Newark: 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, 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
behaviour. It was a guide to Newark's Muslims.
According to the report, the operation was carried out in
collaboration with the Newark Police Department, which at the
time was run by a former high-ranking NYPD official. But
Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, said he never authorised 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,
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
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.
First Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012, 00:44