[Muslims in New York demonstrate against New York Police Department’s (NYPD)]
spying. The NYPD has labeled all New York mosques terrorist organisations
By Hibah Hasan
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has secretly designated New York mosques as “terrorist organisations”, according to a leaked report by the Associated Press (AP).
Muslim New Yorkers and civil right groups were shocked to know that the designation allowed the police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, without any evidence of criminality. According to the AP report released on August 28, designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
The report further said: “Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen ‘terrorism enterprise investigations’ (TEI) into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like. Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organisation with operating as a terrorism enterprise.”
The NYPD is currently fighting a lawsuit brought by Hina Shamsi from the American Civil Liberties Union. She argues that the surveillance programmes are unconstitutional and persecute Muslims simply for practicing their faith.
Former CIA chief Michael Hayden justified the spying insisting a terror attack similar to the Boston marathon bombing could not have been executed in New York because of the NYPD’s widespread spying on Muslims.
The police scrutinized entire regions, often because of their ethnicity of the residents, not because of any allegations of crime. Hundreds of mosques and Muslim student groups were investigated and dozens were infiltrated. Many of these procedures were built with help from the CIA, which is forbidden from spying on Americans but was active in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit after 9/11.
City Comptroller John Liu affirmed that his department was already investigating the NYPD Domain Awareness System, which consists of 3,000 cameras across New York.
Community organisations inclusive of the Arab-American Association of New York (AAANY), Desis Rising Up and Moving and the Council on American and Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked Liu to expand his investigations to the department’s intelligence division.
Linda Sarsour, who is part of the AAANY, was specifically watched by the NYPD. Sarsour spoke crossly about polices efforts “to infiltrate (the associations) board”, especially because her organisation had made efforts to build bridges and work with the Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly. “As we were inviting Commissioner Kelly and his leadership into our mosques, into our institutions, he was coming through the back door,” an enraged Sarsour harrowed.
Sarsour spoke for her community when she stated, “We are tired of the violation of the civil rights of Muslim New Yorkers. I am a New Yorker. I am an American…I’m running a social service agency that is filling a gap that the government is not filling. I am serving an underserved community in New York City. I deserve to be able to do my job.”
President of the AAANY, Dr Ahmad Jaber, said that the exposure of the AP report made him feel “betrayed”. Especially after the work he and the community had been doing to try to build a relationship between the NYPD and the Muslim community.
Jaber used to be the president of the Dawood Mosque, which is said to be the oldest mosque in Brooklyn. The Dawood Mosque was also labelled a terrorist group and targeted in the NYPD’s TEI. The AP stated that the NYPD has carried out at least a dozen such investigations since 9/11. Many spread across several years, and none resulting in criminal charges ever being brought against a mosque or organisation.
Kelly prearranged Jaber a seat on the Muslim Advisory Council to the NYPD. On August 28 he announced that he will resign. Jaber said that he had wished the Police Advisory Council would be effective in the restoration of the relationship between the NYPD and the Muslim community. But that this recent discovery “was the last straw.”
At the beginning of this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a report of interest in the federal stop-and-frisk trial. Floyd v. City of New York, in which the plaintiffs accused the NYPD of targeting people based on their colour. Grasping on to the possibility that the judge might order self-governing oversight of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice, the DOJ requested the judge to consider assigning a federal monitor. The DOJ error over police departments had been carried out in several other cities around the country.
CAIR board member in New York, Lamis Deek, questioned the idea that the DOJ might not consider the observation of people based on their religion. It was equally discriminatory and unconstitutional to targeting people due to their race.