Bloomberg, NYPD Promise It’s Legal to Spy on Muslims

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NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26:  A New York Police Department (NYPD) van is viewed on January 26, 2012 in New York City. After New York City's police commissioner Raymond Kelly appeared in the film "The Third Jihad" Muslim groups are asking him to step down. The groups say that the film they depicts Islam and its followers in a bad light. Approximately 20 activists held a news conference on the steps of City Hall criticizing Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the film, which warns against the dangers of radical Islam. The film was shown to hundreds and maybe thousands of NYPD officers for training purposes.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photo: Spencer Platt/2012 Getty Images

The New York Police Department and Mayor Bloomberg are in damage-control mode after the Associated Press revealed still more details about the surveillance of innocent Muslims anywhere in the vicinity of New York City. The latest in a series that has been building since August disclosed that the NYPD spied on Muslim businesses and places of worship in Newark, New Jersey (and college kids, too), without telling Mayor Cory Booker. "Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional," Bloomberg said Friday on the radio. "They are permitted to travel beyond the border of New York City to investigate cases."

Despite some evidence to the contrary, Bloomberg insisted, “We don't target individuals based on race or religion. We follow leads.” New Jersey, he said, is where some planning for 9/11 occurred. “When there's no lead, it’s just you're trying to get familiar with what's going on and where people might go and where people might be,” the mayor said.

Yesterday, the department gathered police reporters to make similar justifications, with lawyers in tow. “Everything we're doing is done constitutionally,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “What's unconstitutional is if they then use that information to chill someone's First Amendments rights or to impose harm on them.”

An editorial in the New Jersey Star-Ledger called the practice “insidious: yet another betrayal for an entire population of American citizens, targeted for their faith.” A column by Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News said the program is “religious profiling on steroids.” Mayor Booker and Governor Chris Christie, who said he’s “disturbed” by the news, have called for an investigation.