A series of articles by The Associated Press has exposed constitutionally suspect surveillance of Muslims in New York, New Jersey, Long Island and beyond. Unearthed police records noticeably lack any apparent link to suspected criminal activity, or any obvious payoff for public safety.
In particular, the A.P. reports revealed widespread police spying and the creation of police records containing information on Muslim people, mosques and campus groups, as well as luncheonettes, dollar stores and other legitimate businesses owned and frequented by Muslims, with no apparent reason to think anything wrong was going on….
It is a distressing fact of life that mistreatment of Muslims does not draw nearly the protest that it should. But not just Muslims are threatened by this seemingly excessive warrantless surveillance and record-keeping. Today Muslims are the target. In the past it was protesters against the Vietnam War, civil rights activists, socialists. Tomorrow it will be another vulnerable group whose lawful behavior is blended into criminal activity.
Mr. Bloomberg has reacted in the worst possible way – with disdain – to those raising legitimate questions about the surveillance program. Asking about its legality, and about whether alienating innocent Muslims is a smart or decent strategy, does not translate into being soft on terrorism, or failing to appreciate that it is a dangerous world….
We welcome last week’s statement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department is beginning to review complaints about the N.Y.P.D.’s surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities to determine whether a full civil rights investigation is warranted. The review’s prompt completion should be a priority.
Meantime, we are wondering what happened to the Michael Bloomberg who stood up for fairness and religious freedom by backing a proposed Muslim community center near ground zero. We hope that mayor re-emerges soon to restore trust.
Editorial in New York Times, 4 February 2012
See also Michael Calderone, “New York Times weighs in on Muslim surveillance program by NYPD, calls out Mayor Bloomberg”, Huffington Post, 4 March 2012