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Secret NYPD unit spying on Muslims proves useless

Published time: August 21, 2012 13:30
Edited time: August 21, 2012 21:41
NYPD officers (AFP Photo / Mario Tama)

NYPD officers (AFP Photo / Mario Tama)

Six years of covertly spying and eavesdropping on Muslim neighborhoods by a secret New York Police Department unit yielded no results and led to no cases, stated an NYPD official in a court testimony unsealed Monday.

­The information was revealed through a June deposition attained by AP, in which Assistant Chief Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, offered his testimony in regards to NYPD’s Demographic Unit.

It confirmed that none of the conversations the officers listened in on had ever led to a case or even an investigation.

“Related to Demographics” none of the incoming data had “commenced an investigation,” Galati testified. “I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I'm here since 2006,” he said. “I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that's always a possibility. I am not aware of any.”

He further went on to describe that police continued to gather information on people even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing or any other kind of terrorist activity, which raised big concerns with civil rights lawyers.

Galati’s deposition was carried out as part of the longstanding federal civil rights case, dubbed the Handschu case, which began in 1971 over NYPD spying tactics during the 1950s and 1960s. The case resulted in the implementation of federal guidelines, which prohibit the NYPD from collecting information and political speeches unless related to terrorist activity.

Civil rights lawyers now strongly believe that those federal guidelines are not being followed by the Demographics Unit, which is why Galati was asked to testify in the first place.

The secret unit in question was created with CIA assistance and compiled databases on where New York’s Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. It also catalogued mosques and monitored sermons. The goal of the unit was to serve as a pre-emptive warning system for terrorism.

For instance, if the police got a tip about terrorist activity, the unit could help identify where the terrorist could rent a room, go shopping, pray and socialize.

Just a year ago, AP revealed the existence of the unit, and the fact that it was made up of 16 officers and led by a veteran CIA officer who remained on the Central Intelligence Agency’s payroll.

Thomas Galati was questioned by attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who filed the Handschu case more than 40 years ago. Eisenstein said he wants to take this deposition further and ask the court to shut the whole unit down. It now operates under a new name, the Zone Assessment Unit.

“It seems horrible to me that the NYPD is treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists," Eisenstein said.

"This is a flat-out violation … this is a smoking gun," he added.

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