The New York Police Department targeted Muslim mosques with tactics normally reserved for criminal organizations, reports the Associated Press, citing documents that showed police collecting the license plates of worshippers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras, and cataloging sermons through a network of informants. The police department is responding to criticism of its monitoring of Muslim student groups and its cataloging of mosques and Muslim businesses in Newark, N.J.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said officers may go wherever the public goes and collect intelligence, even outside city limits. The new documents offer a glimpse of what informants known informally as “mosque crawlers” gleaned from inside houses of worship. When one Muslim leader suggested planning a demonstration, one of those in the discussion about how to get a permit was, in fact, working for the police. “It seems horrible to me that the NYPD is treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists,” said civil rights lawyer Jethro Eisenstein, who is involved in a decades-old class-action lawsuit against the police department for spying on protesters and political dissidents. The lawsuit is known as the Handschu case, which includes court order governing how the NYPD may collect intelligence.