The massive surveillance program implemented by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in coordination with CIA officials is shredding the Constitution, putting at risk the rights and freedoms of Arab Americans and American Muslims. If left unchecked, their behavior will weaken the foundations of our democracy and seriously compromise our values as an open and inclusive society.
Revelations by the Associated Press have established that the NYPD, working with a few CIA officials, has been monitoring Arab and Muslim-owned businesses, mosques, and “mapping” areas of the city where high concentrations of Muslims and Arab immigrants are known to live. In order to accomplish these objectives, the NYPD has coerced and entrapped Muslims to act as spies.
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.
Interfaith leaders in Jersey City say they’re in solidarity with Muslims who feel reports of the NY Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Muslim student groups crossed the line beyond acceptable counter-terrorism methods. (The Associated Press)
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.
It was still several hours before Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was to meet with Muslim leaders whom he had invited to Police Headquarters on Tuesday. But the meeting was already drawing criticism, underscoring how precarious the commissioner’s scattershot style of aggressively defending his department’s counterterrorism efforts could be.
The closed-door meeting between Mr. Kelly and a half-dozen Muslim leaders was only the latest example of his attempts to manage the imbroglio. It has centered on the Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim communities in New York City and beyond, in places like New Jersey and Long Island, as well as its tracking of the Web sites of Muslim student organizations at colleges across the Northeast.
Muslim community leaders — some who were invited to the hourlong meeting and some who were not — laced into Mr. Kelly’s efforts, particularly over what they saw as his ploy to sidestep controversy by selecting the participants and meeting privately.
But the meeting also reflected an overall strategy that has been evolving for three weeks, even before a new round of revelations about the department’s monitoring and mapping of Muslims was disclosed in the latest of a series of articles by The Associated Press.
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.
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.