk — questioning and sometimes patting down people whose behavior is deemed suspicious but doesn’t necessarily meet the legal bar for an arrest.

The NYPD has said its surveillance is legal.

Inspectors general — officials with investigative powers — are a common feature of government agencies, including in law enforcement and intelligence. The FBI and the CIA have such inspectors, as do police forces including the Los Angeles Police Department.

In New York City, allegations of police misconduct are explored by a civilian complaint board, a police corruption commission and the department’s 700-person Internal Affairs Bureau — plus, at times, local and federal prosecutors and judges.

That’s enough, the administration says.

An Independent Monitor for the Police Is Proposed

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency have inspectors general who function as independent monitors. So do the police departments of major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as the nation’s capital. Even most New York City agencies, like the Education Department and the Housing Authority, have similar monitors.

But not the New York Police Department.

About two dozen members of the City Council planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would create an office of the inspector general to monitor the police and “conduct independent reviews of the department’s policies, practices, programs and operations.”

The council members said that there has never been a more opportune time to increase oversight over so powerful an agency, especially in light of the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, surveillance of Muslim groups, questions over allegedly manipulated arrest data and other recent controversies involving the police.

“This kind of independent oversight can act as an early-warning system for a very large agency,” said Richard M. Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission, which has worked closely with council members on the legislation.

New Jersey Muslims file federal suit to stop New York Police Department from spying on them

WASHINGTON — One of the Obama administration’s go-to civil rights groups in its efforts to build relationships with American Muslims is suing the New York Police Department over its surveillance programs, some of which were paid for with federal money.

Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in New Jersey to force the NYPD to end its surveillance and other intelligence-gathering practices targeting Muslims in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit alleged that the NYPD’s activities were unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race.

It is the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD’s surveillance programs that targeted entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling the daily life of where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut. The surveillance was the subject of series of stories by The Associated Press that revealed the NYPD intelligence division infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds.

The Muslims suing the NYPD are represented by Muslim Advocates, a California-based civil rights group that meets regularly with members of the Obama administration.

New Jersey finds NYC police surveillance of Muslims broke no state laws, can’t be blocked

NEWARK, N.J. — Islamic leaders say they are shocked that a review by New Jersey’s state attorney general into the New York Police Department’s secret surveillance operation targeting Muslim businesses and mosques in New Jersey found the NYPD did nothing wrong.

Muslim leaders in New Jersey say they are angry but uncertain what their next step will be after the state’s attorney general found that New York City police did not violate any laws in its surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey.

Chiesa had been asked by Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed him, to look into operations in New Jersey that were part of a widespread NYPD program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities both inside New York and beyond. Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, even when there was no evidence of a crime. They infiltrated Muslim student groups, videotaped mosque-goers or collected their license plate numbers as they prayed.

LAPD to alter policy on data possibly related to terrorism

Reports on suspicious activity determined to be harmless will be deleted. They had been stored in a database for a year, sparking fears that the information could wind up with the federal government.

In the face of privacy concerns, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to change the way it collects information on suspicious activity possibly related to terrorism.

The department, after coming under fire from civil liberties and community groups, will no longer hold on to so-called suspicious activity reports that the LAPD’s counter-terrorism unit determines are about harmless incidents.

Until now, the department stored the innocuous reports in a database for a year. That gave rise to worries among critics of the reporting program that personal information about people who had done nothing wrong could be entered inappropriately into the federal government’s vast network of counter-terrorism databases and watch lists.

Police Remove Muslim Women From Pam Geller’s ‘Human Rights Conference’

Yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan, noted anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hosted a conference promising to advocate for “human rights” in one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Geller, writing on her blog on Sunday, warned, “We will meet fierce resistance by Islamic supremacists who will do anything, say anything to impose the sharia and whitewash the oppression, subjugation and slaughter of women under Islamic law.”

But surprisingly, Muslim women found themselves denied entry to the conference and, after patiently waiting in the corridor after being told to wait, were removed from the Hyatt Hotel by the Dearborn Police Department and Hyatt security.

Several of the young women commented that they shared a similar appearance with Jessica Mokdad, the young women who Geller and Spencer claim was murdered in an “honor killing” (a conclusion not shared by Mokdad’s family or Michigan prosecutors).

House Democrats decry Bloomberg’s ‘underhanded’ response to concerns over NYPD Muslim spying

WASHINGTON — Ten House Democrats, including a member of the party’s leadership and lawmakers who oversee intelligence and homeland security matters, have criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his “underhanded and unprofessional” response to criticism of the New York Police Department’s spying programs.

The Associated Press has reported for months that the NYPD systematically spied on Muslims neighborhoods, using informants and undercover officers to serve as “listening posts” in mosques and businesses in New York and New Jersey. Police documented the details of sermons, even when they were innocuous and peaceful, and infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses. NYPD officers catalogued where Muslims ate, eat and prayed — with no mention of criminal activity — and targeted Mosques using techniques typically reserved for criminal investigations.

The lawmakers asked Bloomberg to explain what exactly he knew about the NYPD’s intelligence operations and to explain how federal money was used.

A Balancing Act for the Police Department

In the binary system offered by Machiavelli — “it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both” — the New York Police Department loses on either count.

The police in a big city can’t expect to be truly loved; it’s not part of the job description. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that the fondest wish of the department brass is to be feared. What, then, would distinguish them from an occupying force?

But there is a third possibility not covered by the Machiavellian construct. It is a middle path, arguably the sanest choice of all: to be respected. That’s where the department has been struggling of late, on several fronts.

Its surveillance of Muslims as part of its counterterrorism strategy has led to a concerted pushback from Islamic groups. The huge numbers of New Yorkers affected by its stop-and-frisk policy, principally young African-Americans and Latinos, have produced cries of racism and legislative attempts to limit the practice. Its battles with Occupy Wall Street have generated criticism that it fails to respect the rights of those engaged in lawful dissent.