The New York Police Department proposed spying on more than a dozen Shia mosques despite any evidence of wrongdoing, secret police documents obtained by the Associated Press revealed.
The May 2006 NYPD intelligence report, titled "US-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City," recommended targeting a dozen mosques based solely on their religion in hopes of rooting out Iranian terrorists.
"The present diplomatic conflict between the US and Iran over Iran's nuclear proliferation has the potential to evolve into armed confrontation between the two nations," the report stated. "New York City has always been a prime target for terrorist groups and as the possibility of military action take against Iran grows stronger, so does the danger of the City being attacked by agents of the Iranian government or its sympathizers."
None of the listed mosques had been linked to terrorism by the NYPD or by federal agencies. The report appears to have violated the department's own guidelines, which prohibit basing an investigation on religion.
"This was a 2006 document that talked about what we would do if there were hostilities involving Iran," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "It seems to me that it would be prudent for us to have plans in that regard."
Last year, the Associated Press learned that a veteran CIA agent helped train one of the NYPD’s detectives in advanced surveillance methods. They also sent an undercover agent to work in the department.
With the CIA’s help, the NYPD gathered information on cab drivers, street level food vendors, ethnic book stores, Internet cafes and even mosques, sending snoops in to listen to sermons.
Part of their strategy involved the use of a "Demographic Unit." 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.
Whether the NYPD actually tried to infiltrate the specific mosques listed in the 2006 report is unknown.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for the state legislature to conduct hearings on the matter.
"We are beginning to wonder whether NYPD officials believe American Muslims have any constitutional rights that need be respected," said CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick. "Each new revelation of NYPD targeting of the Muslim community without evidence of wrongdoing paints a picture of a department that has little regard for legal prohibitions on ethnic and religious profiling."
With prior reporting by Stephen C. Webster