A former Homeland Security Department civil rights lawyer has asked the federal government to investigate the New York Police Department for its secret surveillance of Muslim communities, reports the Associated Press. Sahar Aziz, a Texas Wesleyan University law professor, said police monitoring of mosques, Islamic bookstores, and Muslim student groups needed to be looked into because the New York police serve as a model for departments nationwide. She said Associated Press reports about the NYPD’s intelligence unit have troubled Muslims.
“What’s on their mind?” she said to an Washington, D.C., audience that included the Justice Department’s top civil rights officials. An AP investigation reported on New York police use of plainclothes officers, known as “rakers,” who pose as customers and eavesdrop in Muslim cafes and bookstores. Hundreds of mosques and student organizations were investigated and dozens were infiltrated as police built intelligence databases about all aspects of life in Muslim neighborhoods. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said such programs give police a crucial head start in the event of a terrorist plot or attack. He says police don’t make those decisions based on ethnicity and only follow leads in launching investigations. The Justice Department said it was reviewing a Sept. 13 letter from Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), asking for an investigation.