NYPD Spied On New Yorkers for No Other Reason Than Their Faith
New documents published by the Associated Press (AP) definitively show that New Yorkers were spied on by the police just because they practiced Islam. The latest documents include detailed dossiers on New York’s Syrian, Egyptian and Albanian communities, compiled by the NYPD’s “Demographics Unit.”
Today’s AP scoop on NYPD spying is only the latest in an award-winning investigative project that uncovered the NYPD’s massive and arbitrary operation that included spying on almost every aspect of life for Muslims.
The AP reports:
The New York Police Department collected information on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims, according to newly obtained secret documents. They show in the clearest terms yet that police were monitoring people based on religion, despite claims from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the contrary...
In late 2007, however, plainclothes officers in the department's secretive Demographics Unit were assigned to investigate the region's Syrian population. Police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops. The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring.
"This report will focus on the smaller Muslim community," the report said.
Similarly, police excluded the city's sizable Coptic Christian population when photographing, monitoring and eavesdropping on Egyptian businesses in 2007, according to the police files.
"This report does not represent the Coptic Egyptian community and is merely an insight into the Muslim Egyptian community of New York City," the NYPD wrote.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has consistently defended the New York Police Department’s program of spying on Muslims across the Northeast. “We don’t stop to think about the religion,” Bloomberg has said. But as Colorlines’ Seth Freed Wessler notes, the new documents “provide the clearest evidence to date that the police are engaged in systematic and official practices of racial and ethnic profiling.”
Today’s AP article comes as police chief Ray Kelly continues a public campaign to reach out regarding the spy program to a hand-picked group of Muslim leaders in New York. Earlier this week, Kelly held a meeting with six community leaders who subsequently praised Kelly and the NYPD’s efforts. But the meeting was harshly criticized by dozens of Muslim groups who are critical of the NYPD spying effort, saying that Kelly, “in a cynical demonstration of disregard for proper process,” only met with “two community representatives who have been critical of NYPD policies.”
A press conference was held this afternoon to denounce another Kelly meeting that excluded critics of the spying program.
The mounting criticism of Kelly and the NYPD is having an impact. Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate subcommittee that he found news reports of the NYPD’s actions “disturbing.” The Justice Department is currently reviewing requests to investigate the NYPD’s spy program.
Check out the NYPD’s once-secret documents on Muslims here.