On the heels of a court deciding the New York City police department's stop-and-frisk program violates constitutional search and seizure limitations, the Associated Press reports the NYPD has for years engaged in the infiltration of mosques and and the large-scale, dragnet surveillance of Muslims. It appears this Muslim surveillance program, like the stop-and-frisk program, does not require a credible determination of probable cause that the people targeted are engaged in unlawful activities. The AP story begins with the following revelation of the scope of the surveillance program:
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
Noa Yachot of the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this summer filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program, discusses the importance of the AP story, noting:
...The report confirms what we have long been saying about the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program: Despite no suspicion of wrongdoing, and based on nothing more than their religious faith and practice, whole communities have been treated as terrorists and swept up in an unconstitutional police dragnet that reportedly has not generated even one terrorism lead.
Through "terrorism enterprise investigations" (TEIs), the police sought to skirt restrictions on the investigation of First Amendment-protected activities. The report makes it clear that the designation was used against mosques without any evidence of criminality, to justify the surveillance of as many ordinary people as possible.
Muslims and mosques outside of New York City have been subjected to similar police mischief. For an introduction to the US government's Muslim surveillance efforts, read William N. Grigg's fascinating descriptions of Federal Bureau of Investigation "terrorism facilitators" attempting to reel Muslim individuals into fake terrorism plots around the US, including in New York, Oregon, Michigan, and California.
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