The New York City Police Department(NYPD) has become a lawless entity that spies on anti-war groups and Muslims, even when no suspicion of a crime exists, a New York law professor charges.
"The NYPD spy program sends an unambiguous message to American Muslims that they are potentially subject to secret government surveillance at any time," says Ramzi Kassem, professor of law at the City University of New York.
What NYPD has created, Kassem says, is "perhaps the largest spying program by a local law enforcement agency on record---a sprawling effort to map entire communities that emerged from the toxic convergence of the permanent state of emergency gripping our society since 9/11 with the NYPD's historic propensities."
From a secret office in New York City's Brooklyn borough, NYPD dispatches spies to engage in the "human mapping" of mosques, cafes, bookstores, and the like in areas populated by residents from 28 countries, such as Syria, Egypt, Iran, etc.
Writing in the July 2nd issue of "The Nation," Kassem says that Muslims are being spied on for praying, advertising a conference of Muslim scholars or calling for a boycott of Danish products (in response to a Danish paper's caricature of the Prophet Mohammad.) Such perfectly legal actions were enough to earn the actors a place in NYPD's secret counterterrorism database, the law professor asserts.
In a surveillance net stretching from New York City to Canada that includes Long Island and New Jersey, the massive NYPD spy operation has treated "basic acts of daily living as potential crimes, disregarding privacy and the freedom of speech and religion," Kassem says.
Kassem, who supervises the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project, says that he and some of his students at the CUNY School of Law, have represented many members of New York's Muslim communities approached by the NYPD Intelligence Division for gratuitous questioning unrelated to any crime. Clients were even questioned about articles they posted online and downloaded content.
Kassem: "In the majority of our cases, as soon as CLEAR intervened with the authorities, the attempts at questioning ceased, further suggesting that the NYPD was on a massive fishing expedition, unmoored from any nexus of concrete criminal activity."
Muslims who have done nothing wrong are being pressured by Federal and local security forces to become informants. "Whether they find themselves in the cross-hairs of the NYPD or the FBI, American Muslims are trapped in an inescapable reductive binary: they are potential informants or possible terrorists. Either way they are targets, be it for cultivation or surveillance," Kassem writes. In short, the "The Nation" says, NYPD's "covert intelligence operation has criminalized an entire community."
To make a bad situation worse, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, named veteran CIA spy master David Cohen to head the Intelligence Division. Cohen had 35 years' experience with the CIA---a period during which it committed some of its most heinous crimes.
Cohen, in turn, named CIA buddy Larry Sanchez to the NYPD unit, and at least one NYPD detective has taken the "trade craft" course given to CIA agents at its spy academy.
"This intimacy between a local police force and America's principal overseas intelligence agency is unprecedented and alarming," Kassem asserts. "Because of past excesses, the CIA is generally precluded from domestic spying by presidential order and can only provide expert personnel or assistance to support local law enforcement agencies with the approval of its own top lawyer. No such authorization was granted for its operatives' work with the NYPD, and leaked documents indicated that CIA elements may have ignored restrictions on the domestic collection of intelligence."