“It’s un-American. It’s unconscionable,” New York City comptroller John Liu said about the Associated Press report, published on Aug. 27, detailing the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim organizations. The report found that the NYPD had been designating entire mosques as terrorist organizations, leaving attendees of the mosque subject to investigation and further surveillance.
These recent revelations are sadly on par for the course in the post-9/11 wave of Islamophobic hysteria.
The surveillance of Muslim organizations was carried out using a sophisticated network of thousands of cameras, license-plate readers and radiation detectors. Dubbed the Domain Awareness System, this network helped collect information on countless innocent Muslims throughout New York City. The NYPD has also been using undercover officers and informants to infiltrate New York City mosques.
“We’re going to determine if this technology, which allows the police to watch almost every New Yorker’s move, is safeguarded from abuse or misuse by those entrusted to control it,” Liu said.
In addition, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “Terrorism Enterprise Investigations” into New York City mosques since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
What this means for the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in New York City is that the NYPD has excessive power and influence over them that has no obvious justification. Maybe 12 years isn’t enough time for “New York’s Finest” to learn to distinguish between radical terrorists and religiously-free Americans, but one hopes there must be someone in the NYPD who can recognize the difference between the two.
It could be argued that the Domain Awareness System only compiles public information. New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly said that the NYPD only follows leads in its investigations. Certainly we should want intelligent and informed security. But it is not the technology of the Domain Awareness System that is at fault, but rather its application and the power that comes with it.
Is this a matter of the NYPD, outnumbered and underprepared to police this massive city, falling back on this revolutionary technology to better arm them to fight the good fight? This seems unlikely. As it stands, the NYPD has over 34,000 officers, not to mention a history of scandal. Rather, this is a clear case of institutionalized profiling that goes to the very top of the command chain.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “We just cannot let our guard down again,” affirming his support for the surveillance program. While it may be a noble undertaking to want to safeguard against another terrorist attack, it is important to not allow the sacrifice of civil liberties for what only amounts to the illusion of safety.
New York City’s Muslim population does not deserve this. New Yorkers in general do not deserve it, let alone any Americans. So, objectively, we have to ask why New York City’s mosques are being targeted. And it’s not like we can’t guess. As of now, the NYPD is causing about 700,000 New York City Muslims to live in fear for practicing their religion – something that is supposedly protected by the U.S. Constitution.u