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Bloomberg stands by spying on Muslims

Published time: February 22, 2012 18:59
Edited time: February 22, 2012 22:59
Michael Bloomberg (Reuters / Mary Altaffer / Pool)

Michael Bloomberg (Reuters / Mary Altaffer / Pool)

Next time you’re searching for solace as you settle in for a good night’s sleep, discount any fears and phobias you may have and instead find warmth in the reassuring certainty that, no matter where you are in America, the NYPD is watching over.

Responding to the recent discovery that the New York Police Department dispatched officers across the northeast United States to conduct surveillance on Muslim-Americans, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is defending allegations of profiling. While Muslim advocacy groups across the US are crying foul at the NYPD’s practice of not just racially and religiously profiling — but doing so well out of their jurisdiction — Mayor Bloomberg explains that the rest of the world should be thankful for the department’s (very) long arm of the law.

Never mind the boundaries between New York City and the rest of the world, Mayor Bloomberg now says that it is the NYPD’s duty to "keep this country safe,” no matter where it takes them. This statement comes in the aftermath of an investigation revealed by the AP last week that linked the NYPD to conducting surveillance of Muslim students and faculties at over a dozen colleges across the northeast United States, including the University at Buffalo, the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League institute Yale.

Previously the AP had unearthed documentation that linked a top-secret “Demographics Unit” within the NYPD to conducting clandestine surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York City region. Files obtained by the AP showed that a CIA operative oversaw the unit, which dispatched undercover officers to Muslim-majority neighborhoods throughout the area, even sending some patrolmen abroad to investigate leads. In these instances, it is believed that the NYPD regularly acted not on news tips, but instead as a preemptive measure to make sure Islamic terrorists did not use masques, community centers or even local delicatessens as sleeper cells to recruit radicals and train would-be criminals. The latest findings reveal that the NYPD spied on students and staff members of American universities after linking them to Muslim academic groups.

As Muslim-Americans come out to oppose the latest revelations, Bloomberg defends the practice. According to remarks made Tuesday at the Brooklyn Public Library by Bloomberg, the NYPD knows no bounds when it comes to racial and religious profiling.

"The police department goes where there are allegations, and they look to see whether those allegations are true” Bloomberg explains. “That's what you'd expect them to do. That's what you'd want them to do. Remind yourself when you turn out the light tonight."

For those that are now making do with whether or not they were the subjects of NYPD surveillance, they seem to think otherwise. Several of the universities and colleges linked to the latest development have publically condemned allegations of surveillance, but despite this the NYPD and Bloomberg himself insist they were in the right.

“Some of the most dangerous Western al Qaeda-linked/inspired terrorists since 9/11 were radicalized and/or recruited at universities in MSAs,” or Muslim Student Associations, NYPD spokesman Paul Brown tells the New York Times.

After news broke out this week, the MSA of the University at Buffalo postponed a planned get-together after its members expressed fear that, even 400 miles from Manhattan, the NYPD would be monitoring them.

“The NYPD thinks every Muslim is a terrorist," the treasurer for the UB Muslim Student Association told the school’s Spectrum newspaper. "The MSA has a big event today [Sunday], and nobody is showing up because people don't know if the FBI is there or not.”

Richard C. Levin, the president of Yale University, publically came out over the weekend to ridicule the NYPD’s profiling practice. “I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality or peacefully expressed political opinion is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community and the United States,” Levin wrote to community members.

“The Yale Muslim Students Association has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear and bigotry,” added the president.

Bloomberg responded by saying that the City has an “obligation . . . to protect the very things that let Yale survive.”

Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby also publically put down the allegations, equating the surveillance in question as something that could “chill our essential values of academic freedom.”

When the Associated Press began its investigation into profiling within the NYPD last year, Bloomberg defended it at the time responding, "As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before.”

“We live in a dangerous world, and we have to be very proactive in making sure that we prevent terrorism," added Bloomberg.

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