NYPD investigation of Muslims: Civil rights groups ask for probe
The New York Police Department found itself under increasing pressure on Friday over how it has investigated Muslims as part of its anti-terrorism probes, with angry civil rights groups asking the state attorney general to look into the matter.
In a letter to state Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman, about 32 civil rights groups called for an investigation of allegations that the department uses religion as the sole criteria in deciding surveillance of Shiite mosques. The attorney general’s office did not immediately return repeated telephone calls for comment.
The Associated Press was the first to report on a May 2006 confidential intelligence document that recommended the department focus anti-terrorism intelligence operations on Shiite mosques. The news agency also reported on the city’s surveillance operations, which monitored and built databases about usual activities in Muslim neighborhoods.
The agency’s investigative report led to a call in October by several state senators for an investigation by the attorney general.
“The report details far-reaching operations by the NYPD that include surveillance of hundreds of mosques, businesses, nonprofits and individuals by using undercover officers known as ‘rakers,’ without evidence of any criminality or wrongdoing,” said the lawmakers, who mainly represent heavily Muslim areas in Brooklyn. “The department created files tracking daily life in bookstores, restaurants, barber shops and gyms as a part of a human mapping program."
“I am greatly troubled that the NYPD seeks to criminalize an entire faith tradition,” Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker said in a prepared statement. “The message seems to be if you are Muslim, you are guilty until proven innocent. New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the nation. We face serious security challenges; unfortunately this approach by the department may not only violate the law but also focuses resources on law-abiding citizens rather than targeting those who seek to do us harm.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have repeatedly insisted that the department does not target Shiite Muslims as a religious group but does follow what it considers to be legitimate investigative leads.
The dispute over surveillance follows other complaints from the Muslim community, particularly over a film, “The Third Jihad,” that was shown at police training sessions. Kelly appears in the movie, which Muslims consider offensive.
-- Michael Muskal