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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/1/13

NYPD declares mosques as terrorist organizations

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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The seven-million strong America Muslim community was shocked to know that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has secretly designated mosques as "terrorist organizations." The Associated Press reported on August 28, 2013 that the designation allowed the police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, even without any evidence of criminal activity. According to the Associated Press report , 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.

The AP report further said: "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."

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files, the AP said adding: "As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials. The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn, whose executive director has worked with city officials, including Bill de Blasio, a front-runner for mayor."

It may be pointed out that in August 2011, the Associated Press (AP) exposed the NYPD spy program, which is allegedly being conducted with the assistance of individuals linked to the CIA. Following a month-long investigation, the AP reported that the NYPD is using covert surveillance techniques "that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government" and "does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying."

Last Wednesday's revelations, about declaring the mosques as terrorism enterprise, are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America." The book by AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.

Interestingly, on June 18, 2013, civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit charging that the NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Program has imposed an unjustified badge of suspicion and stigma on hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers. It was filed on behalf of religious and community leaders, mosques, and a charitable organization that were all swept up in the NYPD's dragnet surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers.

The latest revelations prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading civil advocacy Muslim group and other Muslim organizations to call for the Department of Justice to investigate the policy of "terrorism enterprise" investigations. "The NYPD has proven itself unwilling or unable to respect the constitutional and religious rights of minorities, and it is now up to the Department of Justice to step in," said council board member Lamis Deek in a statement.

One of the groups under surveillance was the Arab American Association of New York, a non- religious social services organization that provides immigrants with English language and citizenship classes, as well as running a food pantry and after-school programs. A secret police document obtained by the AP described the department's plans to find an informant to get on the association's board of directors. The document described the potential informant as a male between the ages of 40 to 60, preferably Palestinian or Yemeni, and an owner of a small business.

One of the plaintiffs in the last June's lawsuit, Asad Dandia, a sophomore at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, helped found a charitable organization called Muslims Giving Back. Founded in 2011, the small student group provides groceries for needy families. Dandia's organization was infiltrated by a police informant in 2012, according to the lawsuit. Dandia invited the informant to his home for dinner and to meet his parents, and even to spend the night. The informant gave the police pictures of people at the group's meetings, obtained after Dandia "friended" him on Facebook. But the informant eventually revealed himself after the group heard from a credible source that it was being targeted by the NYPD. The lawsuit charged that the group then lost its meeting location at a local mosque, while donations declined. It has also been unable to attract new members, and current members worry another informant may be in their midst.

The President of the Arab American Association of New York, Dr. Ahmad Jaber, said the discoveries in the AP report made him feel "betrayed" after the work he and others have been doing to try to build a relationship between the NYPD and the Muslim community. Jaber used to be the President of the Dawood Mosque on State Street in Brooklyn, which is said to be the oldest mosque in Brooklyn. The Dawood Mosque was also reportedly designated a terrorist organization and targeted in the  NYPD's "terrorism enterprise investigations." Jaber was appointed by the Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly to a position on the Muslim Advisory Council to the NYPD -- a position from which he will resign.

Not surprisingly, New York City Comptroller John Liu has announced an audit of the NYPD's so-called Domain Awareness System, which involves 3,000 surveillance cameras citywide. Community organizations from groups including the Arab-American Association of New York, Desis Rising Up and Moving and the Council on American and Islamic Relations also asked Liu to expand his audit to the department intelligence division as a whole in light of the AP's findings.

New York's network of surveillance cameras was installed in contract with Microsoft and announced last year originally for counterterror purposes. With a now all-too-common mission creep, the camera system has been expanded to local law enforcement use.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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