Right-wing media attacked a decision to shutter the New York Police Department's (NYPD) ineffective Demographics Unit surveillance program that that profiled local Muslims and subjected them to increased police scrutiny.
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New York Abandons Surveillance Program That Targeted Muslims
NY Times: "New York Drops Unit That Spied On Muslims." On April 15, The New York Times reported that the New York City Police Department disbanded a surveillance program known as the Demographics Unit that "dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed, and shopped." The tactics of the program has been criticized by the Muslim community as "a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion":
To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations. [The New York Times, 4/15/14]
AP: "Muslims Not Suspected Of Any Wrongdoing Were Put In Intelligence Databases" Under NYPD Program. In January 2012, The Associated Press reported that the NYPD surveillance program had been put under investigation after the AP revealed that the police department in conjunction with the CIA were spying on Muslim communities, and "Muslims not suspected of any wrongdoing." [Associated Press, 1/26/12]
AP: NYPD Intelligence Unit Paid Informants To "'Bait' Muslims Into Saying Inflammatory Things." In October 2012, The Associated Press exposed the NYPD for paying informants to 'bait' Muslims into "saying inflammatory things," and "trawl the mosques -- known informally as 'mosque crawlers' -- [to] tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there's no evidence they committed a crime." [Associated Press, 10/23/12]
Right-Wing Media Advocate The Racial And Religious Profiling Program
Fox Hosts Hypes Religious Profiling Of Muslim Americans As Important "Tool." Fox & Friends co-hosts Brian Kilmeade labeled the NYPD surveillance program "mature" and "respectful" arguing that the scrutiny was necessary to fight terrorism. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy warned that "the government has taken one of the tools out of the toolbox" for fighting terrorism and said:
DOOCY: Well, you know what? I just hope that next time there is an attack that may have originated with some people who might have met in one of these radical mosques in the New York City area, we go back and wonder if that program were still there would we have caught it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/14]
Breitbart: Ending Surveillance Program Gives "Green Light To Islamic Jihad Activity." An April 15, a Breitbart article decried the decision to shutter the Demographics Unit arguing that the move would give a "green light to Islamic jihad activity, with the NYPD handcuffed and unable to do anything to stop jihad terror plots":
[T]his NYPD program had been under fire for several years for "profiling" Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey - that is, for operating on the assumption that communities of Muslims might be more likely to plot a terror attack than, say, communities of Amish, or bowling leagues.
Despite cries of rage from leftist and Islamic supremacist groups, this was a sensible assumption, born of long experience.
And given the current dominance of the politically correct paradigm, no matter how high the bodies are stacked after that attack, officials will not reexamine their core mistaken assumptions that enabled the attack to be successful. That unwillingness will, in turn, lead to yet more jihad. Unless there is a massive change in both parties in Washington on how they think the jihad threat should be dealt with, this will not end well. [Breitbart, 4/15/14]
NY Post: Ending Surveillance Program "Could Prove Deadly." The New York Post claimed that the NYPD surveillance program was "motivated by political concerns," and "ending it could prove deadly," warning New York residents that they will have to "cross their fingers" and hope the city can prevent another terror attack:
Clearly, the program proved valuable during Ray Kelly's tenure as police commissioner under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. During that time, terrorists hatched no fewer than 14 plots to attack the city.
Not one succeeded. [New York Post, 4/15/14]
Pamela Geller: Ending Surveillance Program "A Gift To Jihadists." In an April 15 blog post, anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller criticized New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, for helping end the surveillance program claiming de Blasio had "pro-terror allegiances," and calling the move a "gift to Jihadists." She advised New Yorkers to "[s]leep fitfully" in the absence of the program. [Atlas Shrugs, 4/15/14]
Surveillance Program Discriminated Against Muslim Community
AP: Surveillance Not Based On Charges Or Wrongdoing, But Ethnicity. In September 2011, the Associated Press reported that the NYPD's surveillance tactics put "American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, prayed and worked, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity." [Associated Press, 9/22/11]
ACLU: "NYPD Deliberately And Wrongly Used Religion As A Proxy For Criminal Suspicion." According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD surveillance program was blatant racial and religious profiling of American citizens that "violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection by going out and looking only for Muslims, rather than directing its spying at would-be terrorists." [American Civil Liberties Union, 2/25/14]
Muslim Advocates: "This Is Not Real Policing. This Is Simply Discrimination." NJ.com, a site for local New Jersey news, reported that Muslim Advocates, a group who has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for their surveillance practices, called the program "discrimination," and argued that it "is not real policing":
"This lawsuit is perhaps the most important legal challenge brought to date by American Muslims," said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates.
"There is no reason a police officer should be scribbling notes on little girls attending an elementary school, or recording what types of clothing Americans are wearing as they go about going to stores and restaurants," Khera said. "This is not real policing. This is simply discrimination." [NJ.com, 7/7/12]
Surveillance Program Was Harmful And Ineffective
AP: FBI Said NYPD Muslim Surveillance Jeopardized National Security. In August 2012, the Associated Press reported acknowledged that the surveillance program operated "outside its jurisdiction," and that the "operation damaged its partnership with Muslims and jeopardized national security." [Associated Press, 8/21/12]
AP: NYPD Surveillance "Never Generated A Lead Or Triggered A Terrorism Investigation." In August, 2012 the Associated Press reported that since the Muslim surveillance program's inception, it had not "generated a lead or triggered" any investigation, facts that were "acknowledged in court testimony," by the police department:
In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.
"I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I'm here since 2006," he said. "I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that's always a possibility. I am not aware of any." [Associated Press, 8/21/12]
NY Times: "Efforts Never Led To Charges That A Mosque Or An Islamic Organization" Was Involved In Terrorism. On April 15, the Times reported that "Despite investigations that stretched for years, the Police Department's efforts never led to charges that a mosque or an Islamic organization was itself a terrorist enterprise." [The New York Times, 4/15/14]
CUNY Law School: NYPD Surveillance Program "Example Of Ineffective Policing." An in depth report conducted by CUNY Law School on the NYPD's surveillance program found no evidence suggesting the program was effective and noted that the NYPD had not shown "that its secret surveillance program has any role to play in yielding leads to potential criminal activity":
On closer scrutiny, however, such claims of the program's effectiveness seem to lack any factual basis. Investigative reporters have debunked the notion that any plots that the NYPD "helped thwart" were a result of its spying activities. In reality, of the fourteen plots listed on the NYPD website only three were actual potential terrorist plots, and not one was prevented by the NYPD. Further, the other cases either involved government informants who played a dominant and enabling role in the plot, were so lacking in credibility that federal officials declined to bring charges, or were instances where plots were abandoned.
Nor has the NYPD shown that its secret surveillance program has any role to play in yielding leads to potential criminal activity.
Undercover spying and the mapping of communities did not play any tangible role in thwarting terrorist attacks. Rather, as our findings highlight, surveillance has stifled constitutionally protected activity and destroyed trust between American Muslim communities and the agencies charged with protecting them. [CUNY School of Law, accessed 4/16/14]