Thursday, February 23, 2012

Newark Mayor Cory Booker in disbelief over NYPD spying on Muslims in his city: ‘We’re going to get to the bottom of this’

Database details where Muslims work, shop and pray; cites no evidence of terrorism

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Mohammed and Nagiba el-Sioufi are seen in their office as they are interviewed by the Associated Press about the New York Police Department's surveillance of the Muslim community in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. Mohammed is an accountant and vice president of the Islamic Culture Center, a mosque in Newark. Americans in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The operation in Newark was so secretive, even the city’s mayor says he was kept in the dark. For months in mid-2007, plainclothes NYPD officers snapped pictures of mosques and eavesdropped in Muslim neighborhoods. The result was a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press. It cited no evidence of crimes. It was just a guide to Newark’s Muslims.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Charles Dharapak/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mohammed and Nagiba el-Sioufi, who viewed the NYPD report, said the people who were spied on are innocent.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he never knew the NYPD was conduction a widespread spying operation on the the city’s Muslims.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, right, speaks while sitting next to Newark Mayor Cory Booker during a panel discussion on recruiting teachers, Wednesday, April 20, 2011 in Newark, N.J. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is in Newark publicizing a program aimed at recruiting more teachers to work in urban and rural areas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Julio Cortez/AP

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he never knew the NYPD was conduction a widespread spying operation on the the city’s Muslims.

NEWARK, N.J. -- Americans living and working in New Jersey's largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department's effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The operation in Newark was so secretive even the city's mayor says he was kept in the dark.

For months in mid-2007, plainclothes officers from the NYPD's Demographics Units fanned out across Newark, taking pictures and eavesdropping on conversations inside businesses owned or frequented by Muslims.

The result was a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, containing brief summaries of businesses and their clientele. Police also photographed and mapped 16 mosques, listing them as "Islamic Religious Institutions."

The report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark's Muslims.

According to the report, the operation was carried out in collaboration with the Newark Police Department. But the Newark police director at the time said no local officers participated. And Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, said he never authorized the spying and was never told about it.

"Wow," he said as the AP laid out the details of the report. "This raises a number of concerns. It's just very, very sobering."

Police conducted similar operations outside their jurisdiction in New York's Suffolk and Nassau counties on suburban Long Island, according to police records.

Such surveillance has become commonplace in New York City in the decade since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police have built databases showing where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, even what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports. Dozens of mosques and student groups have been infiltrated and police have built detailed profiles of ethnic communities, from Moroccans to Egyptians to Albanians.

The documents obtained by the AP show, for the first time in any detail, how those efforts stretched outside the NYPD's jurisdiction. New Jersey and Long Island residents had no reason to suspect the NYPD was watching them. And since the NYPD isn't accountable to their votes or tax dollars, those non-New Yorkers had little recourse to stop it.

"All of these are innocent people," Nagiba el-Sioufi of Newark said while her husband, Mohammed, flipped through the NYPD report, looking at photos of mosques and storefronts frequented by their friends.

Egyptian immigrants and American citizens, the couple raised two daughters in the United States. Mohammed works as an accountant and is vice president of the Islamic Culture Center, a mosque a few blocks from Newark City Hall.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/newark-mayor-cory-booker-disbelief-nypd-spying-muslims-city-bottom-article-1.1026939#ixzz1nCn7jlOg
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