Thursday, 23 August 2012

NYPD monitoring of Muslim communities did not produce a single terrorist lead

An NYPD unit which gathers information on Muslim communities and businesses in order to uncover links to terrorist plots has been unable to do so in six years of engaging in monitoring Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey.

The NYPD’s Demographics Unit, also known as the Zone Assessment Unit, was formed with the CIA’s help after the 9/11 attacks. The unit has monitored Muslim-owned business and mosques across the city and state.

In six years of surveillance, however, the unit has not produced a single lead, according to court testimony from Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the police intelligence unit.

“I could tell you that I have never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report and I’m here since 2006,” he said in a 28 June deposition unsealed Monday. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that’s always a possibility. I am not aware of any.”

CNN reports that the 60-page report, obtained by AP, showed maps of Newark, New Jersey and Muslim residences and mosques. Some other reports showed that authorities tracked Web sites and on one occasion used an undercover officer with university students. There were no statements of terrorism or criminal activity in the documents.

Galati’s testimony was part of a class-action case which resulted in a historic settlement now known as the Handschu agreement, or guidlines. The agreement restricts police, who were accused in the late 1970s of compiling information on political activists and radicals, from investigating individuals whose activities are protected under the constitution.

Last year civil rights attorneys filed papers in federal court which asserting that the use of undercover officers and informants in Muslim communities constituted a breach of those guidelines.

NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne toldCNN on Tuesday that the “premise that the demographic unit was used for wholesale spying on Muslims, using undercover officers and informants to do so, was false,” and that neither “confidential informants nor undercover officers were assigned to the demographics unit.”

Browne added that “the small unit, about 8 people, surveyed places a terrorist might go to use a foreign language internet cafe, get a job off the books, find a place to stay, etc.”

According to Browne, police did uncover information that “led them to recommend that investigators take a closer look.” Browne described an “Islamic book store in Brooklyn frequented by the herald square plotter” as well as a Staten Island location that was being investigated by the NYPD.

New Jersey attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa said in May that the NYPD did not violate New Jersey law when it carried out its surveillance of Muslim-run businesses across state lines.

Meanwhile, Galati’s statements drew the anger of activists on Tuesday, who called the program “Unconstitutional and inconsistent with our nations values.”

“The NYPD’s spying on Muslims based solely upon their faith violates the most basic American values of religious freedom and equal protection of the law,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of an activist group called

Culled from the Homeland Security Newswire

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