Lawyers challenge NYPD spy unit

2011-10-03 22:23

Washington - Civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge on Monday to force the New York police department to turn over documents about its secret efforts to spy on and infiltrate the Muslim community.

The request, filed in federal court in Manhattan, New York, is based on reporting by The Associated Press, which revealed a clandestine police unit that monitored all aspects of daily life in Muslim neighbourhoods.

Documents showed that plain clothes officers were being dispatched to eavesdrop inside businesses. Restaurants that serve Muslims were identified and photographed. Hundreds of mosques were investigated. Dozens were infiltrated.

Police also maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with "American Black Muslim", were labelled "ancestries of interest".

"Based on this evidence, there is reason to believe that the NYPD retains records of surveillance of public places that are not limited to information pertaining to 'potential unlawful activity or terrorism,'" lawyers told US District Judge Charles Haight.

A spokesperson for the New York police department did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The documents were filed as part of a decades-old, class-action lawsuit against the New York department for spying on war protesters and activists.

Since 1985, a court order has limited how the department can monitor activities protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees Americans' freedom of speech and religion.

Police are not allowed to collect and store information about innocent people that is not related to criminal or terrorist activity.

Trawl neighbourhoods

"The [AP] articles, as well as NYPD documents that have been published in conjunction with them, strongly suggest that the NYPD retains such records as a matter of policy," wrote lawyer Jethro M Einstein, the lead lawyer in the case.

NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne has said police only follow leads and do not trawl neighbourhoods. Documents obtained by the AP, however, show that a secret team known as the Demographics Unit was instructed to canvass neighbourhoods looking for businesses catering to one ethnic group, Moroccans.

The documents indicated plans to build databases for other ethnic groups showing where they eat, work, pray and shop.

Current and former officials said the databases made some working in the police department uncomfortable, including in-house lawyer Stuart Parker.

Because of those concerns, they said, the Demographics Unit stored its information on a special computer not connected to the department's normal intelligence database.

Lawyers asked Haight to order police not to delete any of those materials.

Haight did not immediately rule on the request.

  • slg - 2011-10-04 00:55

    It's obviously important to have this civil rights check on the police, as long as it doesn't unduly hamper investigations and normal preventative measures, entirely without harassment.

      King Solomon - 2011-10-04 13:02

      This is just another ploy to hinder the police in their duty to stop terrorism perpetrated, I'm sorry to say, by Muslims.

  • jabski - 2011-10-04 07:02

    police state USA. the nightmare started long ago. coming to a country near you soon..................but its probably already there!!!!

      Matt :-) - 2011-10-04 12:15

      Yup, I've heard of US Citizens have the FBI rock up at their door simply because they moaned to a friend that they don't like the president, or told a friend that they're reading a book critical of the government... someone overhears them, alerts the authorities... Police State USA indeed!!!

      Libertador - 2011-10-04 12:28

      Who said they don't do that already. Intellectually naive and challenged people are unfortunately under the illusion that having elections and a so-called "free press" constitute proof of non-dictatorship credentials.

  • YES - 2011-10-04 07:08

    Scary stuff but not at all surprise. I suppose CIA doesn't only keep muslims under surveillance but even those who are perceived to be enemies of America, world over.

      slg - 2011-10-04 07:17

      Safety and security is a state's primary responsibility. The US government does a pretty good job at this now, after 9/11.

      jabski - 2011-10-04 08:09

      more like "lets profile the people with brown skin we can blame in advance when we need an excuse for another illegal war to sieze another sovereign nations' assets to put more money in our elite pockets tax free in the cayman islands while the lower class idiots are doing the dirty work for us and dying on the battlefields or bailing us out with their taxes. just put it on the front pages, they will believe everything we tell them!! we're the good guys....honestly we are!!!!"

      afrikanX - 2011-10-04 16:04

      The operative word being: “perceive”. Muslims today…tomorrow?

  • Johnny - 2011-10-04 08:40

    not a very good spy unit if everyone knows about them

  • Badballie - 2011-10-04 09:15

    Because even the US authorities recognize that multiculturalism doesn't work, never has and never will, it only weakens the host nation and destroys not only nation identity and pride, but as already evidenced has brought ever western nation to the edge of financial ruin.

      slojam - 2011-10-04 09:45

      If multiculturalism really doesnt work, then the Caucasians should leave the wild west and return back to their homelands of Europe and the Baltic and give so called 'America' back to its indigenouis people. I am sure that way everyone will be better off, right Ballie? Personally, I dont have a problem with multiculturalism.

      Ebrahim - 2011-10-04 15:12

      If multiculturalism doesnt work, than all non blacks should leave Africa

  • TDK1 - 2011-10-04 10:38

    In US and UK every Muslim is a terrorists. I am a Black christian and I know Muslims are good fellows.

      Matt :-) - 2011-10-04 12:17

      In the UK, even before 9/11 there was tension between Muslims (mostly the Pakistani ones) and the locals; today, some 40% surveyed support what is being done in the name of Islam. Quite worrying. At least in SA we just get along fine...

  • Libertador - 2011-10-04 10:52

    Big Brother is Watching You! What is it that they don't like about dictators.

  • Matt :-) - 2011-10-04 12:14

    "Civil rights lawyers" Would that be ACLU by any chance? Scum of the USA they are. For starters its founder openly declared "communism is the goal".

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