New York Disbands Police Unit Spying on Muslims


US Muslims protest against racial profiling and monitoring by New York Police Department and NSA.

NEW YORK, April 16 —  The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said, according to a report in New York Times.

The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the surveillance program represents the first sign that William J Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The move comes as the federal government reconsiders and re-evaluates some of its post-9/11 policies, including the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection.

The police department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior FBI official who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.

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 Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

Sarsour was one of several advocates who met last Wednesday with Bratton and some of his senior staff members at police headquarters. She and others in attendance said the department’s new intelligence chief, John Miller, told them that the police did not need to work covertly to find out where Muslims gather and indicated that the department was shutting the unit down.–

Courtesy New York Times


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