Ignoring Critics, Right-Wing Media Defend NYPD Muslim Surveillance While Pushing Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

››› ››› ERIC SCHROECK, MELODY JOHNSON & REMINGTON SHEPARD

Right-wing media have defended the New York Police Department's (NYPD) surveillance of American Muslims throughout the Northeast, engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and dismissing concerns of civil rights groups while doing so. But law enforcement experts have said that the program has a "negative impact" on the ability to gather counterterrorism intelligence, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum have criticized the program.

AP: NYPD Monitored American Muslims Throughout The Northeast

AP: NYPD "Monitored Muslim College Students Far More Broadly Than Previously Known, At Schools Far Beyond The City Limits." The Associated Press reported on February 18:

The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the elite Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned.

Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles (480 kilometers) away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

[...]

In recent months, the AP has revealed secret programs the NYPD built with help from the CIA to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop and worship. The AP also published details about how police placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within the city limits; this revelation has outraged faculty and student groups.

Though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD's activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.

But the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students. [AP, 2/18/12]

"Protecting America From Jihadist Attacks": Right-Wing Media Defend NYPD Surveillance Program

Discussing NYPD Program On Fox, Donald Trump Says NYPD Has "To Go Where The Action Is." During the March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News regular Donald Trump claimed that the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims was warranted and that the NYPD has "to go where the action is." From the broadcast:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): [T]he New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance program that's been in effect for quite some time. When Eric Holder, the attorney general was asked about this under oath last week, he said yeah, I'm sort of troubled with the way that they have been going about their surveillance. What do you make of this? Because the last time I checked, this police department had thwarted 14 potential terrorist attacks that the general public never even found out about because they took care of them.

TRUMP: Well, Gretchen, there's an expression, go where the action is and let's not kid ourselves, that's where the action is. Whether we like it, whether we don't like it, whether it's politically correct which, perhaps, it isn't. You have to go where the action is. And Ray Kelly, the commissioner in New York is one of the great[est] ever in any country, in any state as a police commissioner. I mean, Ray Kelly has done an amazing job as the police commissioner of New York City and I have great trust in Ray Kelly but he's looking at it from the standpoint of let's -- let's see what's happening in the areas that are very troublesome. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/12/12, via Media Matters]

Atlas Shrugs' Pamela Geller: Through Surveillance Of Muslims, NYPD Is "Protecting America From Jihadist Attacks." In a March 8 post on her blog, Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller wrote:

America, you are under siege from within. The Department of Justice, the de facto legal arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, is going to investigate the NYPD for ....... protecting America from jihadist attacks.

Over 45 Islamic plots have been thwarted since 911, and close to 200 Muslims have been arrested in thwarted jihad plots. How does that happen? Intel, that's how. Who is the DoJ going after? The most effective counter jihad law enforcement org in the world. Are you surprised, knowing how thoroughly compromised Obama's DoJ is?

[...]

No constitutional protections were contravened.

This is an attempt to intimidate the NYPD into dropping all efforts to stop jihad terror plots. [Atlas Shrugs, 3/8/12]

Fox's Trotta: "It Was Muslims Who Knocked Down Two Buildings In 2001." During the March 4 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta defended the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims, claiming, "It was Muslims who knocked down two buildings in 2001." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/4/12, via Media Matters]

New York Post Cartoon: "Hello, AP Press? ... I'd Like To Register A Complaint Against the N.Y.P.D. For Spying On Us. In a February 24 New York Post cartoon, illustrator Sean Delonas presented the following:

NY Post Cartoon

[NY Post, 2/24/12]

But Law Enforcement Experts Have Criticized The NYPD Muslim Surveillance Program

Newark FBI Chief: NYPD Muslim Surveillance Program Is "Starting To Have A Negative Impact." From a March 7 CBS New York article:

The head of the Newark FBI said Wednesday the NYPD's monitoring of Muslims in New Jersey has had a chilling effect on the feds' ability to gather counter terrorism intelligence.

[...]

"What we're seeing now with the uproar that is occurring in New Jersey is that we're starting to see cooperation pulled back. People are concerned that they're being followed. People are concerned that they can't trust law enforcement," said FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge Michael Ward.

Ward said the NYPD's spying on mosques and Muslim businesses in the Garden State has caused sources to dry up and made the job of gathering counter terrorism intelligence much more difficult, reports CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.

"It's starting to have a negative impact. When people pull back cooperation it creates additional risks. It creates blind spots. It hinders our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what's going on around the state," Ward said. [CBS New York, 3/7/12]

Newark Police Director: "We Really Want To Be Clear: This Type Of Activity Is Not What The Newark PD (Police Department) Would Ever Do." From a February 22 AP article:

Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio was deputy chief of the department at the time. He said the NYPD asked to be shown around the city. New York police said it was part of an investigation but never revealed what it was about, DeMaio said.

"We really want to be clear: This type of activity is not what the Newark PD (police department) would ever do," he said. [AP, 2/22/12, via MSNBC.com]

Dearborn, MI, Police Chief: There Are Limits To The Value Of Surveillance. From a March 11 AP article:

Ron Haddad, the chief of police in Dearborn, Mich., where close to 40 percent of the city's nearly 100,000 residents are Arab- and Muslim-Americans, said there are limits to the value of surveillance. "The intelligence people tell you the only thing they can give you are indicators, and the indicators are very limited and nothing is absolute," Haddad said.

And so, police in Dearborn focus on building a relationship with city's Arab- and Muslim-Americans. They have asked Islamic leaders for advice and continually train officers to recognize the customs of various ethnic groups, including Muslims, to avoid offending members of those communities. Haddad said they have also taken care to openly and meticulously explain general police practices and, on occasion, even the specific details of ongoing investigations.

"If you can tell them, you need to tell them," Haddad said. He added, "The danger in not making the appropriate disclosure is they are going to be more suspicious of you." [AP, 3/11/12, via The Washington Post]

Chicago Police Supt.: Chicago PD Will Not Conduct Similar Surveillance: "We Are Deeply Committed To Respecting The Civil Rights Of All Chicagoans." In a March 4 CBS Chicago article, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that his department "does not and will not conduct blanket surveillance and profiling of any community in the city of Chicago" and that "[w]e are deeply committed to respecting the civil rights of all Chicagoans." From the article:

For the first time in public, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy promised his department will never conduct blanket surveillance of Muslims like the New York Police Department did in Newark, N.J., when he was chief there.

McCarthy addressed hundreds of Muslims on Saturday at the annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago, a civil rights organization. He said police would follow leads in criminal cases, but the department "does not and will not conduct blanket surveillance and profiling of any community in the city of Chicago."

"We are deeply committed to respecting the civil rights of all Chicagoans," McCarthy said. [CBS Chicago, 3/4/12]

Top Chicago Prosecutor Criticizes NYPD Surveillance Program: "The Distrust Starts With Police And Goes Right To Us As Well." From a March 10 AP article:

Such surveillance has the potential to erode a community trust in law enforcement that extends far beyond the police, said the top prosecutor in Chicago, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

"We get lumped in with the police," she said. "The distrust starts with police and goes right to us as well."

The break can last for decades, Alvarez said. Chicago authorities are still trying to recover from the fracture with the black residents that stems from the actions of police Lt. Jon Burge, whose South Side unit tortured dozens of African-Americans into confessing to crimes they did not commit in the 1970s and 80s. [AP, 3/10/12, via The Washington Post]

New Jersey Lawmakers -- Where NYPD Reportedly Monitored Muslims -- Have Criticized NYPD's Program

Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Surveillance Is "Deeply Offensive." From a February 22 AP article:

"If anyone in my police department had known this was a blanket investigation of individuals based on nothing but their religion, that strikes at the core of our beliefs and my beliefs very personally, and it would have merited a far sterner response," Newark Mayor Cory Booker said.

[...]

"It is deeply offensive for me to do blanket surveillance for no reason other than religious affiliation," said Booker, who called on his state's attorney general to investigate. [AP, 2/22/12, via MSNBC.com]

NJ Gov. Chris Christie: NYPD Surveillance Of Newark Muslims Is "Disturbing." From a February 22 AP article:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was the top federal prosecutor in the state in 2007, said he didn't remember the NYPD ever approaching him about surveillance in the city or a threat that would justify it. He called the Newark report "disturbing."

"The NYPD has at times developed a reputation of asking forgiveness rather than permission," he said. [AP, 2/22/12, via MSNBC.com]

Christie further stated in the Newark The Star-Ledger: "I don't know if this NYPD action was born out of arrogance, or out of paranoia, or out of both ... but we're taking a real good, strong hard look at it from a policy perspective at the governor's office level." [The Star-Ledger, 2/29/12]

Civil Rights Groups Have Also Condemned The Program As "Insane And Ludicrous"

Star-Ledger: Three Dozen Groups File Complaint Over NYPD Muslim Surveillance. From The Star-Ledger:

Three dozen groups -- including civil rights, religious, student and civic organizations -- filed a complaint today with the state Attorney General's Office seeking an examination of the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims in 2007 and 2009 in Newark and New Brunswick.

"The seriousness of this problem cannot be overstated, and we urgently request that you conduct a prompt investigation into this matter," according to the complaint sent to Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, who is overseeing a review of the incidents. [The Star-Ledger, 3/6/12]

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director: "The Fact That The NYPD Is Spying On American Citizens, Who Happen To Be Muslim, Is Insane And Ludicrous." From the CAIR-Chicago website:

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab is asking Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Garry McCarthy, to speak out on a secret operation to spy on Muslims in New York and New Jersey. The spying on Muslims was carried out by NYPD in 2007 while McCarthy was the Director of NYPD.

Rehab spoke to ABC regarding the secret operation, in which the NYPD's Demographics Unit took photographs of mosques and eavesdropped in Muslims businesses throughout the New York and New Jersey area.

"The fact that the NYPD is spying on American citizens, who happen to be Muslim, is insane and ludicrous. It's illegal and unconstitutional," said Rehab. "Anyone aware of such an egregious violation of our Constitution and the very spirit upon which it stands ought to report it." [CAIRChicago.org, 2/23/12]

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