Records detail mosque spying; NY police defend it

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday the secret operation monitoring Muslims was "legal," "appropriate" and "constitutional."

New York: The New York Police Department
targeted Muslim mosques with tactics normally reserved for
criminal organisations, according to newly obtained police
documents that showed police collecting the license plates of
worshippers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and
cataloging sermons through a network of informants.

The documents, obtained by a news agency, have
come to light as the NYPD fends off criticism of its
monitoring of Muslim student groups and its cataloging of
mosques and Muslim businesses in nearby Newark, New Jersey.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday the secret
operation monitoring Muslims was "legal," "appropriate" and
"constitutional." He declined to discuss details of the
monitoring programs but said they were necessary to protect a
city with a history of homegrown terror plots, including the
1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

"We`re not going to make the mistakes we made after the
1993 bombing," Bloomberg said. "We cannot let our guard down
again. We cannot slack in our vigilance. The threat was real.
The threat is real. The threat is not going away."

The NYPD`s spokesman, Paul Browne, told reporters
yesterday that its officers may go wherever the public goes
and collect intelligence, even outside city limits.

The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner
Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD`s roster of paid informants
monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The
records offer the first glimpse of what those informants,
known informally as "mosque crawlers," gleaned from inside the
houses of worship.

For instance, when a Danish newspaper published
inflammatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September 2005,
Muslim communities around the world erupted in outrage.
Violent mobs took to the streets in the Middle East. A
Somali man even broke into the cartoonist`s house in Denmark
with an ax.

In New York, thousands of miles away, it was a different
story. Muslim leaders preached peace and urged people to
protest lawfully. Write letters to politicians, they said.
Some advocated boycotting Danish products, burning flags and
holding rallies.