Blog of Rights

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Should Investigate Spying and Religious Profiling by NYPD

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU at 5:31pm

Today the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union called on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to investigate religious and racial profiling by the New York Police Department.

In a series of articles, the Associated Press reports the NYPD spied on mosques and Muslim college students far outside New York City, without evidence or allegations of criminal activity. The NYPD surveilled mosques and businesses in Muslim and ethnic communities in Newark and on Long Island, and monitored college students in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, according to documents released by the AP.

The documents show that the NYPD monitored and created maps of communities with high concentrations of Muslim populations, including African-Americans and people of South Asian and Arab origin. It also created dossiers of mosques and businesses located in those communities.

This is the latest scandal revealing NYPD surveillance of political, religious and ethnic groups beyond New York City's borders – including protestors coming to the 2004 Republican National Convention as well as Muslims and others. Because of its decades-long history of unlawful surveillance, the NYPD is under court order restricting its surveillance practices and its retention of information about lawful political activity.

In a statement that we issued about the news today, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project said, "These documents show that the NYPD has run amok, engaging in secret multi-state domestic surveillance of innocent people based on crude religious and racial profiling. A society committed to equal justice under the law should be deeply concerned when law enforcement spies on people merely because of their race, ethnicity or national origin. Treating mosques and ethnic businesses as potential criminal enterprises and monitoring Muslim students is not just wrong, it is a waste of law enforcement resources. We are considering every available option to address the NYPD's actions, including the possibility of litigation."

Arthur Eisenberg, NYCLU legal director, added, "In directing surveillance against Muslims engaged in perfectly lawful activity, the NYPD has effectively imposed a badge of suspicion on all Muslims and has stigmatized communities of individuals based upon their religious affiliations."

That is why the ACLU and the NYCLU are calling on Mayor Bloomberg, who has demonstrated sensitivity to religious discrimination issues in the past, to take a fresh and hard look at the NYPD's surveillance practices. We are also considering every available option to address the NYPD's actions, including the possibility of litigation as well as a possible federal investigation and state and local legislation.

The ACLU of New Jersey also called for that state's attorney general to investigate the reports, which Gov. Chris Christie now says is happening. Christie added that he found the reports of the NYPD's activities in New Jersey "disturbing."

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