14 Muslim leaders have fired off a sternly-worded letter to Mayor Bloomberg announcing their intention to boycott his annual interfaith breakfast on Friday, which brings together religious and political leaders from all over the spectrum for a friendly coffee klatsch. At issue is a damning series of articles in the Associated Press detailing the NYPD's targeting of Muslim communities for surveillance. Commissioner Ray Kelly has firmly denied this, telling the City Council, "We don't do it ethnically, we do it geographically. We don't racially profile, we follow leads wherever those leads take us." The NYCLU, however, calls it a "rogue domestic surveillance operation," and in November hundreds of Muslims demonstrated outside police headquarters.
And Mayor Bloomberg, to the chagrin of some Muslim leaders, has stood by his Commissioner. A spokesman for the mayor says, "We have a couple dozen Muslim community leaders who have RSVPed that they will be at the breakfast, which is about the same as previous years. The Mayor’s Office and the NYPD maintain their strong ties with the City’s Muslim communities—in fact, the Police Commissioner spoke at the Masjid Salaam Mosque in the Bronx this afternoon just after announcing the great year-end crime statistics with the Mayor at City Hall."
But 14 Muslim leaders, including Zead Ramadan (President, CAIR NY) and Omar T. Mohammedi, Esq, a law professor at Fordham, won't be accepting the Mayor's tea and crumpets. They're demanding a separate meeting with Bloomberg to discuss the NYPD's counterterrorism tactics. In their letter to the mayor, they write:
This past August, the Associated Press released a series of investigative reports that detailed how, over the past decade since 9/11, the NYPD has been monitoring and profiling virtually every layer of NYC Muslim public life, often with no suspicion of wrongdoing. These reports were based in large part on leaked NYPD documents and interviews with unidentified former and current NYPD officials. According to the investigation, the police department monitored and collected information on New Yorkers at about 250 mosques, schools, and businesses throughout the city, simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behavior.
Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement. We are not alone in our belief.
Among the tactics brought to light by the AP: The NYPD sends undercover officers known as "rakers" (so called because Cohen wanted the squad to "rake the coals, looking for hot spots") into ethnic and Muslim neighborhoods with instructions to act like "a human camera" and "map the human terrain" in mosques, hookah bars, and Internet cafes. And despite what critics call unconstitutional ethnic profiling, the NYPD's tactics have resulted in some notable misses: The alleged subway bomb plotters Najibullah Zazi and Adis Medunjanin were caught by federal intelligence, not the NYPD.
Of course, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne has issued a statement denouncing the AP's reports: "Contrary to such assertions, the NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was falsely alleged. It was also reported over the weekend that the CIAs’s inspector general concluded that no laws were broken and there was "no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying'," as was also falsely alleged. There have been at least 14 terrorist plots against New York City since the 9/11 attacks, and the NYPD is actively engaged in making certain we are not attacked again."
See, even the CIA says the NYPD's spying is perfectly legal! And there's certainly no reason not to trust the CIA. Pass the croissants, please.