Muslim worshippers in and around New York City have been subject to undercover surveillance by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). According to recently obtained police documents, the NYPD began undercover operations shortly after the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Inside informants, informally known as “mosque crawlers,” have been monitoring Islamic congregations, noting their ethnic make-up, and cataloging sermons. Outside the mosques, undercover officers from the NYPD “Demographics Unit” have been gathering information by canvassing neighborhoods, recording attendees’ license plates, and looking for what they call “hot spots,” including any place of worship, business or other locations where Muslim gather. A third layer of surveillance takes the form of cameras located on light poles, which have been directed at mosques, and unmarked cars with electronic license plate readers, parked near one mosque.
With a goal to have informants inside every mosque within a 250-mile radius of New York City, the NYPD has not limited their surveillance to New York City. They have successfully installed either plain-clothes detectives and/or inside informants in mosques from Westchester County, NY to New Jersey, with headquarters in an apartment in New Brunswick, NJ serving as central command for monitoring Muslim activities in that state.
When asked about NYPD surveillance operations in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said that the operation was “news to him,” though he “may have been briefed about it in 2007,” but that the NYPD has no jurisdiction in his state. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the NYPD’s undercover monitoring of Muslims is not racial profiling and that it is both legal and constitutional.
Civil rights attorneys and Arab-Americans disagree. Civil rights attorney Jethro Eisenstein says the NYPD is “treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists.” Linda Sarsour with the Arab-American Association of New York notes that the surveillance creates “mistrust amongst people within their own community” and hinders what people do in their daily lives. Finally, Christopher Dunn with the New York Civil Liberties Union says the NYPD operation is “a rogue domestic surveillance operation; and that it is a matter of serious concern.”
Has this undercover operation disclosed any terrorist activity? According to NYPD reports, the only evidence of crime discovered thus far has been a store selling counterfeit DVDs.
Title: Documents Expose NYPD Mosque Crawlers
Author: none listed
Publication: Al Jazeera News
Publication Date: Feb 24, 2012
Student Researcher: Sharon Whealy, Santa Rosa Junior College
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman, Santa Rosa Junior College