New York: The New York Police Department
collected intelligence on more than 250 mosques and Muslim
student groups in and around New York, often using undercover
officers and informants to canvas the Islamic population of
America`s largest city, according to officials and
confidential internal documents.
The documents, many marked "secret," highlight how the
past decade`s hunt for terrorists also put huge numbers of
innocent people under scrutiny as they went about their daily
lives in mosques, businesses and social groups.
An investigation last month revealed
that a secret squad known as the Demographics Unit sent teams
of undercover officers to help key tabs on the area`s Muslim
communities. The recent documents are the first to quantify
Since the 2001 attacks, the police department has built
one of the nation`s most aggressive domestic intelligence
agencies, one that operates far outside the city limits and
maintains a list of "ancestries of interest" that it uses to
focus its clandestine efforts.
That effort has benefited from federal money and an
unusually close relationship with the CIA, one that at times
blurred the lines between domestic and foreign
After identifying more than 250 area mosques, police
officials determined the "ethnic orientation, leadership and
group affiliations," according to the 2006 police documents.
Police also used informants and teams of plainclothes
officers, known as rakers, to identify mosques requiring
further scrutiny, according to an official involved in that
effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorised to discuss the programme.
Armed with that information, police then identified 53
"mosques of concern" and placed undercover officers and
informants there, the documents show.
Many of those mosques were flagged for allegations of
criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, financing the
militant Palestinian group Hamas or money laundering.
Others were identified for having ties to Salafism, a
hardline movement preaching a strict version of Islamic law.
Still others were identified for what the documents refer to
as "rhetoric." Other reasons are less clear.
Two mosques, for instance, were flagged for having ties
to Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old Egyptian mosque that is the
pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim
world. Al-Azhar was one of the first religious institutions to
condemn the 2001 terrorist attacks.