Newark Muslims hold protest rally over NYPD spy operation
Newark Muslims plan to rally Friday in protest of a 2007 NYPD spying operation targeting Muslim groups in Newark, N.J. Mayor Bloomberg says the operation was 'constitutional.'
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In New York, thousands of miles away, it was a different story. Muslim leaders preached peace and urged people to protest lawfully. Write letters to politicians, they said. Some advocated boycotting Danish products, burning flags and holding rallies.Skip to next paragraph
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All of that was permissible under law and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. All was reported to the NYPD by its mosque crawlers and made its way into police files for Kelly.
"Imam Shamsi Ali brought up the topic of the cartoon, condemning them. He announced a rally that was to take place on Sunday (02/05/06) near the United Nations. He asked that everyone to attend if possible and reminded everyone to keep their poise if they can make it," one report read.
At the Muslim Center of New York in Queens, the report said, "Mohammad Tariq Sherwani led the prayer service and urged those in attendance to participate in a demonstration at the United Nations on Sunday."
When one Muslim leader suggested planning a demonstration, one of the people involved in the discussion about how to get a permit was, in fact, working for the NYPD.
"It seems horrible to me that the NYPD is treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists," said civil rights lawyer Jethro Eisenstein, who reviewed some of the documents and is involved in a decades-old class-action lawsuit against the police department for spying on protesters and political dissidents.
The lawsuit is known as the Handschu case, and a court order in that case governs how the NYPD may collect intelligence.
Eisenstein said the documents prove the NYPD has violated those rules.
"This is a flat-out violation," Eisenstein said. "This is a smoking gun."
Browne, the NYPD spokesman, did not discuss specific investigations Thursday but told reporters that, because of the Handschu case, the NYPD operates under stricter rules than any other department in the country. He said police do not violate those rules.
His statements were intended to calm a controversy over a 2007 operation in which the NYPD mapped and photographed all of Newark's mosques and eavesdropped on Muslim businesses. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he was never told about the surveillance, which he said offended him.
Booker and his police director accused the NYPD of misleading them by not revealing exactly what they were doing. Had they known, they said it never would have been permitted. But Browne said Newark police were told before and after the operation and knew exactly what it entailed.
Kelly, the police commissioner, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been emphatic that police only follow legitimate leads of criminal activity and do not conduct preventive surveillance in ethnic communities.
Former and current law enforcement officials either involved in or with direct knowledge of these programs say they did not follow leads. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret programs. But the documents support their claims.
The effort highlights one of the most difficult aspects of policing in the age of terrorism. Solving crimes isn't enough; police are expected to identify would-be terrorists and move in before they can attack.
There are no universally agreed upon warning signs for terrorism. Terrorists have used Internet cafes, stayed in hostels, worked out at gyms, visited travel agencies, attended student groups and prayed at mosques. So the NYPD monitored those areas. In doing so, they monitored many innocent people as they went about their daily lives.