Undercover officers with the New York Police Department spied on Moroccans in the Big Apple and filed reports solely due to their ethnicity, reports the Associated Press today.
The Moroccan Initiative, as the NYPD has dubbed it, is a division of the highly controversial Demographics Unit that the AP exposed in reports released in the past weeks. Under the command of a CIA operative, a unit within the New York police force carried out clandestine surveillance and subjected local Muslims to ongoing watch in an effort to stop terror attacks before they occur, reports the AP.
The latest revelation unearthed by the AP suggested that officers within the NYPD’s Demographics Unit additionally launched an operation that targeted Moroccans in particular, regardless of any criminal history. Documents and interviews obtained by the Associated Press suggest, rather, that Moroccans became the subjects of surveillance based solely on their ethnicity.
According to the reports, undercover agents working within the unit shot photos and scribbled noted on the habitual, everyday activities of area Moroccans. Grocery stores, houses of worship, apartment complexes and delicatessens were identified where Moroccans either operated or attended, and from there the locales were chronicled in a massive database made available within the Police Department.
"A lot of these locations were innocent," one official involved in the effort told the AP under condition of anonymity. "They just happened to be in the community."
Other officials interviewed by the AP stated that the 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco and a 2004 bombing in Madrid, Spain could have been the cause for the NYPD to begin the Moroccan Initiative.
While the NYPD originally denied allegations of the existence of the Demographics Unit, they have since changed their story as the AP’s investigation unearths more and more evidence. The latest word out of the Big Apple’s boys in blue is that the unit did in fact exist, though it is was a small operation and is now defunct.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, has stood by spying, saying that New York will go to all costs to keep the city safe. “We live in a dangerous world, and we have to be very proactive in making sure that we prevent terrorism," Mayor Bloomberg told reporters recently. He added that Muslims were in favor of increased police presence, saying, "I think most Muslims want police protection. They don't want their kids … falling off the … train and going down the wrong path.”
In the meantime, officials aligned with the Demographics Unit have confirmed that undercover officers blending into communities often went unnoticed by Muslims. Author Mordecai Dzikansky says he was aligned to the unit and that such operatives served as a “secret weapon.”
In the case of Moroccan Muslims profiled by the NYPD, it appears as though they were subjected to surveillance by undercover agents, but members of the NYPD would also carry out intensive interviews of Moroccan residents that were put under arrest. After facing charges by the NYPD, officers would question Moroccans on how they assimilated into American life, asking them about finding an apartment and religious centers.
The documents obtained by the AP contain notes from the Moroccan Initiate operatives in which they would detail religious paraphernalia in Moroccan households, regardless of if the resident was believed to be linked to any crime. New York City law prohibits the police from using religion — or race or ethnicity, for that matter, as "the determinative factor" for any law enforcement action, reports the AP.