New York Muslim leaders say the police surveillance activities – including video cameras and staffing mosques with informants – are having a chilling effect on mosques, but police say they’re only trying to keep things cool on terrorism.
Muslim groups filed a third civil suit against the New York Police Department on Tuesday, asking a federal court to order the NYPD to stop a program it calls invasive and intrusive.
The NYPD calls it necessary to save lives, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
“Cities cannot play catch-up in gathering intelligence about a terrorist threat,” New York attorney Celeste Koeleveld, a city attorney said in a statement to Times. “Our results speak for themselves, with New York being the safest big city in America and the police having helped thwart several terrorist plots in recent years.”
The first two lawsuits were filed after a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories by the Associated Press appeared in 2011 and 2012 that detailed how New York police investigated Muslim communities throughout the Northeast, often well outside the NYPD’s jurisdiction.
The latest suit claims the police program goes too far in other ways, too. It interferes with freedom of religion, the groups say, because some Muslims are afraid to listen to certain sermons for fear they will be construed as advocating terrorism.
Others say their freedom of speech is impinged because they are afraid to discuss developments such as the war in Syria because they are afraid they will be suspected of terrorism.
The lawsuit also claims the NYPD plants informers to stir talk of terrorism, then report it to police.
“One such technique is known as ‘create and capture,’ by which an informant ‘creates’ a conversation with a Muslim New Yorker about jihad or terrorism and then ‘captures’ and reports that individual’s response to the NYPD,” the lawsuit states.
An old-fashioned agent provocateur seems kind of quaint in these days of all-encompassing electronic surveillance, but you have to wonder what kind of conversation “about jihad or terrorism” is coming up with your average “Muslim New Yorker.”
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