Muslim community survey planned as rights groups question NYPD’s CIA ties

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, August 26, 2011 15:24 EDT
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The connections between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), revealed by an investigative report published this week by The Associated Press, are coming under heavy fire by a coalition of civil rights groups, who are demanding the city council immediately investigate the department.

“Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s insistence otherwise, it is clear that the NYPD is spying on entire communities without any particular suspicion of criminal activity,” reads a statement from the Muslim-American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC). “Community-based surveillance falls well beyond the purview of even the NYPD’s broad preventative mandate.”

With the CIA’s help, the NYPD has gathered information on cab drivers, street level food vendors, ethnic book stores, Internet cafes and even mosques, sending snoops in to listen to sermons — all without a hint of federal, state or local oversight, according to the report.

Part of their strategy involves the use of a “Demographic Unit,” which the NYPD officially denied exists. One undercover officer quoted by AP said he was ordered to move into an ethnic neighborhood and “act like a civilian” so his monitors could use him like a “walking camera.”

Detectives have also tapped shopkeepers and “nosy neighbors” in ethnic neighborhoods to keep them updated on local goings-on, according to the report. They’ve even sent officers into prisons to promise help for Muslim prisoners, if they’ll just work with the police.

“These revelations are not new, they just confirm what members of NYC Muslim communities have been saying and experiencing for years,” Monami Maulik, executive director of Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), said in an advisory. “It is a shame that hundreds of millions of dollars of local and federal taxpayers money and public funds are being used to sow fear, division, mistrust and hatred within Muslim communities, and across communities.  The NYPD is operating like a rogue agency without any regard to even borders and jurisdictions, and all with zero accountability or transparency, and without a mandate from the public for such surveillance operations.”

DRUM, a part of MACLC, added that it would launch a survey of the city’s Muslim community, specifically focusing on opinions about policing tactics.

“The survey project will document the extent of surveillance and policing tactics and the real fear caused by them, as well as provide some real stories of what people have witnessed and how their lives have been affected,” Fahd Ahmed, DRUM’s legal and policy director, added in a release. “This hard evidence will be used to push for greater transparency and accountability from law enforcement agencies.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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