Archive for NYPD

NYPD Monitored Groups Based on Religion, Documents Show

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by loonwatch

(via. Islamophobia-Watch)

NYPD monitored groups based on religion, documents show

(AP)

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. “We don’t stop to think about the religion,” Bloomberg said at a news conference in August after The Associated Press began revealing the spying. “We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”

In late 2007, however, plainclothes officers in the department’s secretive Demographics Unit were assigned to investigate the region’s Syrian population. Police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops. The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring. “This report will focus on the smaller Muslim community,” the report said.

Similarly, police excluded the city’s sizable Coptic Christian population when photographing, monitoring and eavesdropping on Egyptian businesses in 2007, according to the police files. “This report does not represent the Coptic Egyptian community and is merely an insight into the Muslim Egyptian community of New York City,” the NYPD wrote.

Many of those under surveillance were American-born citizens whose families have been here for the better part of a century. “The majority of Syrians encountered by members of the Demographics Unit are second- or even third-generation Syrian Americans,” the Syrian report said. “It is unusual to encounter a first generation or new arrival Syrian in New York City.”

Associated Press, 9 March 2012

Read the documents herehere and here.

See also “Yep, the NYPD was definitely profiling Muslims”, New York Magazine, 9 March 2012

Asra Nomani in The Daily Beast: Spy on White People

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from avari)

By Haroon Moghul

So, Asra Nomani writes an(other) embarrasing example of self-hatred for The Daily Beast, applauding law enforcement’s apparent targeting of Muslims throughout the Greater New York City area. Her essay is riddled with simple errors, clear misperceptions of how law and constitutionalism function, an inability to process profiling, and some faulty logic, perhaps the finest instance of which is here:

Indeed, just as we need to track the Colombian community for drug trafficking and the Ku Klux Klan for white extremists, I believe we should monitor the Muslim community because we sure don’t police ourselves enough.

The first part of her sentence, about Colombians, is actually right on (by her silly logic); the second part contradicts her own logic (she can call for profiling some Latinos, but she doesn’t have the courage to apply her racializing logic to white America), and everything after “I believe” speaks to how little Asra actually knows anything about the Muslim community, as well as the several seconds of your life which you could have done something better with.For law enforcement to go after white extremism the way it seems to be going after Muslims (at least, with respect to the NYPD), they wouldn’t be going after the KKK, as Asra suggests–unless Asra means to suggest that Muslim student organizations at Yale and UPenn are offshoots of al Qaeda. Law enforcement would instead have to spy on as many white institutions (churches, civic clubs, student organizations, etc.) as they could.

Because, of course, by Asra’s article’s painful logic, a person’s whiteness is a sufficiently significant lead to get law enforcement to pay attention to him, just as a Muslim institution is, on the grounds of its Muslimness, a target of suspicion sufficient to merit law enforcement’s full attention. This is a point Amy Davidson made far more succinctly in an excellent post at The New Yorker:

There is a difference between chasing clues and treating Islam, in and of itself, as a lead.

Does Asra mean to suggest we should be spying on white folks indiscriminately, because they, like the KKK, are white? Should we spy on white Muslims twice, since they are white and Muslim, and so somehow become extremists that hate themselves. I spoke about this issue on a far more relevant basis to Welton Gaddy of State of Belief Radio.

By the way, I’ll be at Fordham’s Manhattan campus today (Monday, March 5th), speaking about the long history of Islam and especially Islam in America. It’s free, and I’ll try to make it fun, educational, and enlightening. We’ll be starting at 6pm at Fordham’s South Lounge inside 113 West 60th Street, right off Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The event ends at 8pm.

Haroon Moghul is a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. He is an Associate Editor and columnist at Religion Dispatches and writes for the Huffington Post.

Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Chief, Pledges No NYPD-Esque Spying On Muslims

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by loonwatch

(H/T: BBK)

Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Chief, Pledges No NYPD-Esque Spying On Muslims

(The HuffingtonPost)

OAK BROOK TERRACE, Ill. — For the first time in public, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy promised his department will never conduct blanket surveillance of Muslims like the New York Police Department did in Newark, N.J., when he was chief there.

McCarthy addressed hundreds of Muslims on Saturday at the annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago, a civil rights organization. He said police would follow leads in criminal cases, but the department “does not and will not conduct blanket surveillance and profiling of any community in the city of Chicago.”

“We are deeply committed to respecting the civil rights of all Chicagoans,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have tried to reassure Chicago-area Muslims since The Associated Press revealed the NYPD’s spying in Newark. The AP reported last month that in 2007, the NYPD’s secretive Demographics Unit fanned out across Newark, photographing mosques and eavesdropping on Muslim businesses. Earlier, the AP reported that the department was conducting similar surveillance in New York, building databases showing where Muslims live, shop and pray.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vigorously defended the operations, saying police only follow up on allegations. But civil rights advocates and other critics say the NYPD’s 60-page report on the Newark operations showed Muslims were targeted solely because of their religion.

McCarthy, who was also a top officer in the NYPD at one point, told the AP that his former colleagues in New York notified him as a courtesy that they were sending plainclothes officers to Newark, but none of his officers participated in the operation. New York police say Newark leaders cooperated with the effort.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended his department’s operations again Saturday in a speech at Fordham Law School, as about 60 protesters marched outside. Addressing New Jersey officials’ complaints that the NYPD overstepped its bounds by not fully informing them of officers’ activities, Kelly noted 746 Garden State residents were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

“If terrorists aren’t limited by borders and boundaries, we can’t be either,” Kelly said. “It is entirely legal for the Police Department to conduct investigations outside of city limits, and we maintain very close relationships with local authorities.”

McCarthy met privately last week with community leaders in Chicago to discuss the issue, but he hadn’t stated publicly whether he supported the NYPD’s tactics.

He was warmly received at Saturday’s banquet, held in a Chicago suburb. CAIR Executive Director Ahmed Rehab praised McCarthy for his “heartfelt” sincerity and taking the initiative to attend, and the audience applauded when the chief said police need to work with the city’s communities to prevent crime and terrorism.

“We are focused on our mission of making Chicago the safest city for every resident in every neighborhood, but we can’t do it alone,” McCarthy said. “We must have a positive relationship with the wonderfully diverse communities that comprise Chicago and that make this great country of America as strong as it is today.”

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat and immigration advocate, also addressed the group, lashing out at the NYPD’s spying methods.

“It makes no sense and is not sensible law enforcement,” Gutierrez said.

McCarthy wrapped up his remarks by saying he is a 9/11 survivor, who was in a command post near the World Trade Center until the towers fell. He told the audience that 13 of the 23 officers lost by the NYPD were personal friends.

“And I want to tell you this,” he said. “In the 10-plus years since that horrific event, which has affected me to my core, I have never once thought ill of the religion of Islam.”

Zuhdi Jasser’s Astroturf Muslim Groups Behind Rally to Support NYPD Spying

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by loonwatch

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) recently held a joint rally to express support for the NYPD and the tactics it uses (including racial profiling and spying on American Muslims).  Media reports used the following sorts of headlines:

Muslim group rallies to support NYPD spying

Islamic leaders support NYPD

Islamic Leaders Plan Pro-NYPD Rally in Support of NYPD

Muslims Rally In Support Of NYPD Mosque Surveillance Program

etc.

The issue is now being portrayed as: Some American Muslims oppose the NYPD’s tactics but others approve of them.  Now that there is an equivalency, whose to say which side is right?  In spite of the embarrassingly low turnout for the pro-NYPD rally, some elements are even insinuating that this misguided handful of individuals somehow represents the “silent majority” of the American Muslim community.

In reality, American Muslims as a whole oppose the NYPD’s tactics of racial profiling and spying.  Finding a few token Muslims on the other side of the divide doesn’t change that.

In fact, these are astroturf Muslim groups, with absolutely no grassroots support in the American Muslim community itself, which explains why they had such a paltry showing at the rally.  The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) seems to consist of only twelve members; of these, most are inactive–they contribute nothing to the AILC and their only purpose seems to be to create some semblance of a “group.”  Three of the individuals in the list of twelve aren’t even American Muslims.

In reality, the AILC is really just one man, who is the group’s founder: Zuhdi Jasser, every right-winger’s favorite Muslim and the narrator of the anti-Muslim film, The Third Jihad.  The contribution from many of the other members in the group seems minimal to non-existent.  One of the exceptions might be Tarek Fatah, who is not even an American Muslim to begin with.

What of the second group, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)?  If you click on their “leadership” tab, only one man’s name comes up: you guessed it, it’s Zuhdi Jasser, who “is the Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).”  Who else is a part of this astoturf group is a mystery.

The AILC site claims that it is “representative of the overwhelming ‘silent majority’ of Muslims in America.”  Yet, the group itself revolves primarily around one individual with no grassroots support, evidenced by the lack of turnout to their scheduled rally: only about twenty-something people showed up for it.  Is that what they mean by the “silent majority” of Muslims in America?  How is it that Zuhdi Jasser, Tarek Fatah (who is not even an American Muslim), and a small group of nobodies decide to call themselves the “leadership” of the “silent majority” of American Muslims?  They in fact lead nothing but astroturf groups with no real membership or support in the community they claim to represent.

Zuhdi Jasser and his astroturf groups are fake in another way too: they claim to be “liberal and progressive Muslims”, and yet they “pal around” with far right-wing elements.  Just a few days ago, for instance, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy–which is, of course, little more than Zuhdi Jasser–issued their/his undying love for and praise of the far-right wing extremist Andrew Breitbart.

I have nothing against dissenting voices in any faith community critically challenging tradition, especially if this is done to further liberalism, tolerance, and peace.  But, don’t be fooled by the AILC, AIFD, and whatever other acronym/astroturf group they create next.  Their central figure is a man who doesn’t have a liberal or progressive bone in his body.  He’s as right-wing as they come.  And he certainly doesn’t speak for American Muslims.

Zuhdi Jasser is just a token Muslim figure who the far right-wing anti-Muslim bigots can prance around to say all the things they believe with the only difference being that he proudly carries around his official “Muslim card”; this “I’m a Muslim” routine gives these loony, bigoted, and simplistic ideas a modicum of credibility.  The operative logic is: if a Muslim himsef says it, it must be true!

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah and Zuhdi Jasser: ‘Please! Pretty Please Spy on Me!’

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by loonwatch

Zuhdi_Jasser_Tarek_Fatah_Peter_King

Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser, and Peter King

Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah and Zuhdi Jasser have ridden in on their clown car to rally in support of being “spied on” by the NYPD. Using their “Muslim” cards they have either written in support of, or participated in a rally in solidarity with the NYPD’s secret surveillance. Such endless stupidity knows no bounds, and is not limited to Muslims. Self-hating loons are part of every culture and faith. (We have already written about why the NYPD surveillance is deceptive, wrong-headed, immoral and ineffective, so no need for us to repeat ourselves here.)

The loons agree with each other, being “Muslim” or “Muslim like” is sufficient just cause to infringe on the civil liberties of all Muslims. For these loons, being Muslim is enough of a reason to be accompanied by undercover agents on whitewater rafting trips, to have your mosque infiltrated, to have a who’s-who of ‘Muslamic’ eateries profiled. For these loons the tricky fact that this deceptive surveillance is probably illegal is to be ignored at all cost.

(Have you ever wondered what interesting terroristic tidbits those gum-shoe NYPD infiltrators gathered at, say, Habib Restaurant in Newark? I can just imagine:

Muslim patron of Habib Restaurant: This shawerma sandwhich is the bomb!

NYPD undercover agent jotting down in notebook: ”Stealth food Jihad!!??” I saw this on the Third Jihad that we watched in an endless loop for months! Check with Ray Kelly.)

It’s okay they say, go ahead and cast a pal of suspicion over the whole Muslim community. They  are essentially telling Bloomberg, Kelly, etc.:

“Look at us masta’. We da good Mooslims. You spy on us, entrap us, bomb us wid’ yo bombs, it’s otay.”

The loons’ rally attracted 20 or so supporters and…*gasp*…Rep.Peter King. Whodathunkit? The fact that IRA supporting Peter King would stand with the very same non-expert neo-Con witness he called at his McCarthyesque witch-hunt trials and declare, “you are the real face of Islam in America” is so shocking (note: thinly-veiled sarcasm).

Oh yes, Sheikh Peter King is now pontificating on who the “real” Muslims are. You are a real Muslim if you align yourself with the right-wing, agree with your community being spied on, (thereby undermining every citizens civil liberties), agree with the over-exaggerated “homegrown terrorism” threat, agree with entrapment, agree with the Greater Islamophobia of “bombing, invading and occupying” Muslim majority nations.

Lets continue the myth, they say, that Muslims have not cooperated with law enforcement and are not doing enough to condemn terrorism.(Even though over 40% of all tips regarding potential Muslim terrorists come from Muslims). This will finally convince those Tea Partiers that Asra loves at the Tennessee Freedom Coalition that real Islam is in fact a religion that should be afforded the guarantees of “religious freedom,” and not as they say, a 1400 year old political-fascist-totalitarian-cult threatening to overtake Christianity and “Islamize” the USA.

Asra in her Daily Beast article, Why NYPD Monitoring Should Be Welcome News to Muslims didn’t limit herself to attacking and libeling Muslims, in fact her words will comfort Colombians particularly,

“just as we need to track the Colombian community for drug trafficking and the Ku Klux Klan for white extremists, I believe we should monitor the Muslim community”

As one astute commenter on her article noted,

The Colombian community should be just as offended as the Muslims at being directly compared to the KKK which is by definition a gang of white extremists.

Nomani of course sees no problem, Colombians and Muslims are just like the KKK in her mind, and that is the true face of self-hating loons.

The sparse number of pro-surveillance and pro-anti-Muslim indoctrination ralliers indicates that most American Muslims are overwhelmingly opposed to the NYPD’s bigoted indoctrination of its officers as well as the warrantless surveillance of Muslims. An opposition that is born not just out of their recent plight, being cast as “today’s enemy,” but out of a consistency of principal; no one should be profiled based simply on religion or race, no group should endure warrantless surveillance.

One can imagine that in a not too distant future, these very same self-hating loons, eager to be profiled and spied on, will also be saying, “please, please intern me, somebody, please intern me!”

Update I:

Make sure to check out Danios’s article on the same topic: Zuhdi Jasser’s Astroturf Muslim Groups Behind Rally to Support NYPD Spying.

Justin Elliot: Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Important questions and answers:

Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

by Justin Elliot (Pro Publica)

Last August, the Associated Press launched aseries detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes have been committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is being disputed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads, is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 that prohibits profiling by law enforcement personnel based on religion.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee that the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD — and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims — we spoke to Faiza Patel,co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.

ProPublica: So, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have said everything that the NYPD did was legal and constitutional. Others have disagreed. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for example, said wholesale surveillance of a community without suspicion of a crime “clearly crosses a line.” What restrictions is the NYPD operating under?

Patel: They are operating under at least three sets of rules. The first and most basic set of rules is the consent decree from the Handschu case — the so-called Handschu guidelines. This was a 1970s-era political surveillance case that was settled through a consent decree. The NYPD had been conducting surveillance of a number of political groups in the 1960s and ’70s. The initial consent decree regulated the NYPD’s collection of intelligence about political activity. It first said the NYPD can only collect intelligence about political activities if it follows certain rules. For example, the NYPD had to get clearance from something called the Handschu authority, which was a three-member board that consisted of two high-level police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor.

Then, post-9/11, the NYPD went to court and asked a judge to review the consent decree because they wanted greater freedom in their counterterrorism operations. What they wound up doing was adopting guidelines based on the FBI’s guidelines from 2003, issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These were different in several important ways. The first was that there was no pre-clearance at all … no requirement that the NYPD get approval from the Handschu authority before they undertook any intel gathering about political activity. The second was that the guidelines explicitly say the NYPD can attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public. So, if I can go to a church, the NYPD can go to a church. But it goes on to say that the NYPD can’t retain the information it gathers from such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

ProPublica: So, if you look at, say, the NYPD’s guide to Newark’s Muslim community obtained and published by AP — which maps out mosques and Muslim-owned businesses without mentioning any suspected crimes — aren’t the police retaining exactly this kind of information?

Patel: There are a couple of documents that suggest they may have violated Handschu — for example, the [2006 NYPD report] on the Danish cartoon controversy, which is a collection of statements in mosques and other places that have been taken by undercover officers or confidential informants.

ProPublica: What other rules does the NYPD operate under?

Patel: The second set is that the NYPD has a profiling order in place, and New York City also has a racial profiling law. They are slightly different. The NYPD order [issued in 2002] does not include religion among the categories that they define as profiling. But the New York City law does. It prohibits police officers from relying on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin as a determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action. Normally, you have quite a difficult time in racial profiling cases showing they’ve used one of these factors as the determinative factor. In this case, if you look at the documents, it seems quite clear that the NYPD had its eyes quite firmly on the Muslim community, so it’s possible it is also in violation of this law.

The third set of rules is, of course, the U.S. and New York state constitutions. Within the [U.S.] Constitution, you’re looking at at least two broad categories of provisions — potential First Amendment claims for free speech, freedom of association and free exercise of religion. The other piece of it would be potential equal protection claims.

ProPublica: Another AP story this week reported that federal grant money and equipment were used in the NYPD surveillance and investigation of the Muslim community. Does that muddy the legal questions about whether the police were following federal rules?

Patel: The federal program that was giving them money is the HIDTA program — High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It’s geared toward providing funds to combat drug trafficking. HIDTA itself does allow for counterterrorism spending to be an incidental purpose. It requires the HIDTA executive board to basically make sure that funds were being used for the purposes that they were supposed to be used for. So, I think there’s a real issue about accountability and oversight of the use of HIDTA funds here.

ProPublica: So, if the NYPD did potentially violate the Handschu guidelines and city law you mentioned, what are the penalties?

Patel: Well, the Handschu lawyers already went to court last year and told the judge that the documents that had been released by the AP suggested that there had been violations of the Handschu decree. They asked for discovery so they could check the files of the NYPD to see whether they had violated the prohibition on keeping dossiers. I believe that that discovery will likely be starting soon. So, there’s clearly a remedy through the Handschu mechanism. Because it’s a consent decree, it’s an ongoing thing. The judge has supervisory jurisdiction. There are also issues under the racial profiling law and under the First Amendment.

We’ve also turned to the question of oversight. The FBI, for all its faults, does have a fair amount of oversight — an inspector general internally and congressional oversight. We think a similar thing would be a great idea for the NYPD.

‘Mosque Crawlers,’ ‘Rakers’ Monitoring U.S. Muslims for NYPD

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on February 29, 2012 by loonwatch

NYPD

Ray Kelly refers to the organizations that have criticized the NYPD for violating civil liberties, “so-called civil liberties groups.” We have to continue to shine the light on Bloomberg and the NYPD so they realize that this story is not simply going to go away:

‘Mosque Crawlers,’ ‘Rakers’ Monitoring U.S. Muslims for NYPD

(PBS)

http://www-tc.pbs.org/s3/pbs.videoportal-prod.cdn/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf

Watch ‘Mosque Crawlers,’ ‘Rakers’ Monitoring U.S. Muslims for NYPD on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

GWEN IFILL: Next: More details emerge about a program aimed at preventing terrorism, but which also raises questions about civil liberties.

Ray Suarez has our story.

RAY SUAREZ: The story has been emerging since last summer. New York City police began extensively monitoring Muslims in the city after 9/11.

The operation, revealed by the Associated Press, triggered immediate criticism from civil rights groups.

CHRISTOPHER DUNN, attorney, New York Civil Liberties Union: At the end of the day, it is, pure and simple, a rogue domestic surveillance operation. And that’s a matter of serious concern to us.

RAY SUAREZ: But New York City’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly, insisted last year the surveillance is necessary and legal.

RAYMOND KELLY, New York City Police commissioner: We’re doing what we believe we have to do to protect the city. We have many, many lawyers in our employ. We see ourselves as very conscious and aware of civil liberties.

And we know that there’s always going to be scrutiny. There’s always going to be some tension between the police department and the so-called civil liberties groups.

RAY SUAREZ: The program used undercover police officers and recruited Muslim informants to keep watch.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted last December the operation wasn’t about racial profiling.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, mayor of New York: The city’s police department has worked very hard to bring crime down and prevent terrorism. And we have done it in a way that is consistent with making sure that we obey the law and don’t target anybody.

RAY SUAREZ: But Muslim activists in the city say surveillance is corrosive and counterproductive.

LINDA SARSOUR, Arab-American Association of New York: It creates mistrust amongst people within their own community. It also hinders what people do in their daily lives. They don’t go — they don’t want to go to the same coffee shops or even pray at the mosques. And what it does is it creates mistrust also between us and law enforcement, which really undermines public safety for all New Yorkers.

RAY SUAREZ: The operation extended beyond New York City limits. This apartment building in New Brunswick, New Jersey, served as an NYPD command center for surveillance throughout that state.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, his state’s former U.S. attorney*, said the whole operation was news to him.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: I may have been briefed about it in ’07. If I was, I don’t remember it. And NYPD’s jurisdiction — they don’t really have jurisdiction here.

RAY SUAREZ: Just yesterday the AP revealed White House funding helped purchase cars and computers used in the surveillance effort.

We take a closer look at the story now with Matt Apuzzo. He’s one of the two reporters who initially reported on the surveillance program back in August for the Associated Press and has continued to follow the story.

Matt, you’ve called the NYPD one of America’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. What was the New York City Police Department doing?

MATT APUZZO, The Associated Press: Well, they have domestic intelligence programs that go far beyond what we would have expected pre-9/11 to see from any police department and in many ways operate in ways that the federal government, the FBI just simply can’t.

They have a program called the Demographics Unit, which the NYPD originally denied even existed, plainclothes officers search that — often Arab officers — who will go out into Muslim neighborhoods, and they are called rakers. They’re going to rake the coals looking for hot spots, meaning they’re going to go out and they’re going to take pictures of mosques. They’re going to take pictures of all the Muslim businesses in the area.

They’re going to go into the Muslim cafes or hookah bars and they’re just going to eavesdrop and listen to people’s conversations, try to gauge the sentiment of the owner, maybe write down his ethnicity, definitely write down his ethnicity. And those goes all into police reports.

So we have seen them for many neighborhoods. We have seen them for Egyptians, Moroccans, Albanians. They are building these profiles of where Muslims live, eat, shop, pray, where they watch sports, where they go to Internet cafes. It’s just — it’s an incredible process by which they’re bringing in information about the Northeast Muslims.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, in this kind of surveillance, in these ongoing investigations, was there first established probable cause, the evidence of an ongoing commission of a crime, some reason to believe that there was a crime going on, or were they just watching?

MATT APUZZO: Right.

In the Demographics — in the Demographics Unit — these are the undercover, the plainclothes officers — their reports mentioned no evidence of crimes. I mean I think we found one evidence, one report that said here’s a store that appears to sell counterfeit DVDs.

So, the Demographics Unit is just out there raking the coals. They’re just building these databases. Then there are these informants, you know, the mosque crawlers who go out into the mosques and are investigating. You know, one, they’re investigating. If there is a lead, they’re following it. But they’re also there just serving as listening posts inside the mosques.

So we’ve seen documents where the informants or the undercover officers inside the mosques are reporting back on even innocuous things that imams are saying at Friday prayers. They’re reporting back, the imam says, hey, we should hold — we should hold a protest about the Danish cartoons. There should be a nonviolent protest. I want everybody to maybe write a letter to a politician.

And this stuff’s ending up in police reports for Ray Kelly. And we have seen evidence of them using surveillance cameras, writing down license plates of people coming to and from mosques. I mean, it’s just — it really is surprising and really shows the transition and the transformation of the NYPD.

RAY SUAREZ: How did this get started?

Over the years, imams have told this program that they have been contacted openly by the FBI, asked for cooperation, which they often gave. Did the New York City Police Department determine that there was no other way to get the kind of information they were looking for?

MATT APUZZO: Yes, I mean, in some of the ways, the Demographics Unit is built on the idea that you’re going to learn more if you go in covertly. You know, you’re going to be able to take a more honest pulse of the community if you go in overtly.

And the idea is, if you create these reports, let’s say, you know, three years from now, there’s a report that, you know, from the CIA that says, hey, there’s an Egyptian and he just came to the United States and maybe he’s going to attack New York, we don’t know, the NYPD can go to their Egyptian folder, pull it off, see all the mosques where the Egyptians are likely to go, where they’re likely to go out to dinner, where they’re likely to pray.

Maybe even they’ve collected phone numbers of people who rent — of Egyptians who rent rooms to rent. And they have got that all at their fingertips. So that’s the reasoning behind it.

RAY SUAREZ: Didn’t your reporting turn up people who thought they were already cooperating with the authorities who it turned out were also under undercover surveillance?

MATT APUZZO: We’ve — we found several instances of imams who have partnered with the NYPD, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Bloomberg, who have been — who have decried terrorism and who have been held up as allies in the war against terrorism in New York City, and we found documents showing that they had undercover officers or informants assigned directly to them or — and their mosques.

RAY SUAREZ: There are rules that govern domestic spying that apply to the FBI, that apply to the CIA. Do they apply to the New York City Police Department? Was the NYPD living within the rules?

MATT APUZZO: Well, I mean, legally, that’s sort of to be determined.

The police department operates under federal consent decree, basically a court order in a longstanding civil rights lawsuit. Lawyers in that case say these documents that we’ve obtained show they have gone beyond that. The NYPD says, absolutely not. We stay within the four corners of that.

But what’s interesting from where we’re coming from and what’s been fascinating the more people we talk to is, we’ve never really approached this as a legal issue. I mean, when you look at the big issues post-9/11 in the United States, whether it’s water-boarding, warrantless wire-tapping, surveillance, Gitmo, black sites, rendition, all of those have been legal.

I mean, nobody is saying — nobody is going to jail for those programs. These programs might be legal. We have actually never said, this is illegal, they’re violating the law. But, I mean, it certainly is worth having this conversation, just like it’s been worth having those conversations.

And what’s interesting about the NYPD is, they have no — almost no oversight. And the city council is not aware of the programs that are going on. Congress is not aware of what’s going on. The attorney general has said that it basically doesn’t have the ability to investigate.

The White House said yesterday, yes, we — our money is being used here, but we’re just a policy office. We don’t actually have operational control. So, you know, these decisions are largely kept in-house at the NYPD and with Mayor Bloomberg.

RAY SUAREZ: We’ll continue this conversation online.

Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press, thanks for joining us.

MATT APUZZO: Thanks so much for having me.