Archive for Surveillance

Star-Ledger: Chris Christie, AG wrong to conclude NYPD Muslim probe was justified

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by loonwatch

We are supposed to take Gov. Christie and his Attorney General’s word that the NYPD did nothing wrong when they spied on Muslims in Newark.

Chris Christie, AG wrong to conclude NYPD Muslim probe was justified

(Star-Ledger Editorial Board)

It was disturbing to learn several months ago that the New York Police Department was conducting secret spy missions on Muslims in Newark, building dossiers on their mosques and shops, taking photographs and eavesdropping on their conversations.

It is more disturbing to learn that Gov.Chris Christie and his attorney general, Jeffrey Chiesa, have concluded that it was all justified. Throwing this kind of wide net of surveillance over a community, based on its religion, strikes us as a sloppy overreach of police powers.

Chiesa said Thursday that, after a three-month investigation, he could find no evidence that NYPD officers broke any laws. The NYPD, he says, was acting on legitimate intelligence tips when it began its ethnic mapping project in 2007.

Given the confidential nature of this, the public will never know for sure. But what tip could possibly justify such blanket surveillance of a community based on its religion? Did the tipster suggest all Muslims were dangerous? And if the threat was more specific, why did the search have to be so broad?

Read the rest…

Distrust Lingers Over NYPD Surveillance for Some North Jersey Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2012 by loonwatch

NYPD

Many Muslims are distrustful of the police because of their profiling actions:

Distrust lingers over NYPD surveillance for some North Jersey Muslims

(NorthJersey.com)

Paterson mosque backs out of a meeting with an FBI official, saying the timing is “too sensitive.”

A community leader who worships in Teaneck says he rarely calls his law enforcement sources anymore.

College students in Piscataway are advised what to do if they are questioned by federal agents.

A sense of anxiety and unease continues to grip some members of the Muslim community in the fallout from the New York Police Department’s surveillance controversy — and that distrust has undermined cooperation with law enforcement agencies that rely on Arab- and Muslim-Americans as partners in the fight against homegrown terrorism, some local leaders say.

“I would tell people not to cooperate,” said Khader Abuassab, a leader of the Arab American Civic Organization in Paterson. “I can’t promise people they will be safe or not be spied on again.”

“You start to wonder after a while: Is everyone out to get us?” said Iqbal Khan, president of the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, noting that people develop a defensiveness that comes from being watched. “Who is going to look after us?”

But some Muslims who live and work in South Paterson said their views of law enforcement have not changed. Samer Abdallah, a business owner, said Muslims have been watched more closely than other communities since Sept. 11, but he does not hold it against police who are doing their jobs.

“We all need law enforcement to help us,” he said. “We’re never going to feel hatred toward those officials. They’re taking orders.”

The NYPD surveillance program targeted Muslims at businesses, universities and mosques, including one in Paterson and several in Newark, as well as student groups at 16 Northeast colleges, including Rutgers University. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Police Department have defended the spying program — first detailed in a series of articles by The Associated Press — as lawful and necessary, while civic groups and some lawmakers have called for investigations into civil rights and jurisdictional matters. The U.S. and New Jersey attorneys general are reviewing the requests, but have made no commitments to investigate.

New Jersey law enforcement officials have expressed fears that any backlash will hurt their counterterrorism operations and information gathering, but NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the idea that law enforcement operations would be harmed is “preposterous.”

“The notion that somehow the Islamic community or Muslim community at large is a wellspring of information about terrorist plots makes no sense,” Browne said in an interview Tuesday.

He said information about terrorist activity was “closely held” and that it was unfair to assume that average Muslims would have insight into terrorist plots.

“It’s not something they’re telling everybody going to religious services or mentioning it at the grocery store,” he said.

Browne said the NYPD had good relations with the Muslim community that extended from holiday celebrations to sports leagues to police officer recruitment. But for tips on terrorism, he said, police rely on other sources, such as people who rent trucks or sell blasting materials.

“What has been most effective, in terms of bringing terrorists to justice, have been undercover operations,” Browne said.

Law enforcement officials in New Jersey, though, have maintained that cooperation from Muslims is a pivotal part of counterterrorism work. Michael Ward, FBI special agent in charge in Newark, said in March that the agency was losing credibility with Muslims who have embraced and aided the counterterrorism mission, creating “additional risks.”

Muslim-Americans tipped off law enforcement in at least a third of the 161 terror plots discovered since the attacks, a 2011 study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found.

“We can’t rely totally on tips from the community, but the community is a force multiplier and I feel their input is vital,” said Maj. Gerald Lewis, head of state police community affairs.

Despite reports of a backlash, Lewis said he has not noticed a shift in attitudes among Muslim leaders and that they continue to meet and talk by phone.

“Our relationship remains strong,” he said.

Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union in Paterson, also said the relationship hadn’t suffered. He noted that many of New Jersey’s top state and federal law enforcement leaders were at the group’s March 18 annual brunch in Teaneck. They also held a meeting March 3 in Trenton to talk about the surveillance controversy with Muslim leaders.

“I can see they are really committed to try to solve those problems,” Younes said.

But while Mahmoud Attallah, public relations director for the Omar Mosque in Paterson, said he did not blame New Jersey officials for the surveillance, the mosque canceled a meeting with Ward because the timing was “too sensitive.”

The mosque – a target of NYPD surveillance – wanted to avoid negative publicity, he said.

“We didn’t want to press the point just to bring it into the open,” he said.

Still, he wants a review of the surveillance to learn whether detectives had good reasons for watching the Omar Mosque, and the results must be made public, Attallah said.

Fear of authorities is a real concern for immigrants who grew up in countries where police abuses were rampant, said Samar Khalaf, an Arab-American activist from Paramus. Khalaf, who has done frequent outreach with law enforcement, said people are withdrawing as a result of surveillance concerns.

“We’re talking about people who come from nations with no civil rights at all, and who live daily with secret police,” Khalaf said. “They don’t know the difference. They don’t make any distinction. All they know is police are monitoring us.”

Some Muslim leaders are leveraging their power as participants in the fight against terrorism.

Waheed Khalid, a community activist and member of the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, said conversations with law enforcement – from passing on profiling complaints to courtesy calls to requests for information – had slowed.

“I have contacts in law enforcement and we still talk, with much less frequency,” he said.

Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum suggested in an April 29 column in The Record that the Muslim community boycott law enforcement until they see a commitment to investigate.

“We believe there is a role this community has and must play in combating radicals, but also we think there’s not reciprocity between us and law enforcement in terms of building trust and respect,” he said in an interview.

Concerns about surveillance and civil rights prompted the Rutgers Muslim Student Association to host a “Know Your Rights” session last month at the Piscataway campus. Civil rights lawyer Engy Abdelkader, who led the session, advised students to have an attorney present when questioned by law enforcement so that questions, and answers, are not misinterpreted.

But Abdelkader also said she didn’t agree with calls for a boycott.

“I don’t think it’s justified discontinuing our cooperation with law enforcement,” she said. “I think we have an obligation to cooperate.”

Email: adely@northjersey.com

Why I Agree With Asra Nomani: KFC Restaurants Need to be under Constant Surveillance

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by loonwatch

Asra Nomani, who is a real life Muslim, recently wrote a piece for the Daily Beast defending the NYPD’s practice of racial profiling and spying on the American Muslim community.  Haroon Moghul, another prominent American Muslim figure, blogged a response, which was cross-posted on LoonWatch.  Nomani had written in her article:

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.

Moghul shot back:

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.

Danios of LoonWatch chimed in: “Will Asra Nomani stay consistent and support spying on white people?”

But, Haroon Moghul and Danios of LoonWatch are way off: it’s not proper to compare peace-loving, good Christian white folk to Muslims or Latinos.

The real million dollar question is: should the police racially profile and spy on the black community?  Using Asra Nomani’s sage advice, I think we must.  For the longest time though, I have worried that our sense of political correctness has kept us from sensible law-enforcement strategies that carefully look at black male youth, black neighborhoods, and black hangout spots.

The LAPD and other police departments should send “rakers” into the black community–police officers whose racial background (black) and language skills (ebonics) match the places they are monitoring, including black streets, black high schools, and black hangout spots like basketball courts.

Public spaces, especially those protected from police scrutiny due to racial sensitivities, are a natural meeting spot for criminals. If the NYPD was tracking shopping malls or pizza shops where criminal activity is being planned, we wouldn’t complain. Because of racial political correctness, we’re protesting looking into black communities.  Alas, criminals and gang-bangers use our political correctness and racial sensitivity as a weapon against us.

There are other black people who believe law enforcement has to do its job and spy on black people.  I know at least four different random black people who feel the same way I do.

The last few decades of battling violence in the black community has revealed one truth: black neighborhoods are spaces used by blacks intent on criminal activity.  Asra Nomani wrote:

[M]osques and Muslim organizations are institutional spaces used by Muslims intent on criminal activity, not much unlike the pews of a Catholic church or a Godfather’s Pizza might be the secret meeting spot for members of the Italian mafia.

Nomani has done extensive research on this topic.  I heard she watched all three parts of The Godfather.  If we want to crack down on black crime, I suggest especially high surveillance of watermelon stands, basketball courts, and near white women.  As far as I’m concerned, we need plenty of “raking.”

Police and FBI sources reveal that blacks are responsible for much of the violence and crime in our nation.  Kevin Alfred Strom went through the FBI Uniform Crime Report and found the following:

According to the FBI, Blacks are more than 3 times as likely to be thieves as Whites. They are more than 4 times as likely to commit assault as Whites. They are almost 4.5 times as likely to steal a motor vehicle. According to the FBI, Blacks are more than 5 times as likely to commit forcible rape as Whites, over 8 times as likely to commit murder, and more than 10 times as likely to commit robbery. For all violent crimes considered together, Blacks are almost 5.5 times more likely to commit violent criminal acts than Whites, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report…

A few more statistics:

85% of all felonies committed against cabbies in New York City are committed by Blacks.

Nearly 25% of all Black males between the ages of 20 and 29 are in jail or on probation. This doesn’t include those wanted or awaiting trial!

Statistically, Black neighborhoods are 3500% more violent than White ones.

Nearly 25% of all Black males between the ages of 20 and 29 are in jail or on probation. This doesn’t include those wanted or awaiting trial!

Statistically, Black neighborhoods are 3500% more violent than White ones.

Well, since blacks won’t police themselves, I think it’s high time the police do it for them.  (Does anyone have an Official “I’m Black” card I can use so this sounds less offensive?)

Nomani notes:

Like the NYPD tracking the Newark restaurants where Muslims congregate, Karachi police have a local spot they have on constant surveillance: a restaurant called Student Biryani, selling a rice dish popular in the country. I learned this tracking the police case against the militants involved in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The mastermind, Omar Sheikh, met with his logistical chiefs at Student Biryani, and the police report reveals the men even took some biryani home as carryout. Militants can easily huddle in Student Biryani’s crowded restaurant space and get a hot meal and much-needed noise.

Damn those wily terrorists and their biryani bellies.  Although my extensive googling revealed no evidence for this claim that the popular food chain Student Biryani in Pakistan is under “constant surveillance” by police, I think Nomani raises a good point.  In our fight against black violence, I think we need to keep all KFC restaurants under constant surveillance.  A tracking and listening device should be included in all takeout boxes.  I once heard a gang of Bloods once ate a full 12-piece of crispy chicken at one KFC in one city at one moment in history.  Gang members can easily huddle in KFC’s crowded restaurant space and get a hot meal and much-needed noise (and chicken).

Many African countries make no apologies for monitoring their black citizens.  Neither should the LAPD or other police departments apologize for monitoring blacks.  Blacks should in fact open their doors to the surveillance and help the cops smoke out the criminals in their community, so that black neighborhoods and communities are safe spaces.

Note: If you didn’t figure it out already, the above article is not to be taken seriously and is actually a spoof of Asra Nomani’s article on American Muslims.  My purpose was to reveal how utterly revolting Nomani’s expressed views are, something that only becomes apparent when you switch out “Muslim” for black, Jewish, etc.

Addendum I:

I had thought I was being especially creative when I came up with the KFC bit, but then I realized I had missed this gem from Nomani’s original article (I almost spit my drink out when I saw it): Nomani defended the NYPD spying on

restaurants frequented by Muslims, including Kansas Fried Chicken, a place run by folks of Afghan descent, according to the report.

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 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.

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.