ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Cancel

Revelations on NYPD Surveillance of Muslims Contradict Bloomberg Claims

Last summer, New York Mayor Bloomberg said the police department focuses on threats, not religion. A new report suggests otherwise.

.

Imam Abdul A. Muhammad of the Masjid Imam K. Ali Muslim mosque in Newark, N.J., points to a secret New York Police Department document shown to him by the Associated Press showing surveillance of the Muslim community by the NYPD as he speaks in his clothing and accessories store, on Feb. 15, 2012. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

The Associated Press published a story today detailing how, in 2007, undercover New York Police Department officers investigated the Muslim community in Newark, N.J., producing a secret report profiling mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim-owned businesses and restaurants.

The story, based on a copy of the 60-page report obtained by AP, concludes that the surveillance project was undertaken despite "no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark's Muslims."

Besides being significant on its own, that conclusion contradicts claims by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year about how the NYPD operates.

In August, after AP published the first story in its series documenting the NYPD's extensive surveillance and investigation of Muslims, Bloomberg denied that the NYPD launched investigations based on religion in the absence of suspicion of a crime.

"If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD’s job is to do it. The law is pretty clear about what’s the requirement, and I think they follow the law," Bloomberg said at an Aug. 25 news conference, the local news site DNAInfo noted at the time. "We don’t stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there."

In October, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly made similar comments under questioning from the city council.

"We simply follow leads," Kelly said. "Now, those leads may take us into religious institutions; it may be people in a particular religion. But we’re going to follow those leads wherever they take us. We’re not going to be deterred, but we’re certainly not singling out any particular group."

AP’s previous stories showed the NYPD scrutinized Muslim communities in part based on ethnicity. Today’s story, as well as others earlier this month, showed the NYPD focusing solely on religion.

The secret dossier on Newark published by AP shows the NYPD both thinking about religion and singling out a particular group in the apparent absence of any leads.

The report mapped so-called Locations of Concern in Newark, which were defined to include "Localized center[s] of activity for a particular ethnic group." The only ethnic groups that are highlighted in the report are those that include Muslims. The report noted that the city’s "largest immigrant communities … are from Portugal and Brazil" but that "No Muslim component within these communities was identified."

Bloomberg’s press office did not respond to our request for comment about the mayor’s August remarks and the new AP report. The NYPD also did not respond to our request for comment; nor did it comment on the AP’s story.

The report includes multiple maps marking mosques and Islamic schools in Newark like this one:

 

It also includes a one-page guide to each Muslim institution, with a picture and basic information such as name, address, phone number — and two categories for "sect" and "imam." A section of the report that includes a similar guide to Muslim businesses includes comments like "location has a donation box inside for unknown Masjid" (the Arabic term for a mosque) and "location is a small restaurant that serves Halal food."

This week, Bloomberg echoed his August remarks following another AP report on the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim Student Associations at colleges around the Northeast despite the absence of suspicions of criminal activity.

"The police department goes where there are allegations. And they look to see whether those allegations are true," Bloomberg said. "That's what you'd expect them to do. That's what you'd want them to do. Remind yourself when you turn out the light tonight."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, called AP’s report "disturbing" and said the state attorney general is investigating.

Running surveillance and intelligence operations on groups based on their religious ideology sounds like a horrible idea unless there has been some clear demonstrated activity by these groups. Now I wonder what event, or events would prompt the NYPD and other local LEO’s to concentrate on one religious group over others ….. hmmmm …. I recall there was something BIG that happened in lower Manhattan twice in the past 20 years …. cant quite put my finger on it though.

Did someone think Bloomberg was trustworthy?  This is the man who bought and bullied a third term as mayor of a city that limits service to two terms.

And I disagree with Mike’s assessment.  A lot.  Nothing gives government the right to decide, a priori, who “should” be guilty.  It was nonsense when we interned Japanese immigrants on the West Coast.  It was nonsense when we blacklisted Communists.  It’s still nonsense today.

And as a disclaimer, I live about a half-hour from Ground Zero, and lost more than a few people when the towers collapsed.  But it’s time to grow up and stop living in fear of “different” people just because they bear superficial similarity to known criminals.  Terrorists come in all colors, and monitoring one ethnic group “just in case” is exactly the kind of oppression that the Bill of Rights (and a few other Constitutional amendments) was put in place to prevent.

That’s kind of the point of “all men are created equal,” no?  It’s not that we all have the same abilities or even the same opportunities (clearly), but that none of us should be assumed “better” or “worse” except through our personal actions.  Anybody who can’t deal with that might be best served in a country that doesn’t believe any such thing.  Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan come to mind…

Bloomberg also admitted to sic-ing his NYPD and its SWAT assault teams on the non-violent Occupy Wall Street groups.

Hitler did the same using his Brown Shirts, the SS and Gestapo.

Uhm, you are actually surprised by the outcome you got when you gave permission for a bunch of bullies to basically harass an entire group of people because of what 15 people did?  Hell, we don’t even know the full story about 9/11 (yep, uhm, I was there.. those building didn’t fall dumb asses.. but keep telling yourselves that.  Maybe it will magically come true!)  Maybe you aren’t being ruled by a class of Oligarchs!  Maybe this is all just one big bad dream.

Sorry to burst your bubble.. When the Fracking begins in upper state NY, and people start dying of contaminated water in NYC and are then forced to buy water.  You will see things get really ugly, really fast.  I was never a 2nd amendment nut or anything.. but my Dad is!  Thank god we have guns!

When threats are detected, they must be followed wherever they go. I applaud NYPD efforts to keep us safe. If you think there’s no threat, think again. Every major terrorist group is here in the USA, doing everything from terror financing to paramilitary training. This is well known. I resent the spin you’re putting on this, you’re endangering us all.

Some people apparently simply cannot get this idea through their skulls - you can’t hold an entire nationality/ethnicity/religious group of people responsible for the actions of a relatively few evil people. This isn’t a case of the NYPD investigating a handful of mosques where they had reason to suspect wrongdoing. This isn’t even the NYPD giving extra attention to the local branch of a particular sect that has had a troubling history. This was a systemic and broad surveillance of who knows how many individuals, simply because of their faith. In almost all the cases, they had absolutely no reason to suspect any of these individuals or groups.

9/11 was a horrific criminal act committed by a specific group of radicalized (predominately) Saudis. Since then, about 30 people have died in the US as a result of terrorist attacks. More people have died by dog bites and lightning strikes in that period. Furthermore, virtually all of the support these radicalized groups receive from Muslims (both here and abroad) stems from the fact that the US has spent the last 50 years invading, arming and funding all manner of religious radicals in the middle east and corrupt totalitarian regimes.

If you honestly believe that we need to change our entire political and legal system to defend ourselves against terrorists, then have at it. I consider it cowardice and foolish.

We are Bombing them and killing their women and children and you are worried about insulting them?

@ Emmett Smith

I dont know if you are keeping up on the news, but they seem to bomb their own women and children with a bloodlust that would make Second Lieutenant William Calley blush.

uhm, uhm and uhm and even more uhm’s.John’s, and those who agree with him.
13 people only?.. do you really believe that? If so, I feel sorry for you and all those that Want to blame anyone but a religion that seems to breeds radicals willing to kill and be killed for a cause.And the training of same. We have Mentally ill persons as does the whole world, who go forth and commit murder:, the question is why? But most all others search out loop holes rather than small groups gathering to figure out the next means of proving a stupid point by death of themslves, and innocent people including children.
If muslims/islams want the opinion to end then perhaps they need to do something positive, stop saying no,not us,We are no longer living in the middle ages if not before, except others viewpoints and go internal and end the stupid killings worldwide! In the meantime I THANK all the protection provided by any state or federal agency protecting my children, my grandchildren, and homeland!..p.s I don’t care what country they came/ come from or which we seem to kiss the a—of.
As for the john’s, 20 years later, go to everydoor of someone who lost a love one and give your only 13 people viewpoint

Usually, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear. The police follow leads and we’ve had a few big ones.

I saw two young terrorist defectors on tv today, saying that there are many American citizens currently training in Somalia and intent on going ‘home’ to destroy America.

Keep following the leads and stop endangering us all for political correctness.

To kinan
The whole region in that part of the world has many sick minded persons/leaders that want to spread the diseases of their reglious beliefs on others thru any means possible and that includes the killings of others and their own.
these goverments are even in more fear as the world around them
are discovering and devoloping other dependances on means of power and friction deduction…the Islamic religion does not except other beliefs, period. the innocent have got to stop the denial and do something to stop.

hi emmett.. Read your posting?? really, or you having a bowel movement problem. constipated? been out of the country/perhaps the world?

We cannot afford another attack! The economy will really tank and it will cost human lives!

The right answer is for the police to do to do what Bloomberg SAID they were doing, NOT what they were actually doing.

As long as economic terrorism continues to guide Western foreign policy, as it has since the dawn of globalization, then we will have no choice but to live in fear of retaliation.  It will not only come from Muslims, but from anyone else in N. America who is screwed over by public policy designed to assist in wealth-hoarding.

Stop over-accumulation, which includes big BMWs, gentrified homes, luxury vacations, and there will be no need to continually leverage militarization and securitization in order to live well at the expense of others.

Shame on those who think targeting Muslims today will fix systemic social dysfunction.

Muslims slaughter innocent people DAILY around the world, and they would do it here if given the chance. Hardly a month goes by without the feds or NYPD capturing another would-be murderer.  FIX YOUR RELIGION, FIX YOUR CULTURE. Don’t tell us that protecting ourselves is insulting to you. Something VERY WRONG with your religion spawns these people.

Walkerny - dumbest comment yet, in a page filled with them. I mentioned the statistics about deaths in the US from terrorist attacks by Muslims in the US above. Since that time, there have been 150,000 murders in the US. But no one thinks the US is some murderers’ paradise…because most rational adults around the world are smart enough to understand that you can’t hold people responsible for the crimes of others.

There is nothing wrong with Islam or Arab culture. Certain sects, namely Wahabists and Salafists, have undoubtedly been too empowered and influential in the area. However, these sects originated from, and are dominated by, Saudi, Egyptian and Pakistani radical clerics (surprise - the biggest recipients of American aid and weaponry in the region). However, these have not been and will never be mainstream or popular among the locals in the region because of their absurd and regressive readings and teachings. Al-Qaida tried to gain a foothold in the middle of a brutal civil war in Iraq, and ended up being rejected as too barbaric.The false leaders of these movements rely on anti-US and western propoganda to fill their ranks with the ignorant. I don’t have time to lecture everyone here on the details of mainstream Islamic thought, but I’d urge you to speak with your local Muslims in your community and do your own research on its beliefs and practices.

Or, you can continue to live in ignorance and just spew out whatever nonsense you find on the intertubes. And even if all the Muslims in the world were as bad as they are made out to be, I’d still say those of you who want to fundamentally change the constitutional protections provided in the Bill of Rights are gutless cowards.

I find it interesting how many people think they’re safer because cops are conducting illegal surveillance.  Because that totally won’t get turned against you, at some future time.

What do you think these idiots are ranting about when they talk about “homegrown terrorism”?  They mean that, once you’ve accepted harassing Arabs, they’ll need to monitor Hispanics, then blacks, then everybody.

Assuming it doesn’t happen accidentally from all the security camera footage and bills like HR1981 that’ll require every online and phone service to track what you do and where you are and give it to the government without a warrant.  To stop child pornographers, in that case, not terrorists.

(Remember, supporting civil liberties is support for murdering Americans and producing child pornography.  There is no other possible position!)

On top of that, how many Arabs have we killed in the name of stopping terrorism?  We’ve since killed more Americans (soldiers on the ground) than the terrorists have, and they’re the ones breeding psychopaths?  Not to mention tanking our economy by spending millions every week blowing up civilians.

And don’t forget the drones.  “They” are uncivilized and blow themselves up for the cause.  “We” are above that (and have a bigger budget), and send UAVs into their towns to blow themselves up, controlled by some college kids making minimum wage in Nevada.

Everybody suggesting that “Islam” (as if it were a unified organization, when Christianity and Judaism are splintered into a million factions) should “do something good” might want to take a look in the mirror.  What are we don’t that’s so much better?  You’ve decided, based on one attack (which couldn’t have involved more than a hundred people) that all adherents of a religion should be assumed evil until proved otherwise.  Isn’t that what you claim the Muslims think?

(Yes, they blew up our building first.  But that excuse doesn’t even wash for kindergartners.  And we overthrew their governments for fifty years whenever we felt like it, putting into place some of the very regimes that are now fighting us.)

As I said before, anybody who’d like to live in a racist police state might find it easier to move to someplace like Syria where such a system is already in place, rather than replicate the structure here.  Some of us—even some of the most WASPy of us, thank you—actually like the Bill of Rights, and would rather sacrifice some safety in the abstract for safety from oppression.

As to the fear-mongering by people like Walker, let’s be honest.  If an organized group of psychopaths wanted to kill a lot of people and scare us, they’d walk into a mall at Christmastime and shoot up the food court, where the toughest security is usually some unarmed old guy on a Segway.  Watching some mosques in Jersey ain’t gonna protect you from that, so that’s clearly not the goal.

Save your ‘dumbest comment’. It is your opinion, nothing else. Be an apologist all you want, repeat the phrase ‘religion of peace’ all you want. It does not remove the fact that murder in the name of Islam is committed daily around the world, INCLUDING in Iraq. Tell the dead from last weeks bombings that Al Qaida and sectarian extremism has been rejected. Tell the 55 killed yesterday, or the schoolchildren hurt in an attack on an elementary school.  The FACT is that no ones constitutional rights have been violated. They have been the subjects of legal surveillance. We have the right to monitor extremists in our midst, regardless if they are students, shopkeepers or attendees of a mosque (or Church). IF you are not involved with extremism, nor have any contact with those that do, you have nothing to fear. If you HAVE had contact, even inadvertent, you need to be checked out. Knee-jerk political correctness is no reason not to take steps to keep New Yorkers safe.

Amazing these same people never complain when the right wing, caucasion neo-nazis are under secret surveillance, have their quasi Christian organizations and Churches infiltrated, or are entrapped.

What have big cars and big houses got to do with it, apart from blaming future victims? Let the security services do their jobs.

On the contrary, I would complain very loudly if I found out that the FBI was monitoring conservative churches or other organizations simply because some of the leaders and/or members had outspoken political views. You seem to not understand a fundamental principle of the American justice system - you can’t be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures without due process, and people may not, except in very specific and limited circumstances, be prosecuted for speech alone. This was a blanket surveillance of many Americans without any iota of evidence they were involved in wrongdoing. And as for the rest of your comment - I’d appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth. I never said Islam was the religion of peace (although I do agree with that, when it is practiced in the manner as proscribed under the Quran). Of course Muslims commit crimes around the world,including some heinous ones. It’s just willfully obtuse to ignore the crimes of everyone else and just point out every crime ever committed by Muslims.

Never conflate people like you with people like me. In 30-40 or so years, when white Christians are a minority in this country, I’ll be there to stand up for their rights when the prosecution comes for them. Many people and/or groups will not take kindly to being new minorities in this country, and some will respond with violence. Assuming you’re still around (which seems likely, given your cowardice), I somehow doubt you’ll be making the same points.

Speaking of cowardice, you repeatedly hurl insult behind the safety of your own computer. It is doubtful you speak as aggressively in person. Their has been no one in this surveillance “prosecuted for speech alone.” It is surveillance. If an innocent citizen interacts with a common criminal, he or she will fall under the surveillance being applied against that criminal. It is common sense. The people to whom we entrust our daily safety do not by default always degrade to the point where they abuse that trust. When and if they do we have the courts, elected officials, free press and other checks and remedies. Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD should allow political correctness nor the sensitivities of others get in the way of legal, sensible monitoring of individuals who have signaled hostile intentions, and to vet those who have associated with them.

Safety and security bought with the coin of oppression and supression of liberties and freedoms is a poor bargain.  Governments who are allowed virtually unlimited authority tend to utilize that authority; it is what they do.  The so-called checks and balances we have in America have been adulterated and diluted to such a point they are meaningless.  Daily, it seems, we see examples of abuse of authority and very, very little is ever done about it.

Walker, I damned well do complain when every group is under monitoring due to some vague threat.  And I’ve done so in person, to elected officials and police officers.  Loudly.

Have you, even for the people you identify with?

As to abuse, that’s what this article is about:  An abuse of trust.  And FISA courts and other aspects of Homeland Security have eroded anything resembling a check on the power.  What is going to stop it is our growing a collective backbone and informing our elected overseers that we’ve had enough.

If someone has expressed hostile intentions, they should be checked out.  But that—you might notice—is NOT what this article is about.  It’s about the NYPD leaving the city, crossing state lines, and putting an entire ethnic group under surveillance.

The police must always behave with respect and courtesy to members of the public. There is too much police abuse in the UK too. I get the feeling that this was not just targeted surveillance, but the collection of information about places which would-be terrorists would likely frequent, as well as interlinking connections between families and contacts.

Yes, I know that Muslims go to topless bars, but I don’t think that would be the logical place to start. Motives for murder usually involve jealousy, money, sadism, etc., but terrorism is different, often accompanied by suicide, and may be, to an extent, preventable.

Many white, Christian right-wing groups are under the same surveillance, and still people say, but don’t annoy the Muslims. No group should get a free pass.

I know a bit of bloomberg, nothing of the new york police dept.
what I do know is I have been once again called an Idiot by worrying and keeping watch on any radical group or persons.. Why do the da persons always brush off what these groups have or indivuals do?..I personally don’t care if local, state or federal, With the tenticals they have, many extreme groups or sick minded people have been stopped… long after “ground zero” Most claim to represent some Islamic group or a relation to same…. I honestly believe it will happen sometime, by some hidden group or person and I say thank god for all the safegards in place. ...I also wonder when these guards should be removed and what would the end results be if we just ignored all?

This is directed at the person who is so anti American everything!
Many posts disagree with me and I with them, But most are interesting and mind learning except this one person who seems to always respond to ever question asked in a negative way? If your so un-happy with this country then just move! I don’t care if you have sites or blogs, anyone can do that. Just move, please. You know who I’m talking about. Everyone does.

People don’t understand that this isn’t an investigation, it’s gathering information. The NYPD wasn’t trying to bring charges against this people/organizations, it was gathering basic information on them; e.g. where they are located, etc.

I applaud the NYPD’s efforts to keep the city safe.

James M Fitzsimmons

Feb. 26, 2012, 9:13 a.m.

After reviewing the 60 page report, it occurred to me that the report was nothing more than a written document summarizing what we would hope to be the collective knowledge of conscientious beat (neighborhood) cops. Knowledge of the streets is an essential ingredient to counter-terrorism and law enforcement in general. Such knowledge not only helps to focus on potential threats, it also helps to rule out false allegations.

Is ProPublica similarly outraged about the Government forcing religious institutions to pay for abortive-facients contrary to religious beliefs and in violation of 1st amendment principles? How about the cynical attempts to distort this issue as being anti-contraception or anti-female? Seems to me this is a more important controversy to be delved into.

I’m amazed at how many frogs on this site forgot that the water was cold when they were put in the pot. They have been lulled into a false sense of security because the water feels warm. I will be too late when the water starts boiling as the heat is gradually increased.
In the guise of insuring our safety and security, how much longer will it be until everybody has that chip implanted and you have to pass a check point to walk down the street?

James, something you may have overlooked in the report is that this information was NOT being gathered in New York City.  New Jersey and its various municipalities have their own police forces, so they weren’t getting to know their own streets.

Frankly, I’d still be pissed at something like this if it were Jersey’s own cops, but I could at least accept the argument that cops should know their area and may very well have lists of synagogues and churches.  But the fact that the cops were being directed across state lines to “gather information” on an ethnic group is obnoxious.

John,
I understood that fact. My point was that the people who feel that the “authorities” can do anything they want because it protects us will be in for a big surprise someday. Where was the report on all the other churches and synagogues in the area? Is that next? I don’t think the local cops need to compile a report on all those locations. If it was included in something showing all churches or meeting places, then that might be a bit more acceptable. I understand that it is radicals from the middle east who have created the problem but unless there is evidence that somebody in one of these places that were mapped out is suspected of something, then they should not be profiled, either by New York cops or local cops. I still believe we are innocent until proven guilty, but it seems like some people think it is the other way around when it comes to certain groups. As I said before, at what point in time do the “authorities” decide that in order to determine who is good and who is bad, decide to put a chip in us and have checkpoints on every street?

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.”
Ben Franklin

James M Fitzsimmons

Feb. 27, 2012, 7:33 p.m.

John, Good point that I did not specifically address. The sixty page report that was referenced in the ProPublica article contained nothing more than open source type information readily available to any curious researcher. No warrant was needed to gather such information. But you are correct that Jersey cops have actual standing and protocol may have been violated. Perhaps we will learn how much coordination with local law enforcement actually took place. That said, the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 involved subjects from a Jersey City Mosque and the notorious Blind Sheikh and his terrorist followers frequented this neighborhood. Protocol is important but as the 911 commission pointed out important information that could have prevented 911 was not handled properly because of failures to share. Some overlap in jurisdictions is necessary. Your concern about over-reaching is also warranted but I have to give NYPD the benefit of the doubt with regards to good faith judgement.

Leads are not evidence: they must be followed to obtain evidence. Intelligence must be connected and co-ordinated. It’s no good saying innocent until proven guilty - because you are talking about evidence after a crime. A suicide bomber will be dead by then.
Of course you are innocent if you are part of an investigation. What good is it to repeat this mantra after you’ve walked onto one of the subway trains scheduled to be blown to fireballs?
We are talking about prevention of terrorism here, not punishment after being found guilty. Franklin did not live through 9/11 and 7/7 - we did.

Jim, sorry for the confusion.  I meant Mr. Fitzsimmons commenting above you.  But I think you’re behind the times with chips.  Facial recognition is much more likely and far more frightening.

James, I see what you’re saying, but giving authority “the benefit of the doubt” has historically never been the right way to go.  It’s how black kids get shot forty times reaching for their identification or how suspects go to the hospital tortured, to pick a few non-terror cases still in New Yorkers’ recent memories.

It’s the classic slippery slope.  Today it’s Muslims because “terrorists are Muslims.”  Tomorrow it’s rounding up Latinos because “gang members are Latino.”  “Drug dealers are black.”  Every time we fail to question authority, they’ll go further.

Many times, when I’ve spoken out for privacy rights, I’ve been told by officials (and people parroting them) that, if I have nothing to hide, then I should have nothing to fear.  And yet, the government is constantly hiding what it does.  Isn’t that a sign that THEY think what they’re doing is wrong?

And that doesn’t even get into the issues that the overwhelming majority of “terror busts” have seen suspects that were “radicalized” not by their fellow Muslims, but by FBI investigators themselves.

Linda, I have to ask:  Where do you draw the line?  I hear people in government saying all the time that al-Qaeda is trying to recruit white people for various tasks.  Are you willing to be monitored as a “potential recruit” on their say-so?  Or is it only OK when you don’t see the targets as being like you?

John,
I think there are still people pushing the chip. Besides, what would be more intimidating… having to wave your hand in front of a scanner at a checkpoint manned by the military or being scanned from a distance as you walk by each monitoring camera.
I agree with you that people seem to think it is OK if the target isn’t them.

I don’t want to imply that I’m convinced that people are OK with it for that reason, but it’s a huge worry on my mind.

We’ll agree to disagree on the chips.  I’ll buy lunch if they roll them out…

(My thinking is that it’s not about intimidation except as a route to power.  By monitoring communications and movements, the power comes without intimidation.  It may be better to be feared than loved, but if you can be forgotten…?)

Try and watch two recent UK Channel Four documentaries - ‘Proud and Prejudiced’ and ‘My Hometown Terrorists’ if you doubt the rise in groups trying to take over Britain with Islam and Sharia Law. They get banned and keep changing their name. Also see incredible new series, ‘Make Bradford British’ which is a Big Brother type house containing people of clashing cultures. Part one was shown last night and it’s really good.