The American Islamist groups are back on the offensive against the NYPD after misleading headlines suggested that it had spied randomly on mosques by branding them terrorist organizations. Again, the NYPD is falsely depicted as a rogue agency hell-bent on trampling all over the civil rights of innocent Muslims.
The latest controversy began after a book was published revealing that the New York Police Department had labeled some mosques and Islamic groups as “terrorism enterprises,” permitting intelligence-gathering on them through the use of undercover agents.
The hysteria leads one to believe that this is happening all over. The numbers tell a different history.
It is now known that the NYPD opened up at least 15 “terrorism enterprise investigations” since 2003, with 10 being mosques. According to a 2010 report by A Journey Through NYC Religions, there are 175 mosques in New York City. Another 2011 study recorded 192 mosques in the Greater New York City area. These totals do not even include every Islamic organization in the NYPD’s jurisdiction.
Let’s summarize what we know for a fact: Out of a minimum of 175 mosques, only 10 were subjected to a “terrorism enterprise investigation” over 10 years. The actual number may be higher but nonetheless, when the existing facts are put in the proper context, the NYPD doesn’t look like the villain that its adversaries make it sound like.
While it is true that a judge did not have to approve each investigation, a federal judge did approve the guidelines permitting them.
David Cohen, a former CIA executive that joined the NYPD after 9/11, told a federal judge in 2002 that mosques can be used “to shield the work of terrorists from law enforcement scrutiny by taking advantage of restrictions on the investigation of First Amendment activity.”
The problem the NYPD was running into were restrictions put in place in 1985 due to the “Handshu agreement” where the NYPD was sued for spying on Vietnam War protesters. The federal judge agreed that the restrictions needed to be modernized because of “fundamental changes in the threats to public security.”
The new guidelines permitted the NYPD to record speech protected by the First Amendment when “facts of circumstances reasonably indicate” that two or more individuals may be conspiring to support terrorism. The NYPD was not authorized to prosecute someone based on their free speech.
The results of the NYPD’s controversial programs are remarkable. As Police Commissioner Ray Kelly wrote on July 22, the NYPD is “guilty of saving 7,383 lives.” And as he explained, the NYPD never sent an informant or undercover officer into a mosque unless it was in response to a vetted lead. To argue otherwise is to argue that the NYPD desires to violate civil rights and waste its resources in doing so.
The media is quick to quote the “moderates” that were supposedly victimized by the NYPD. One of the first mosques to be subjected to a “terrorism enterprise investigation” is the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. The mosque has a history of extremist preaching. Reda Shata, its imam, was placed under surveillance for valid reasons. For one, he was a vocal supporter of the terrorist group Hamas.
Read more at The Clarion Project