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NYPD Spying on Mosques, Muslim Restaurants, and Muslim Students

7 September 2011 Loonwatch.com 19 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

NYPD Spying on Mosques, Muslim Restaurants, and Muslim Students

As someone with anti-establishment and anti-authority views, it is no surprise that I’ve been (and still am) highly critical of the military, the CIA, and the FBI for some time now.  Now I’m adding the police to that list.  I’m critical of police brutality, the racism that runs rife through the force, the heavy-handed tactics they use, and their lack of transparency.  And now there’s this: the NYPD caught spying on Muslims, including college-going students.

What perfectly encapsulates the National Security State is the police illegally spying on citizenry on the one hand (in violation of the Fourth Amendment) while on the other hand working hard to prohibit citizens from taping police officers in public doing their job (a denial of our First Amendment right).  Those in authority have the right to know what websites you browse on the internet in the confines of your bedroom while you have no right to know anything about those in authority even when it directly affects you.

The targets of the National Security State are first and foremost Muslims, who are at the bottom of America’s totem pole.  In any case, here is the article from The Associated Press:

Documents show NY police watched devout Muslims

By Adam Goldman, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department compiled lists of mosques and Muslim businesses it saw as potential security risks for reasons that included endorsing conservative religious views or having devout customers, according to hundreds of pages of internal police documents newly obtained by The Associated Press.

The records reveal the extent of an undercover effort that initially studied more than 250 mosques in New York and New Jersey and identified hundreds more “hot spots” in a hunt for terrorists. Many showed obvious signs of criminal behavior, but the police explanations for targeting others were less clear.

A Bangladeshi restaurant, for instance, was identified as a hot spot for having a “devout crowd.” The restaurant was noted for being a “popular meeting location for political activities.”

The documents obtained by the AP, many of which were marked secret, paint the clearest picture yet of how the past decade’s hunt for terrorists also put huge numbers of innocent people under scrutiny as they went about their daily lives in mosques, restaurants and social groups. Every day, undercover officers and informants filed reports from their positions as “listening posts” inside Muslim communities.

At the White House, where President Barack Obama recently urged local authorities not to cast suspicion on entire communities, spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment Tuesday on whether it endorsed the tactics outlined in the NYPD documents.

An AP investigation last month revealed that the department maintains a list of “ancestries of interest” that it uses to focus its clandestine efforts. A secret team known as the Demographics Unit then dispatched plainclothes officers into the community to eavesdrop in cafes and chat up business owners.

That effort has benefited from federal money and an unusually close relationship with the CIA, one that at times blurred the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering.

After identifying more than 250 area mosques, police officials determined the “ethnic orientation, leadership and group affiliations,” according to the 2006 police documents. Police also used informants and teams of plainclothes officers, known as rakers, to identify mosques requiring further scrutiny, according to an official involved in that effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the program.

Armed with that information, police then identified 53 “mosques of concern” and placed undercover officers and informants there, the documents show.

Many of those mosques were flagged for allegations of criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, financing Hamas or money laundering. Others were identified for having ties to Salafism, a hardline movement preaching a strict version of Islamic law. Still others were identified for what the documents refer to as “rhetoric.”

Other reasons are less clear.

Two mosques, for instance, were flagged for having ties to Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old Egyptian mosque that is the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world. Al-Azhar was one of the first religious institutions to condemn the 2001 terrorist attacks. President George W. Bush’s close adviser, Karen Hughes, visited Al-Azhar in 2005 and applauded its courage.

Al-Azhar was also a sponsor of Obama’s 2009 speech reaching out to the Muslim world.

The list of mosques where undercover agents or informants operated includes ones that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has visited and that area officials have mentioned as part of the region’s strong ties to the Muslim community. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stood beside leaders of some mosques on the list as allies in fighting terrorism.

The documents are a series of internal presentations, including one prepared for Kelly. Following the AP’s reporting, they were provided to the AP and veteran New York police reporter Leonard Levitt, who runs the website NYPDConfidential.com. Because the list of mosques is so long and explanation for the surveillance is so limited, the AP is not identifying the individual mosques that were under surveillance.

An NYPD spokesman did return messages seeking comment Monday, a holiday, and again Tuesday. The police department has said it follows leads and does not trawl entire neighborhoods.

New York police identified 263 “hot spots” throughout the city, the documents show. Like the mosques, the examples of hot spots ranged from businesses that sold untaxed cigarettes and where inflammatory rhetoric was overheard to those with less obvious criminal connections.

The example of the Bangladeshi restaurant flagged for its “devout” clientele further undercuts Bloomberg’s claim that the NYPD does not take religion into account in its policing. Last week the AP revealed that the NYPD maintained a list of “ancestries of interest” that included “American Black Muslim,” which is a religion, not an ancestry.

Police also kept tabs on seven of the area’s Muslim student associations, defined in the documents as “a university-based student group, with an Islamic focus, involved with religious and political activities.” Two were flagged for having Salafi speakers. One was cited for having students who are “politically active and are radicalizing.”

Since the AP reports, several Muslim civil rights groups and a New York congresswoman have urged the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD for what critics see as racial profiling. Under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has stepped up investigations of local police departments for possible civil rights violations, but none involves national security cases.

Apuzzo and Goldman can be reached at dcinvestigations(at)ap.org or at http://twitter.com/mattapuzzo and http://twitter.com/goldmandc

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19 Comments »

  1. This is completely UNACCEPTABLE. This is ME. Muslim. College Student. & look here: I HAVE OPINIONS IN POLITICS. This is really upsetting. I am genuinely upset…

  2. This has been done for years for all kinds of groups. Muslims may want to think they are being singled out, but the government watches and places spys in a very large number of organizations. I do not agree with a lot of the government spying but I will say this about it. They do not discriminate by race, sex, national origin, religion, belief system, or money making opportunity. They will send people out, if nothing else, just to gather information. Is it unfair? yes. Is it going to stop? no. Anyway good luck complaining about it, as it will do no good at all.

  3. I am so saddened by the mistrust that prevails in this country against Muslims…Yes, traditional religion may have some practices many do not understand, but, here in the United States, one of the issues our forefathers fought for was freedom of religion.. With discrimination being shown towards Muslims, and American Muslims because of their religious practices, freedom of religion here in the US, I’m sorry to say, is a farce…. Many people, these days in the US are being targeted unjustly as well for speaking out against policies being changed daily here. We still have many freedoms to come and go as we please, but, people have pretty much been silenced to speak aloud about the many injustices taking place on a daily basis… I, personally, want to go to India, Dubai or anywhere people are not afraid to be who they are, and who are free to practice whatever religion they chose… Have you checked out the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan? I’m told it is the biggest gathering of Muslims in the country… I wonder if they too are being targeted as well…I pray that is not the case there. People are afraid these days everywhere..I remember a Muslim family who moved into my sisters neighborhood in Detroit. A great celebration was happening because a young couple, in love, looking for a new life there was getting married… A joyous event…however, when the couple went to leave in their vechile…They were blown up!!! Killed! The reason? They were from different Muslim sects… I couldn’t believe it…Someone would actually be blown up because they were from different sects of the same religion… There’s violence within the Muslim community itself…towards each other and especially the women…What a shame… I believe in the God of Heaven…He created man and woman in his image and likeness..but, many who say they love and know God forget this fact…When people feel and know this in their heart and treat each other like they’re talking to the God of heaven when talking to each other, peace will happen… Love will prevail… <3 :) Later!

  4. so does anyone have an opinion on what would have been the reaction from the muslim communiity if on 9/10/2001, nineteen muslim students would have been arrested for over staying their visas?

  5. Mike

    So suddenly they were a part of 9?11?

    My mother was still getting her citizenship when it hapened. Does that make my mother a terrorist?? No.

    And i guess it depends. i just asked my brother his opinion. he said “Frst of all, not all muslims are frm other countries. many are muslims, but if they did overstay their visas, then they should get some kind of punishemnt but its a visa, its not the end of the world if they overstay it.”

    Some of them might have been mad, maybe their friends or neighbors would protest their arrest, but it’s not like they KNEW of the horrible events to come the next day…no one did.So if your suggesting that they stayed to idk “witness” or be a “part of” the tragedy then you’re full of it. Cause this attack was a surpise, and the fact that Islam was blamed for itso quickly was even more of a shock because the majority of us had nothing to do with it. We lost our own people that day, we mourn it, we dread it. Its time you understand it

  6. elle,

    my bad. i thought the implication was obvious. 19 hijackers? perhaps they all hadn’t overstayed student visas but i thought many had. my point, poorly made i guess. what i meant was that if the actual hijackers on 9/11 would have been arrested prior to that day, with the fbi refusing to release specifics because it was an ongoing investigation. what would have been the reaction from the muslim community. i guess it’s not really a fair question, who knows what the possibilities are?????? but i remember the case of muhammad and megahed arrested in south carolina and the local (tampa) cair’s director of communications came right out and said, if they were a couple of good old boys, no one would have even stopped them. megahed got aquitted of anything but it was discovered the muhammad had posted youtube videos on how to us rc cars to blow things up, so you can save your self to be martyared later.

    “its not the end of the world if they overstay it.”” no just the start of 9/11. but you may be suprised.

    sorry for my ambiguity. i guess i was projecting my reasoning,thinking others would understand the angle from which i was coming from. again my bad…..

  7. i always thought it was student visas. guess it was mostly tourist visas. so what do you think the anti-islamaphobas would say if muslims were detained for over staying their visas? “but if they did overstay their visas, then they should get some kind of punishemnt but its a visa, its not the end of the world if they overstay it.””

    http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecentersc582

  8. Whe my brother said “end of the world” he didn’t mean bcuz it was the same time as 9/11 but like in december if someone overstayed his visa the safety of America wouldn’t be in jeopardy would it?? Oh wait if he was a Muslim it probably would…:/

    And I’ve been to CAIR in Chicago, I think they aren’t the type f people that would blow themselves up to get into Heaven, that’s not how it works. And they’re stupid stupid people that like to scare the crap out of anyone that comes near them, they were influenced by the actions on 9/11 because hey as a troubled kid, anything violent excites you. Im not saying its right, btw. Just giving examples here.

    But let’s say I was on a student visa and I overstayed it by a week. Then i get arrested. The Muslims would protest it. Why? Because they know I’m just an innocent person who missed her flight and couldn’t get another one in time with the amount of money she has. BUT, I guess if those “Muslim” tourists overstayed their visas and were arrested before september 11 some Muslims might be pretty mad. We wouldn’t know whether or not they were killers or hijackers. We can’t read minds. If we see a Muslim (of course if I’d known what they were up to i’d give’em the injections myself.) thats in trouble we have to help. If we knew what they were doing we wouldn’t say much other than “get them out of this country” .

  9. Also I was watching CNN and someone was speaking about the feared attacks on the Sears Tower.
    He said and I quote “WHEN the attacks happen.” He didn’t say “if” and I thought that was the case. “If an attack on the tower were to happen”

    Nope. He said “when” like he knew it would come. Ahem. Is anyone as scared as I am? Because I happen to live real close to chicago, and I’m not in the mood to get beaten up fr being muslim.

  10. elle,

    yes i know what the saying, “it’s not the end of the world” means. as in no big deal. that was my point. overstaying a visa is no big deal. but if the fbi arrested the 19 hijackers on the grounds of overstaying their visa, while believing they had terrorist intent, and wanting to gather more evidence, do you not think it’s a poor reaction from the muslim community to automatically assume they are targeted because of their religion? often arrests are made and the preliminary charges are minor ones, while the prosecutor tries to get their ducks in a row for the big charge.

    http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/189389.php

    “But let’s say I was on a student visa and I overstayed it by a week. Then i get arrested. The Muslims would protest it. Why? Because they know I’m just an innocent person who missed her flight and couldn’t get another one in time with the amount of money she has. BUT, I guess if those “Muslim” tourists overstayed their visas and were arrested before september 11 some Muslims might be pretty mad. We wouldn’t know whether or not they were killers or hijackers. We can’t read minds. If we see a Muslim (of course if I’d known what they were up to i’d give’em the injections myself.) thats in trouble we have to help.” you sound like moses traveling with “the green one”?

  11. Mike

    So you understand me? Good.

    But hey, let’s say in Syria (both a muslim and christian AND Jew populated country) A chrstian American tourist got arrsted for something. Anything. Disorderly conduct, anything, even somethin unkknown. people back here will start protesting it, eve calling it a hate crime against Chrstians by a Muslim state, which is stupid because many Muslim countries are also Christian countries. Lebanon, Syria, palestine, jordan, etc.

  12. elle,

    “But hey, let’s say in Syria (both a muslim and christian AND Jew populated country) A chrstian American tourist got arrsted for something.”
    i guess you’ve never heard of terry anderson?

    “Held at the same time were several other U.S. citizens, including Thomas Sutherland, an administrator at the American University of Beirut; Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Jenco; Presbyterian minister Benjamin Wier; Jeremy Levin, CNN’s Beirut bureau chief; Frank Reed, head of the Lebanese International School; Joseph Cicippio, deputy controller of the American University of Beirut; Edward Tracey, an itinerant poet; and Professors Allen Steen, Jesse Turner, and Robert Polhill.

    Anderson was released on December 4, 1991 and says he has forgiven his captors.[2]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_A._Anderson

    we didn’t riot and start burning embassies.

    yes i know there are christians in Lebanon, Syria, palestine, jordan, wasn’t arafat’s wife a christian?

    you do know the iranians are holding three americans? well i quess they released the woman.

    “many Muslim countries are also Christian countries. Lebanon, Syria, palestine, jordan,” so how many islamic countries are there? and how many allow christians or other religions (or athiest) to (live) practice in peace? you have seen coptic churches blown up in eygpt? you do know that there where 1millionm christians in iraq. no more, right?

    “But hey, let’s say in Syria (both a muslim and christian AND Jew populated country) A chrstian American tourist got arrsted for something.” yeah that is what i was saying, let’s say that 19 christians in any of those nations comited a 9/11 type attack. do you think there would be a christian left in those nations? america may have it’s nut jobs but come on, compared to the islamic world we are like christ himself. turn the other cheek!!!!

  13. Lebanon and Syria, Egypt (don’t those happen everywhere, by crazy radicals and not regular muslims or even their leaders) Jordan, Palestine I guess even if it weren’t under Israeli leadership it would allow that. Three countries that I seem to have to mention every day, Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi are probably the only Middle Eastern and supposedly Muslim countries who don’t allow other religions which is a crappy rule. Back in the olden days, under the Prophet or one of the 4 calphs rule, a non muslim could live there in that area as long as they paid a tax. This tax was also paid by Muslims, known better as Zakat, which was then collected and given to the poor and those who needed it. It never went to the caiphs or the prophet. Actualy theres a story of Ali the last righteous caliph.

    His daughter wanted a really pretty pearl necklace she saw in “Bayt Al Mal” which is where they cllected and stored the money and items that would later be given as charity. She was able to get in by convincing a gaurd, and later Ali saw her wear it. He asked her where it came from and she told him. He was upset. He told her she didn’t need the special treatment, this is for the poor and hungry, do you see me wearing fine jewels and bathing in money? Put it back. It is not for us.” So she did.

    Anyway, for some reason Saudi especially believes that a nn muslim cant be in the presence of a christian state or person or whatever. I don’t like having to deal with news from that area you know? But I guess it’s a test from God.

  14. i think there are jews in iran. there are definately baha’i’. i’d never heard of them until the iranians arrest six leaders, on spy charges of course. http://www.bahai.org/ an interesting bunch. they like your boy muhammad.

  15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion_in_Iran

    “Iran recognizes Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Irmic religious minority, is not recognized and is persecuted.” wonder if that’s not supposed to ready “miority, [baha’i’] is not recognized and is persecuted.”

  16. Mike

    My boy Muhammad. not one of my prophets, no, my boy.

    Interesting. Bahai’s you say.

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