Why Right-Wing Media's Call For Muslim Profiling And Surveillance Is Completely Wrong

Right-wing media have responded to the Paris terror attacks by calling for increased scrutiny and surveillance of Muslims in the United States. However, surveillance programs that profile Muslims based on their religion are ineffective and threaten constitutional freedoms held by all Americans.

After Paris Terror Attacks, Right-Wing Media Advocate Discrimination And Surveillance Of Muslims

Fox Contributor Bo Dietl On Mosque Surveillance: “Let's Stop Worrying About People's Rights.” On the November 16 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Bo Dietl said “let's stop worrying about people's rights” in the Muslim community and advocated instead for “eavesdropping on these radical mosques” in light of the Paris terror attacks:

BO DIETL: When you see what we saw Friday night -- I was on Charles' show and Charles said Bo what would you do? You know I said right away, you've got to go in right away and save whatever hostages you can because they are -- one thing, there's no negotiating -- they're willing to die. We're dealing with crazy people that want to die. You've got to take head shots and take them out.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Our FBI, our national intelligence, they're all warning us, why our president won't listen -- they will infiltrate that community, and they'll come to -- well, they're here already.


HANNITY: They want to kill us.

DIETL: We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical Mosques. We've got to do it again. And let's stop worrying about people's rights. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/16/15]

Fox Guest: “Mosque Surveillance [Programs] ... Are Key” To Uncovering “What's Going On” In The Muslim Community. On the November 14 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox guest and former US Naval Intelligence Officer Frank Wuco said that “mosque surveillance” is key to "[finding] out what's going on behind the walls" of “mosques and Islamic reading centers.” Wuco proclaimed that “we have no choice” but to continue with 'active surveillance" of members of the Muslim community:

JON SCOTT (HOST): Back to the news. Just breaking. The State Department now confirms Americans are among the victims in the Paris terror attacks. We still do not know if they are injured or actually dead. ISIS claims the attacks were revenge for French airstrikes in Syria. Does that mean the U.S. could face the same kind of attack? Frank Wuco is the founder of Analytical Red Teams at Special Operations Command Central and US Central Command. Frank you wore the uniform of the U.S. Navy for 23 years, intelligence analyst. These are an enemy who do not wear uniforms. How do we take them on?

FRANK WUCO: Well, John it's up to the vigilance of law enforcement agencies and everyday American citizens. Many of the attacks that have been thwarted in this country, whether a couple in the air, several on the ground, have been thwarted by American citizens who are vigilant and aware of their surroundings. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a vigilant public. And also our law enforcement agencies, keeping on -- and they've been doing this -- but keeping on the stayed and true skills of human intelligence, active surveillance. It makes my blood run cold when I think about Mayor de Blasio's sort of cancellation or nullification of the mosque surveillance program in and around New York City. I can only hope that some of these programs continue with other agencies.


WUCO: Well absolutely Tucker, and this is what I'm driving at when I talk about this outrageous act, one of his first acts in public office of Mayor de Blasio, cancelling the mosque surveillance program. These programs are key. Unfortunately when you have a group, a militant group that hides itself under the mask of religion, we have no choice but to go to some of their gathering centers such as mosques and Islamic reading centers and find out what's going on behind the walls. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 11/14/15]

National Review Claims Recent Paris Attacks “Counsel More Scrutiny and Surveillance Of Muslim Immigrant Communities.” In a November 17 article, National Review's Kevin Williamson argued that intelligence reported about the Paris attackers should “counsel more scrutiny and surveillance of Muslim immigrant communities”:

There are reasons to believe that U.S. protocols for screening refugees and immigrants for terrorist ties are not especially good, and that our surveillance of immigrants and refugees after their entry into the United States is insufficient. It may very well be the case that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan ancestry believed to have been a principal organizer of the Paris attacks, was radicalized in Belgium. But that fact would counsel more scrutiny and surveillance of Muslim immigrant communities, not a more liberal and generous policy toward Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees. There also is reason to believe that our current national political culture and institutions have made it difficult to assimilate immigrants satisfactorily, especially when they arrive in large enough numbers to form self-sustaining enclaves. For that reason, other points of comparison such as the large waves of Irish immigrants that worried Americans of another era also are not very apt: Pubs and mosques perform very different social functions, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians isn't very much like the Muslim Brotherhood. We need to think in terms of specifics rather than generalities. [National Review Online, 11/17/15]

Fox Guest Mercedes Schlapp: “It's Not The Christians That Are Blowing Up Concert Halls And Cafes In Paris.Fox guest Mercedes Schlapp with comments made by GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush that the U.S. should profile Muslims on the November 16 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. Schlapp claimed “at this point we need to do what is in the best interest of the security of our nation, and if that means that we need to ensure that we screen the Muslims that are coming into this country, that has to be put on the table”:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (HOST): So, Mercedes, are we going to actually start doing that now?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP: You know, I know that's not politically correct, but at this point we need to do what is in the best interest of the security of our nation, and if that means that we need to ensure that we screen the Muslims that are coming into this country, that has to be put on the table. And I don't think that we can just ignore that fact. It's not the Christians that are blowing up concert halls and cafes in Paris. There is Islamic radical jihadists who are causing this destruction. They have twisted the religion of Islam. And I can assure you that here are Muslims that agree with me.

CARLSON: Eboni, do you agree with that?

EBONI WILLIAMS: I was going to say I actually agree with Mercedes on this. Because it's not politically incorrect to do criminal profiling, racial profiling yes, religious profiling, sure it's inappropriate. But criminal profiling? I was a criminal defense lawyer. That is a very effective, useful and powerful tool when we are trying to get to the root of criminal activities. And it's not just religion or just race. It's those things but also behaviors, patterns. Several things we should be looking at. And I agree with Mercedes. Every weapon in our arsenal needs to be used and at our full disposal at this point. Absolutely. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, 11/16/15]

But Muslim Surveillance Programs Have Been Completely Ineffective

NY Times: “After Years Of Collecting Information ...The Police Acknowledged That It Never Generated A Lead” Under New York's Surveillance Program. An April 2014 New York Times report on the shuttering of the NYPD's surveillance program admitted that after years of collecting information on Muslims in the city, “the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead”:

The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.


To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.


After years of collecting information, however, the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead. Since The Associated Press published documents describing the program in 2011, Muslims and civil rights groups have called for its closing. [The New York Times, 4/15/14]

Al Jazeera America: “There Is Little Evidence That Watching Muslims Has Helped Fight Terrorism.” An October 2013 Al Jazeera America article pointed out that not only are surveillance programs ineffective, they might actually make Americans less safe:

But for all the NYPD's strenuous efforts, there is little evidence that watching Muslims has helped fight terrorism. The head of the Demographics Unit conceded that not a single lead was generated on his watch. Sure, the NYPD has made a few arrests stemming from sting operations (which the FBI passed on because of doubts about the reliability of police informants). But it missed the two biggest threats to New York City in recent years: Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested in 2009 for plotting to blow up the subway and whose mosque the NYPD had infiltrated, and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. Moreover, as a group of Muslim leaders told Bloomberg, these police tactics “deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.” By alienating Muslims who are often the best sources of information for fighting terrorism, the NYPD may well be making us all less safe. [Al Jazeera America, 10/30/15]

And Are A Danger To The Principles Of Freedom Held By All Americans

ACLU: “Suspicionless,” “Discriminatory,” and “Unlawful” Surveillance Has Negative Consequences For Muslims. The ACLU's fact sheet on the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program explains that “discriminatory surveillance” of mosques and Muslim communities leads to stigma, interference with religious worship, fear, free speech violation, and damaged relationships with enforcement":

  • Stigma: Through its religious profiling and surveillance, the NYPD has imposed an unwarranted badge of suspicion and stigma on law-abiding Muslim New Yorkers.
  • Interference with Religious Practice: The NYPD's suspicionless surveillance has forced religious leaders to censor what they say to their congregants, for fear anything they say could be taken out of context by police officers or informants. Some religious leaders feel they must regularly record their sermons to defend themselves against potential NYPD mischaracterizations. Disruptions resulting from unlawful NYPD surveillance have also diverted time and resources away from religious education and counseling. Muslims have reported feeling pressure to avoid appearing overtly religious, for example, by changing their dress or the length of their beards.
  • Community Fear: The NYPD's discriminatory surveillance has produced an atmosphere of fear and mistrust within mosques and the Muslim community at large. At mosques, congregants often regard newcomers with anxiety, unsure if they are sent to spy by the NYPD. As a result, these houses of worship cannot serve as the places of spiritual refuge and comfort that they are intended to be.
  • Chilling Free Speech: The NYPD's discriminatory surveillance has chilled religious speech and political activism--from engagement in public debates and protests, to friendly coffee-house banter.
  • Damaging Law Enforcement Relationships: The NYPD's unlawful profiling of Muslims has damaged its relationship with American Muslims, breaching communities' trust in a police department that is tasked with protecting them. [ACLU, accessed November 2015]

United Nations Report: Profiling Based On Race, Ethnicity, Or Religion “May Constitute Disproportionate Interferences With Human Rights.” A January 2007 report from United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights noted that targeted surveillance programs are likely “incompatible with the principle of non-discrimination” and “may constitute disproportionate interferences with human rights”:

Terrorist-profiling practices raise concerns with regard to a number of human rights guarantees. In the view of the Special Rapporteur, data-mining initiatives based on broad terrorist profiles that include group characteristics such as religion and national origin may constitute a disproportionate and thus arbitrary interference with the right to privacy, guaranteed by article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It is on this ground that the German Constitutional Court ruled that the Rasterfahndung initiative, described above, violates the constitutional right to privacy. The Court held that the preventive use of this profiling method would only be compatible with the proportionality requirement if it were shown that there was a “concrete danger” to national security or human life, rather than a general threat situation as it existed since 11 September 2001.


However, when law-enforcement agents use broad profiles that reflect unexamined generalizations, their practices may constitute disproportionate interferences with human rights. In particular, profiling based on stereotypical assumptions that persons of a certain “race”, national or ethnic origin or religion are particularly likely to commit crime may lead to practices that are incompatible with the principle of non-discrimination. It is therefore of grave concern to the Special Rapporteur that, since 11 September 2001, law-enforcement authorities of different States have adopted counter-terrorism practices that are based on terrorist profiles that include characteristics such as a person's presumed “race”, ethnicity, national origin or religion. [United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur, 1/29/07]

CUNY School Of Law Report: Muslim Surveillance “Has Chilled Constitutionally Protected Rights.” An extensive report released through City University of New York by The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project, and The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) found that Muslim surveillance programs have suppressed religion, stifled speech and association, sowed suspicion of Muslims, “created a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion” that “has severed the trust that should exist between the police department and the communities it is charged with protecting”:

Since 2001, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has established a secret surveillance program that has mapped, monitored and analyzed American Muslim daily life throughout New York City, and even its surrounding states. In 2011, the unveiling of this program by the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists who had obtained leaked internal NYPD documents led to an outcry from public officials, civil rights activists, American Muslim religious leaders, and members of the public. Protesters and advocates held that such racial and religious profiling was not only an example of ineffective policing and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars, but it also marginalized and criminalized a broad segment of American Muslims. Almost a year later, in August 2012, the Chief of the NYPD Intelligence Division, Lt. Paul Galati admitted during sworn testimony that in the six years of his tenure, the unit tasked with monitoring American Muslim life had not yielded a single criminal lead.

Proponents of the sprawling surveillance enterprise have argued that, regardless of its inefficacy, mere spying on a community is harmless because it is clandestine and that those who are targeted should have nothing to fear, if they have nothing to hide. Our findings, based on an unprecedented number of candid interviews with American Muslim community members, paint a radically different picture. We have found that surveillance of Muslims' quotidian activities has created a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion, encroaching upon every aspect of individual and community life. Surveillance has chilled constitutionally protected rights--curtailing religious practice, censoring speech and stunting political organizing. Every one of our interviewees noted that they were negatively affected by surveillance in some way - whether it was by reducing their political or religious expression, altering the way they exercised those rights (through clarifications, precautions, or avoiding certain interlocutors), or in experiencing social and familial pressures to reduce their activism. Additionally, surveillance has severed the trust that should exist between the police department and the communities it is charged with protecting. [CLEAR Project, AALDEF, and MACLC, Mapping Muslims, 3/11/13]