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Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

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Posted on Mar 1, 2012
AP / Mary Altaffer

Todd Jaime of Brooklyn attends a rally demanding the resignation of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly in early February.

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes have been committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is being disputed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads, is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 that prohibits profiling by law enforcement personnel based on religion.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee that the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD—and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims—we spoke to Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.

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ProPublica: So, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have said everything that the NYPD did was legal and constitutional. Others have disagreed. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for example, said wholesale surveillance of a community without suspicion of a crime “clearly crosses a line.” What restrictions is the NYPD operating under?

Patel: They are operating under at least three sets of rules. The first and most basic set of rules is the consent decree from the Handschu case—the so-called Handschu guidelines. This was a 1970s-era political surveillance case that was settled through a consent decree. The NYPD had been conducting surveillance of a number of political groups in the 1960s and ‘70s. The initial consent decree regulated the NYPD’s collection of intelligence about political activity. It first said the NYPD can only collect intelligence about political activities if it follows certain rules. For example, the NYPD had to get clearance from something called the Handschu authority, which was a three-member board that consisted of two high-level police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor.

Then, post-9/11, the NYPD went to court and asked a judge to review the consent decree because they wanted greater freedom in their counterterrorism operations. What they wound up doing was adopting guidelines based on the FBI’s guidelines from 2003, issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These were different in several important ways. The first was that there was no pre-clearance at all ... no requirement that the NYPD get approval from the Handschu authority before they undertook any intel gathering about political activity. The second was that the guidelines explicitly say the NYPD can attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public. So, if I can go to a church, the NYPD can go to a church. But it goes on to say that the NYPD can’t retain the information it gathers from such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

ProPublica: So, if you look at, say, the NYPD’s guide to Newark’s Muslim community obtained and published by AP—which maps out mosques and Muslim-owned businesses without mentioning any suspected crimes—aren’t the police retaining exactly this kind of information?

Patel: There are a couple of documents that suggest they may have violated Handschu—for example, the [2006 NYPD report] on the Danish cartoon controversy, which is a collection of statements in mosques and other places that have been taken by undercover officers or confidential informants.


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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, March 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

Heterochromatic you seem to be confused about how far a police officer can go. Only within their jurisdiction. Anything out side of that constitutes a crime. Illegal operations out side of New York city. This should be easy to understand.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 8, 2012 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

tic,

I didn’t state that detectives could not be assigned as a liaison in cases outside their jurisdiction, it is typically not the case for patrol officers.

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

PH—- would you care to explain why NYPD detective can
not be officially assigned to gather information around
the world ?

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 7, 2012 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

spammatic,

They are allowed to take their gun with them as sworn officers and no, intelligence gathering is not an official function of ‘beat’ officers outside their jurisdiction.

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By heterochromatic, March 6, 2012 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

NG——they’re not outside their legal job if they’re
gathering intelligence in New Jersey, New Orleans, New
Delhi or New South Wales….


no guns and no power to arrest, but gathering
information is quite proper…..if done properly.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, March 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

What they were doing was operating outside of their jurisdiction. In another state! Should be easy to understand. They weren’t “visiting” or “on vacation” they were intelligence gathering out side their legal job.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 3, 2012 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Even the NYPD go on vacation outside of NYC.  They even get to take their weapons with them.

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By heterochromatic, March 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

NYPD operates outside the country, not just outside the
city limits….and are not debarred from doing
that…..

perhaps you’re confusing their authority to make
arrests with their authority to gather information.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, March 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm Link to this comment

Such babies with the name calling. Time to grow up an join the rest of us or go to the sand box for your sand games.

Unless NYPD is sanctioned to go outside of their city an state they are out of their jurisdiction. They are feeling their oats since they were given so much money an power after the 9/11/01 attack. Can’t wait to see how the courts look at it.

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By heterochromatic, March 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm Link to this comment

patsy, don’t you believe that stuff that the FBI is
saying about me….they were wrong to think that I had
anything to do with that townhouse in the Village.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

Settle down tic,

Lets not have a panic attack and bomb anyone. 

We know you are predisposed to do such.

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By heterochromatic, March 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment

—-the Muslims are the Jews of the 21 century——-

don’t let balkas or drb or patsy or the other bigots
and crazies here hear about this!!!!

otherwise they’ll demand that the round-up commence.

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By berniem, March 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment

Support you local police state! I continue to await clarification as to who is being served and protected! Just wait until all of our “military heros” return from the various venues of crimes against humanity only to find out that Blackwater, or whatever they call themselves these days, isn’t hiring and the only game in town is to be a cop, then we’ll see how balanced the scales of justice truly are! FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!!!

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Arabian Sinbad's avatar

By Arabian Sinbad, March 2, 2012 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

By PatrickHenry, March 1 at 2:49 pm

Most likely, NYC is run by and occupied by a predominantly zionist - Jewish local government.  When you control the courts and judges violating the law is easy.

Bloomberg is the local Kapo.
=====================================================
Amen to what you said PatrickHenry, however, I would go further to say that the whole sad country called America is run by Zionists, Zionists’ lovers, Zionists’ brainwashed, Zionist-Christians and Zionists’ blackmailed officials.

The fascist criminal wars against Muslim countries of the last ten years and the mass slaughter and destruction in Muslim lands by Zionist-controlled America is clear evidence that the Muslims in the twenty-first century are the Jews of Nazi Germany.

So what’s new about Muslims in New York being the target of the NYPD?! Muslims should be thankful that it has not gotten yet to gas chambers and concentration camps similar to what happened to the Jews under Nazi Germany and to the Japanese in America.

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By pete619, March 2, 2012 at 5:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the G.O.P. is backing Gov Christie’s play in condemning Bloomberg, Kelly and the NYPD. In demanding
an investigation by Obama’s justice Dept. they have put
the Democrats in a lose, lose situation. If they
investigate, they are soft on terror. If they don’t
investigate, they are persecuting another religious
group, like the Catholics. Of course Bloomberg and
Kelly are going to take a beating in the ensuing media
firestorm but, they certainly have it coming.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 2, 2012 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

BTW, The New York sense of humor sucks as well.

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By heterochromatic, March 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment

what’s a nice place like that doing with a gal like you?

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment

Been there several times, its loaded with annoying people like you.

I’ll stay at home by the Chesapeake bay.

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By heterochromatic, March 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

Patsy—-you should come to NYC some time.. we would enjoy having you.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

Most likely, NYC is run by and occupied by a predominantly zionist - Jewish local government.  When you control the courts and judges violating the law is easy. 

Bloomberg is the local Kapo.

Report this

By chinny, March 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

NYPD = Israel Defense Force

indeed, the paranoia that is grown in our now militarized society might be described as the Israelification of America.

We sell them our bombs and jets, they sell us their wars, treachery and extra-judicial assassinations.

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By heterochromatic, March 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

it’s entirely possible that the NYPD was right at the edge of legality

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