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Ear to the Ground

NYPD Spying on Muslims Led to No Terror Cases

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Posted on Aug 22, 2012
Viktor Nagornyy (CC BY 2.0)

A demonstrator holds up a sign at a rally in defense of Muslim-Americans in New York City on Sept. 11, 2010.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg points to the NYPD’s covert counterterrorism program as a model for the rest of the country. But according to a deposition given by the department’s intelligence commander earlier this summer and unsealed on Monday, police eavesdropping on conversations between Muslims has led to no terror investigations.

The NYPD has been spying on Muslims for six years, collecting information by traveling through Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations in cafes and grocery stores and taking detailed notes of what goes on inside mosques. The department’s so-called Demographics Unit is intended to serve as an “early-warning system” for terrorism and provide officers with clues as to where suspected Arab and Middle Eastern terrorists are likely to eat, sleep and socialize.

Jethro Einstein, the attorney who sued the NYPD in the early 1970s over spying on students, civil rights groups and suspected communist sympathizers in what became known as the Handschu case, said he will demand that the spying program be shut down. Today it operates under a new name, the Zone Assessment Unit.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Associated Press via Google:

“I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” [Assistant Chief Thomas Galati] said. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that’s always a possibility. I am not aware of any.”

Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, offered the first official look at the Demographics Unit, which the NYPD denied ever existed when it was revealed by the AP last year. He described how police gather information on people even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, simply because of their ethnicity and native language.

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