The latest scandal surrounding the New York Police Department suggests that the Big Apple’s boys in blue were targeting Muslims in undercover operations, working outside of their jurisdiction and profiling ethnic communities with aid from the CIA.
The NYPD are denying allegations reported by The Associated Press that the Police Department has been sending undercover informants into mosques, minority neighborhoods, hookah bars and other hangouts frequented by Muslims in order to gather intel, despite having no probable cause to suspect crimes were being hatched.
A federal judge overruled a law in 2002 that kept cops from waiting for "specific information” before gathering intelligence, and ever since the NYPD has used this to their advantage to infringe on the constitutional rights of Muslims by spying on them in what is being suggested as an anti-terrorism initiative.
Joseph Goldstein’s New York Times article of February 3 outlines a request from US civil rights lawyers to federal judge Charles S Haight Jr for an independent evaluation of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism techniques.
Writes Goldstein: "The lawyers said the police’s tactics have placed Muslim communities under surveillance in violation of longstanding federal court guidelines.” Among these guidelines is a prohibition on the retention of information collected during surveillance operations unless it pertains "to potential unlawful or terrorist activity”.
As an American news agency revealed in 2011, Muslim populations in the New York area had been targeted by a pervasive spying apparatus known as the Demographic Unit, the fruit of collaboration between the NYPD and the CIA.
The network, which has since been promoted to the more politically correct title "Zone Assessment Unit”, relies on undercover officers and informants to perform critical national security tasks such as - the agency notes - "gathering intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims”.
Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, offered the first official look at the Demographics Unit, which the NYPD denied ever existed when it was revealed by the AP last year. He described how police gather information on people even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, simply because of their ethnicity and native language.
As a rule, Galati said, a business can be labeled a "location of concern" whenever police can expect to find groups of Middle Easterners there.
Galati testified as part of a lawsuit that began in 1971 over NYPD spying on students, civil rights groups and suspected Communist sympathizers during the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit, known as the Handschu case, resulted in federal guidelines that prohibit the NYPD from collecting information about political speech unless it is related to potential terrorism.
Civil rights lawyers believe the Demographics Unit violated those rules. Documents obtained by the AP show the unit conducted operations outside its jurisdiction, including in New Jersey. The FBI there said those operations damaged its partnerships with Muslims and jeopardized national security.
In one instance discussed in the testimony, plainclothes NYPD officers known as "rakers" overheard two Pakistani men complaining about airport security policies that they believed unfairly singled out Muslims. They bemoaned what they saw as the nation's anti-Muslim sentiment since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Galati said police were allowed to collect that information because the men spoke Urdu, a fact that could help police find potential terrorists in the future.
Just last week, a Freedom of Information Act request for a phone call placed with emergency services in New Brunswick, New Jersey ended up with the recording being released to the Web, revealing that law enforcement agents across the river from Manhattan were unaware that the NYPD was leaving the Big Apple to do surveillance across the river. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commission Ray Kelly have both defended the police department’s actions.
Evidence are considered to be enough to raise concerns about extrajudicial actions of the police. If claims turn out to hold truth, it would be necessary that the judge will appoint an independent supervisory unit for the investigation procedures in the police department.