For the Arabic-Muslim community in New York City and surrounding boroughs the question, “Where is a cop when you need one?” is a loaded one. Thanks to the activities of the Demographic Unit of the NYPD, the cops were everywhere in the Arabic-Muslim community.
NYPD cops, used to catching drug lords and dangerous gang leaders, were now sitting in cafes, and enjoying lavish meals at Kabul Kabob in Flushing, Queens, spying on the Muslim community at the City’s expense.
The NYPD has launched at least twelve “Terrorist Enterprise Investigations,” or “TEIs,” designating mosques as “terrorist organizations.” Sermons were recorded, conversations noted, files opened on all sorts of innocent people. In a recent interview, Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York stated:
…[T]hat [during these terrorist investigations]…if my organization had this terrorist enterprise investigation, that means every client, every staff member, every family member, every vendor that we work with, is a subject to this investigation by the New York Police Department. [Emphasis added.]
The Demographics Unit (DU) was developed in the aftermath of 9/11. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly recruited David Cohen and Lawrence Sanchez, former members of the Central Intelligence Agency (an organization prohibited from working within the United States), to create the Demographic Unit within the Department in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the NYPD fight against terrorism. Commissioner Kelly (who has held the post twice, once under Mayor Dinkins after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993) wanted to mitigate the federal “interference” of NYPD efforts in capturing future terrorists. Unfortunately, as AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman indicate, this program was based on “… Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.”
A recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (Raza v. New York City, et al., (13 Civ. 3448 (PKCXJMA))) that questions the constitutionality of the NYPD’s program of surveillance of the Arabic-Muslim community has brought further scrutiny of the Department’s apparent disregard for civil liberties, especially to “people of color” and “ancestries of interest.”
For those of us who revile such intrusions of the State on personal liberty, this is a “slam dunk.” However, the story within the story has my attention. Commissioner Kelly formed the DU because of interference from the feds. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that had there been less Federal interference in the first place, perhaps Commissioner Kelly would not have been compelled to take the measures that he did, or that it increased the likelihood of the NYPD’s abuse of power?
Perhaps the oversight committee that will eventually be formed to investigate the NYPD’s activities should pay attention to the fact that inefficiencies and duplications of effort of competing law enforcement agencies increase the likelihood of blatant disregard for the civil liberties and privacy of everyone.
Of course that scenario is as unlikely as pigs flying with a unicorn, chased by a multicolored cat, but a girl can dream, right?