Disbanded NYPD Unit That Spied On Muslims: Who Wants It Back

The disbanding of a controversial post-9/11 NYPD surveillance unit met wide praise from civil rights and Muslim leaders, but some upped the rhetoric.

Disbanded NYPD Unit That Spied On Muslims: Who Wants It Back
The Verge

Mapping Muslim communities and labeling entire mosques as "terrorism enterprises" — New York has disbanded a controversial post-9/11 police division known as the Demographics Unit.

REPORTER: "Undercover cops would visit places of worship, cafes and businesses to quietly gather information on Muslim and Middle Eastern communities. Supporters called it an effort to better understand where radicalization might produce would-be terrorists." (Via WCBS)

But others heavily criticized the program, saying it infringed on civil rights with no probable cause the people under surveillance were doing anything suspicious. (Via WABC)

The New York Times points out after nine years of running the program, the NYPD acknowledged in 2012 the Demographics Unit never generated a single lead.

A member of the Arab American Association of New York called the program psychological warfare and told the Times: "That's the cafe where I eat. That's where I pray. That's where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community."

WPIX spoke with a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who worked with new Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to end the program.

ZEAD RAMADAN, CAIR NEW YORK: "If there's a Christian or a Jew or anybody else who commits a crime, should all of them pay for the crime? Profiling an entire community through a surveillance program was not going to be productive, and I think they realized that." (Via WPIX)

Mayor Bill de Blasio's office released this statement Tuesday: "This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys."

Disbanding the Demographics Unit didn't receive universal praise, however. Some, like the "Fox & Friends" anchor team, said Wednesday morning the surveillance was respectful and the Boston Marathon bombings might not have happened if Boston police had a similar program. Steve Doocy said in New York City, he hopes for hindsight.

DOOCY, FOX & FRIENDS: "Next time there is an attack that may have originated from people who might have met in one of these radical mosques ... we go back and we wonder now, if that program were still there, would we have caught it?" (Via Fox News)

REP. PETER KING, (R-NY) "And the reality is the threat is going to come from the Muslim community. ... If you’re looking for the Ku Klux Klan, you don’t go to Harlem. If you’re looking for Black Panthers, you don’t go to a white citizens council meeting. You go to where the potential threat is." (Via MSNBC)

The New York Times reports two federal lawsuits against the NYPD stemming from the Demographics Unit are still pending. It notes the FBI banned itself from receiving any documents prepared by the unit to avoid violating federal eavesdropping rules.