Tag Archives: nypd

NYPD Under Fire for Surveillance of Occupy Protesters

Monday 12 March 2012
by: Colin Moynihan , The New York Times News Service | Report

On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.

All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Moyer-Sims, 20, said members of the Police Department’s intelligence division asked about her personal history, her relationship with other protesters, the nature of Occupy Wall Street and plans for upcoming protests.

“I felt like I had been arrested for a thought crime,” she said.

Mr. Pawar said that the police had charged his three clients, Ms. Moyer-Sims, Angela Richino and Matthew Vrvilo, with obstructing governmental administration, but that the Manhattan district attorney’s office had declined to prosecute them.

Now they are preparing to sue the city, Mr. Pawar said, adding that the arrests had violated their constitutional rights.

“Not only are the police disrupting people’s rights to free expression,” Mr. Pawar said. “They are taking pre-emptive steps by arresting people who might be just thinking about exercising their rights.”

Though Occupy Wall Street has largely faded from the headlines, organizers are planning springtime demonstrations in an effort to revitalize their movement. And they are troubled by what they consider continued monitoring by the police.

In 2003, citing the dangers of terrorism, a federal judge granted expanded surveillance powers to the New York police, who had previously faced restrictions in monitoring political groups. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others have said the new latitude is essential to keeping the city safe.

But the Police Department’s surveillance efforts have recently gained attention and criticism with reports that officers compiled detailed data on Muslim communities. Now, some Occupy protesters worry that they are being subjected to similar scrutiny.

For the last few months, protest organizers say, police officers or detectives have been posted outside buildings where private meetings were taking place, have visited the homes of organizers and have questioned protesters arrested on minor charges.

“The N.Y.P.D. surveillance does not appear to be limited to unlawful activity,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We count on the police, of course, to be on the lookout for terrorists and terrorism, but to think you could be on that continuum just by going to a peaceful protest is nuts.”

A police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.


Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

 

by Justin Elliott ProPublica

Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, including preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes being committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is under dispute. Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads – is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 prohibiting profiling by law enforcement based on religion.

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD – and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims – we spoke to Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU Law School.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.

So Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly say everything that the NYPD did was legal and constitutional. Other people have disagreed – Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for example, said the wholesale surveillance of a community without suspicion of a crime “clearly crosses a line.” What restrictions is the NYPD operating under?

They are operating under at least three sets of rules. The first and most basic set of rules is the consent decree from the Handschu case - the so-called Handschu guidelines. This was a 1970s-era political surveillance case that was settled through a consent decree. The NYPD had been conducting surveillance of a number of political groups in the 60s and 70s. The initial consent decree regulated the NYPD’s collection of intelligence about political activity. It first said the NYPD can only collect intelligence about political activity if it follows certain rules. For example, the NYPD had to get clearance from something called the Handschu authority, which was a three-member board that consisted of two high-level police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor.

Then, post-9/11 the NYPD went to court and asked a judge to review the consent decree because they wanted to have greater freedom in their counter-terrorism operations. What they wound up doing was adopting guidelines based on the FBI’s guidelines from 2003, issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These were different in several important ways. The first was that there was no pre-clearance, at all. There was no requirement that the NYPD get approval from the Handschu authority before they undertook any intel gathering about political activity. The second was that the guidelines explicitly say the NYPD can attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public. So if I can go to a church, the NYPD can go to a church. But it goes on to say that the NYPD can’t retain the information it gathers from going to such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

So if you look at, say, the NYPD’s guide to Newark’s Muslim community obtained and published by the AP – which maps out mosques and Muslim-owned businesses without mentioning and suspicions of crimes – aren’t the police retaining exactly this kind of information?

There are a couple of documents that suggest they may have violated Handschu. For example, the [2006 NYPD report] on the Danish cartoon controversy, which is a collection of statements in mosques and other places that have been taken down by undercover officers or confidential informants.

What are the other rules the NYPD operates under?

The second set is that the NYPD has a profiling order in place, and New York City also has a racial profiling law. They are slightly different. The NYPD order [issued in 2002] does not include religion among the categories that they define as profiling. But the New York City lawdoes. It prohibits police officers from relying on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin as a determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action. Normally you have quite a difficult time in racial profiling cases showing they’ve used one of these factors as the determinative factor. In this case, if you look at the documents, it seems quite clear that the NYPD had its eyes quite firmly on the Muslim community. So it’s possible it is also in violation of this law.

The third set of rules is, of course, the U.S. and the New York state constitutions. Within the Constitution you’re looking at least two broad categories of provisions – potential First Amendment claims for free speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion. The other piece of it would be potential equal protection claims.

There was another AP story this week reporting that a bunch of federal grant money and equipment used as part of surveillance and investigation of the Muslim community. Does that muddy the legal questions about whether they were following federal rules as well?

The federal program that was giving them money is the HIDTA program – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It’s geared toward providing funds to combat drug trafficking. HIDTA itself does allow for counter-terrorism spending to be an incidental purpose. It requires the HIDTA Executive Board to basically make sure that funds were being used for the purposes that they were supposed to be used for. So I think there’s a real issue about accountability and oversight of the use of HIDTA funds here.

So if the NYPD did potentially violate the Handschu guidelines and city law you mentioned, what are the penalties?

Well the Handschu lawyers already went to court last year and told the judge that the documents that had been released by the AP suggested that there had been violations of the Handschu decree. They asked for discovery so they could check the files of the NYPD to see whether they had violated the prohibition on keeping dossiers. I believe that that discovery will likely be starting soon. So there’s clearly a remedy through the Handschu mechanism. Because it’s a consent decree, it’s an ongoing thing. The judge has supervisory jurisdiction. There are also issues under the racial profiling law and under the First Amendment.

We’ve also turned to the question of oversight. The FBI, for all its faults, does have a fair amount of oversight – an inspector general internally and congressional oversight. We think a similar thing would be a great idea for the NYPD.


Bloomberg stands by spying on Muslims

Michael Bloomberg (Reuters / Mary Altaffer / Pool)

Michael Bloomberg (Reuters / Mary Altaffer / Pool)

TAGS: ReligionScandalLawUSAPolice

 

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.


New York Police Caught Monitoring Muslim Student Groups Throughout Northeast

by: Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW! | Video Report

The Associated Press has revealed the New York City Police Department monitored Muslim college students at schools throughout the Northeast, including Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. In one case, the NYPD sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed. We speak to one of the students on the trip, Jawad Rasul. He is the only student who was under surveillance to now publicly speak out about his experience. “[This is] hurting NYPD’s try and attempt at finding homegrown terrorism, because these kind of tactics actually create more hatred towards them and the other law-enforcement agencies and really destroys the trust that any youth might have developed with the government,” Rasul said. We’re also joined by Mongi Dhaouadi, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is calling for a state probe into the spying on Muslims.


The NYPD Commissioner Told Cops to Follow the Law — So Why Did Illegal, Racist Pot Arrests Continue to Increase?

February 2, 2012  |

Even after the Commissioner told cops to follow the books on pot charges, small time weed arrests continued, breaking records for the past decade. Low level marijuana arrests in New York City rose for the seventh straight year in 2011 to 50,680. The arrest total is the highest total on record since former pot smoker Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and it is the second highest total of pot arrests ever recorded in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 people arrested for marijuana violations).


NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly Urged to Resign After Police Conceal Role in Anti-Muslim Documentary

January 27, 2012 Democracy Now!

Jihad-button

Representatives from the New York City Muslim community, together with local ethnic and interfaith groups, gathered at City Hall Thursday calling for the resignation of New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly and police spokesperson Paul Browne after it was revealed an anti-Muslim film, “The Third Jihad,” was screened to nearly 1,500 officers during training. After initial denials, the NYPD admitted the officers were shown the film in training and that Kelly gave the filmmakers a 90-minute interview. Kelly has now apologized. The controversy comes at a time when relations between the police and the Muslim community are already strained due to recent revelations that the police department has operated a secret surveillance program targeting Muslim neighborhoods. We speak with Arab-American activist Linda Sarsour, who was honored last month at the White House as a “Champion of Change.”