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February 22, 2012

NYPD Spied on NJ, Long Island Mosques & Area Businesses

Posted in: Privacy,War on Terrorism

(update below)

The New York Police Department (NYPD) built databases on Muslim-owned businesses and places of worship, according to a report from the Associated Press. The surveillance operation relied on ethnic profiling to produce demographic maps of Long Island, New York, and Newark, New Jersey. The Newark Police Department worked with the NYPD, but according to the AP, city’s mayor, Cory Booker, never was informed of the operation.

“Plainclothes officers from the NYPD’s Demographic Units” moved throughout Newark, took photos and eavesdropped on conversations. A 60-page report shows police specifically cataloged all the “Islamic Religious Institutions” in Newark. But, in the report, there is no mention of “terrorism or criminal behavior.”

Booker was shocked to see the report. He said, “Wow,” and told AP, “This raises a number of concerns. It’s just very, very sobering.” For example, one concern: when the report was put together, a “former high-ranking NYPD official” was running the Newark Police Department.

That official, Garry McCarthy, is now superintendent of Chicago police. He claims no Newark police officers were used in the operation in 2007. He was notified as a courtesy, not because NYPD wanted Newark police to be involved.

This part of the report on Newark shows how a center became a “Location of Concern.” It provides clear indication that the police intended to profile entire ethnic populations in Newark and Long Island and were not tracking any suspected terror groups:

The notes provide further revelations on the surveillance. Each business that sold halal food appears to have been noted. There is no clear reason to note this fact unless there are members of law enforcement who fear these Muslim businesses are here to institute Sharia Law in America.

An internet cafe owned by Hispanics is noted as a place where there is “no restriction” on “internet usage.” There is “no ID” required for “internet usage.” And, the place “only accepts cash for internet usage.”

The report notes the proximity of each “identified” business to places of worship in the community.

In a couple instances, it appears the undercover cops felt they were being watched. At Masjid Rahmah, “observed active and aggressive counter surveillance” is noted. At the National Islamic Association, “active counter surveillance” is “observed.”

The other report that AP released, which covers surveillance in Nassau County, New York (Long Island), shows NYPD mapped “population centers and business districts of communities of interest.” Like Newark, they found out where all people of Arab, Bangladeshi, Guyanese, Indian, Iranian, Pakistani and Turkish descent lived in Nassau County.

This report also notes which businesses sell or serve halal meat. It also notes the number of seats in each of the restaurants.

One site singled out is a Hookah cafe and lounge that “caters to college students and plays Hip Hop music at night” and is owned by Egyptians, Pakistanis and African Americans. Another site, Cleopatra, a small sized store for “Middle Eastern food and groceries, is noted for having “Al Jazeera news” on the television.

Yemeni-owned businesses are noted, but there is no “demographic” map for Yemenis. It seems they were categorized as “Arab.”

A section, “Locations Requiring Further Examination,” includes an “Unnamed Mosque and School” the police seem to have presumed was owned by a “Pakistani female.” Also listed is a “warehouse” for Friday prayer and, finally, a place called Darul Tabligh North America (DNA) is listed because its “primary goal” is “to assist the community in North America to fulfill its responsibility of imparting religious education to the upcoming generations, also to become a source of information on Islam for the public at large.” Educating young people on Islamic tradition seems to be suspect to whomever made this note.

As the AP makes clear, “residents had no reason to suspect the NYPD was watching them.” Most Muslims understand the fear that Americans have after 9/11. But, the police, as one “American-born citizen who converted to Islam” tells AP, do not want to “stop by, say hello,” meet business owners and customers and get to know the community. “They just want to keep tabs” on Muslims.

Finally, for those who excuse this operation by saying it is necessary to keep America “safe,” here’s a section of the news story worth considering:

Ironically, because officers conducted the operation covertly, the reports contains mistakes that could have been easily corrected had the officers talked to store owners or imams. If police ever had to rely on the database during an unfolding terrorism emergency as they had planned, those errors would have hindered their efforts.

For instance, locals said several businesses identified as belonging to African-American Muslims actually were owned by Afghans or Pakistanis. El-Sioufi’s mosque is listed as an African-American mosque, but he said the imam is from Egypt and the congregation is a roughly even mix of black converts and people of foreign ancestries.

The database put together may not even be reliable. Because the NYPD would rather be a spy organization than a community law enforcement agency, there is no guarantee that this project would not hinder a counterterrorism operation in the future.

And, those college students that regularly go to the Hookah lounge that regularly plays hip hop music should watch out. This lounge seems like a nice spot for launching a future FBI sting operation to target, groom and entrap the next Muslim “terrorist.” So, watch out for what passionate and possibly erratic “followers” of Islam might ask you to do.

Update

Mayor Cory Booker has strongly condemned the NYPD’s spying on places of worships and businesses in Newark.

Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party, says he was offended to read a 2007 NYPD report that catalogued all his city’s mosques and Muslim businesses. Police Director Samuel DeMaio said the NYPD simply asked local police to show them around the city. He says Newark officers had no idea it was part of the NYPD’s effort to build databases on where Muslims eat, work, shop and pray.

DeMaio called what details on the surveillance operation “troubling.”

*

And,┬áthe spying has inspired Gawker to put together the “NYPD Guide to Newark’s Best Muslim Restaurants.


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