NYPD Surveillance Of Muslims, Redux

Please read my earlier post for background. The short version: NYPD, with the help of the CIA, has been spying on Muslim communities in NYC and other places, even out-of-state in New Jersey, secretly, with no warrants and no individualized suspicion of wrongdoing by the Muslims being surveilled.

Glenn Greenwald follows up:

The NYPD spying program exposed by Associated Press may be the most flagrant instance in the War on Terror where “being Muslim” is overtly equated by a government agency to being a Terror threat. It is beyond question that huge numbers of completely innocent, law-abiding people — and the institutions to which they belong and even the businesses they patronize — were extensively surveilled and infiltrated for no reason whatsoever other than their religious and/or ethnic identity. That includes a small Newark school for African-American Muslim children in the first to fourth grades as well as every Halal restaurant that could be located. And in the ensuing fallout we find a perfect microcosm for how War on Terror civil liberties abuses have not only endured, but continue to thrive domestically, more than a full decade after the last successful Terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The NYPD surveillance scheme took place in secret, with no oversight or legal framework. It was accomplished in part through the use — and abuse — of the post-9/11 police state and Drug War funding bonanza from the White House, which gave the NYPD the funds (ostensibly to fight the drug trade) that were then used to pay for the surveillance trucks used to track Muslim communities. Once revealed, city officials like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Chief Ray Kelly immediately hauled out the all-purpose justifying, fear-mongering term — Terrorism – to insist that the indiscriminate spying program was both necessary and proper to Keep Us Safe. …

As Greenwald points out, hardly any American news media raised any objection, or even covered the civil liberties aspect of such surveillance. And public officials, Democratic and Republican alike, seem almost eager to rationalize and justify the massive deprivation of civil liberties involved in spying on every conceivable Muslim on some perverted assumption that all of them are terrorists

It simply won’t do. I do not want to live in a country that uses FUD (“fear, uncertainty, doubt”) to terrify most of its citizenry into despising one group of its citizens on grounds of their religion alone. The First Amendment guarantees no establishment of religion, and singling out non-Christian religions for oppression… yes, warrantless, suspicionless surveillance is oppression… comes damned close to establishment. How this will be prevented at this point, 10 years after the evil John Ashcroft and company instigated the whole bigoted business, is a question I can’t answer. But we can all start with ourselves, our families and our own religious organizations: if enough of us object to irrational religious hostility perpetrated by our government, perhaps we can regain the rights our founders paid for so dearly. If not… and for a moment, let me speak specifically as a UU, i.e., a member of a very small religious minority… let me outta here!

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  • mesocosm  On Thursday March 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    At least in this case it was not only the Muslim community whose rights were scandalously violated, but the rights of the neighboring states as well. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, has registered strenuous objections to the program, presumably not out of the goodness of his heart, but because the New York police department was operating in his state without making contact.

    The advantage here is that when one powerful group violates the rights of another powerful group, such as the state of New York infringing on the state of New Jersey, there may actually be meaningful consequences. Assassinate the leaders of the Black Panthers, nothing happens. But break into the Democratic campaign headquarters? That’s when heads will roll.

    • Steve  On Thursday March 1, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Welcome, mesocosm! I just glanced at your blog, and I’m going to return to it when it’s not so late at night and I can do justice by the depth and variety of content you have offered there! We have at least one interest in common: old music. I spent probably 40 years performing early music on historical instruments before my body gave up on me, and I still have an intense love of great works from probably around 1500 to perhaps Mozart. Enough for now; I’ll follow up later!

      Your analysis makes very good sense. I believe the typical Greek on the street is experiencing something much like the essential neglect you describe in his/her attempt to face off against the moneylenders of the Eurozone, and America’s mainstream media scarcely even register the Greeks’ distress. (See our resident Greek commenter, L’Enfant de la Haute Mer.) But if they can somehow find a behavior that extends their suffering to a more powerful entity, e.g., another country in the EU with a more powerful economy, they may manage to find some leverage.

      Back to the NYPD. Based on their behavior toward OWS and city and state officials’ nonreaction to that behavior, I am not surprised to learn that they are operating outside their territory and essentially outside their mandate. But both NYPD and LAPD have done that for decades. The difference today is that the cops own the equipment, including some high technology, to do everything just short of killing people who take to the streets. It serves as a real test of whether we individual Americans have any civil liberties left. I wish I were optimistic, but I am not. Time will tell, and probably not much time at that.

        • Steve  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm

          It sounds as if those Mozart works were “hidden in plain sight”, in Nannerl’s music notebook, transcribed from Wolfgang’s playing by his father Leopold when the young Wolfgang was too young to know how to write music. The use of “Nannerl’s notebook” is hardly a surprise; if the family was anything like the Bach family, the entire family wrote (in the case of the Bachs) in Anna Magdalena Bach’s notebook.

          Later in Mozart’s life, he composed entire longer works (concertos and symphonies) entirely in his mind, later writing them down complete, with no earlier draft. Beethoven, on the other hand, revised and re-drafted his works mercilessly. There is no accounting for the ways of genius.

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