Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spying on Muslims in the US

Note that the editorial by the New York Times does not object to spying on Muslims; it merely object to spying on "law-abiding" Muslims.  So if a Muslim, for example, shop lifts or is late in filing for taxes, he/she should be spied on.   "In a particularly striking declaration, a Queens man who said the Police Department paid him to spy on Muslims last year also said he was assigned to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College of Criminal Justice even though the police did not think the group was “doing anything wrong.” He said his handler told him that the department considered “being a religious Muslim a terrorism indicator.”  The man said he took pictures of those in the John Jay group and recorded their license plate numbers. While visiting mosques, he photographed worshipers and recorded cellphone numbers of people who attended Islamic instruction classes, forwarding all of it to his handler. At no point did his handler say he was going too far.
The Police Department’s agent said he used what the police called the “create and capture” method. He pretended “to be a devout Muslim and start an inflammatory conversation about jihad or terrorism and then capture the response to send to the N.Y.P.D.”  According to court documents, the New York City police routinely selected Muslim groups for surveillance and infiltration, even when they did not sponsor unlawful or terrorist acts and were not accused of contributing to them. Rather, the motion says, “they were all under investigation by undercovers or other infiltrators based on their theological views, status and association.”   Despite deploying an army of spies, the plaintiffs say, the Police Department never uncovered one of the so-called “incubators” of radicalism they set out to find. The lawyers also say that commanding officers criticized a detective for returning from spying expeditions without inflammatory information on the people he had been watching. If true, that could easily lead officers to hype their findings so they remain in good standing with their superiors.
The motion charges the city with violating the Handschu agreement by systematically retaining records of conversations in public places that do not pertain to “potential unlawful activity.”  Plaintiffs lawyers say they found scores of cases in which innocuous conversations recorded in public places were maintained in police records. One such conversation involved two Bengali speakers, one of whom spoke favorably of the United States government, discussing the president’s State of the Union address.   The court documents offer more than ample reason to be concerned about possible overreach and unconstitutional activity by the Police Department investigators. If the assertions by the Handschu lawyers are borne out in court, the judge should consider appointing an independent monitor to review department investigations."