(Christopher Robbins) In 2011 Mayor Bloomberg assured us that the NYPD was not crudely designating all Muslims as potential terrorists. “We don’t stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there," he said. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has made similar comments. All are untrue. A new book by two Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporters shows that the NYPD treated mosques as potential criminal organizations, spying on them with no other specific justification other than the faith itself.
According to the two reporters, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, the FBI hasn't opened up a single investigation on a mosque as a terrorist enterprise. Meanwhile, the NYPD was spying on at least a dozen as early as 2003, recording sermons, taking down names, descriptions, and phone numbers.
As Apuzzo and Goldman explain in their book, the FBI technically has the power to surveil mosques, but chooses not to. "We don't target mosques," a supervisory FBI agent is quoted as saying. "Mosques don't conspire. Mosques don't blow things up."
But even if the FBI wanted to indiscriminately spy on mosques, the department is answerable to Congress and their own Inspector General, both of whom are sensitive to First Amendment breaches. Not so, for the NYPD.
In 2003 the NYPD's Intelligence Division's chief David Cohen, a former CIA executive, asked a federal judge to relax the guidelines for NYPD surveillance. Cohen explained that the NYPD would conduct "Terrorism Enterprise Investigations [TEI]" when "facts or circumstances reasonably indicate" that groups of people were plotting an act of terror or a violent crime.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/TIMOTHY CLARY