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Feb 23 2012

Guilty For Being Muslim

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

It has been known since last Summer that the New York City Police Department has has an intelligence unit coached by, and in conjunction with, the CIA which focuses on the Muslim community. This is being done even tough the CIA is prohibited from spying domestically on Americans. It was revealed in an Associated Press report that besides targeting Muslim communities, mosques and businesses inside the five boroughs, the surveillance has extended to Newark, New Jersey] (pdf) and Long Island (pdf).

The NYPD has been dispatching undercover officers called “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods to monitor daily life in bookstores, bars and other local common places, reported The Associated Press, citing a “months-long” investigation. Informants called “mosque crawlers,” monitored sermons and imams. Intelligence officers reportedly also gathered information on cab drivers and food cart vendors. [..]

The AP also reported that the NYPD operates far outside its borders in New Jersey and surrounding regions and targets ethnic communities, mainly Muslims, in specific ways that no federal agency could without violating civil liberty laws.

In October the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed a motion challenging the partnership in court to determine whether the spying operations violates an existing court order from 1971, revised in 2003, that restricted the NYPD’s ability to conduct surveillance targeting political and religious activity.

“The NYPD’s reported surveillance of local Muslim communities raises serious questions concerning whether the Police Department has violated court-ordered restrictions on its ability to spy on and keep dossiers on individuals,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “In order to know whether the NYPD is violating the court order, we need a more complete explanation of the NYPD’s surveillance practices.”

The NYPD has an ugly history of racial profiling in black and Hispanic communities:

In 2010 alone, the NYPD engaged in more than 600,000 stop-and-frisks searches; 84% of those stopped were of black or Latino. Time and again, police officers have used force when stopping blacks or Latinos. Half of these stops have been cited as “furtive movements”, a label that portrays black and brown people as clandestine. The stop-and-frisk widespread problem that is racially discriminatory under the ostensible excuse that the practice is necessary in fighting crime. Sadly, this procedure has not proved to reduce crime or make the city any safer.

The department has gone as far as monitoring Muslims who change their names

The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.

The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment.

Earlier this week, AP reported that the NYPD had monitored Muslim students all over the Northeast:

One autumn morning in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email and found a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto.

Khan clicked “forward,” sent it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University at Buffalo, and promptly forgot about it.

But that simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department, 300 miles away, who combed through her post and put her name in an official report. Marked “SECRET” in large red letters, the document went all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s office. [..]

Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even 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. [..]

Though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD’s activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.

But the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students.

Glen Greenwald rightfully notes the “hallmark of a Surveillance State is that police agencies secretly monitor and keep dossiers on not only those individuals suspected of lawbreaking, but on the society generally, including those individuals about whom there is no suspicion of wrongdoing.” and he calls out the blatant lies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long claimed – preposterously – that the NYPD does not target communities for survillence based on their religion, but as AP notes:  “In one section of the  report, police wrote that the largest immigrant groups in Newark were from Portugal and Brazil. But they did not photograph businesses or churches for those groups.” That’s because “‘No Muslim component within these communities was identified,‘ police wrote.” In the wake of this latest evidence, Bloomberg seemed to abandon that denial, shifting instead to justification: “The police department goes where there are allegations. And they look to see whether those allegations are true,” said the Mayor. “That’s what you’d expect them to do. That’s what you’d want them to do. Remind yourself when you turn out the light tonight.”

No, Mr. Bloomberg, you do not make us safer by violating our rights and the laws of this country. This is not the sign of a healthy society, as Glenn concludes:

the essential expression of the American Surveillance State: we can and will know everything about what you do, and you will know virtually nothing about what we do. In a healthy society, that formula would be reversed: the citizenry (with rare exceptions) would know most everything about what their government does, while the government would know nothing about what citizens do in the absence of well-grounded suspicion that they have done something wrong. Yet here we have the NYPD wandering outside of its jurisdiction in order to spy on the innocuous activities of a community of a religious minority (not even the Newark Mayor was informed about this), and the most disturbing part of it all is how common it now is.

Somebody needs to rein in Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD.

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