Revelations on NYPD Surveillance of Muslims Contradict Bloomberg Claims

ProPublica Staff

New York, NY, United States (ProPublica) – by Justin Elliott

The Associated Press published a story today detailing how, in 2007, undercover New York Police Department officers investigated the Muslim community in Newark, N.J., producing a secret report profiling mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim-owned businesses and restaurants.

The story, based on a copy of the 60-page report obtained by AP, concludes that the surveillance project was undertaken despite “no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark’s Muslims.”

Besides being significant on its own, that conclusion contradicts claims by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year about how the NYPD operates.

In August, after AP published the first story in its series documenting the NYPD’s extensive surveillance and investigation of Muslims, Bloomberg denied that the NYPD launched investigations based on religion in the absence of suspicion of a crime.

“If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD’s job is to do it. The law is pretty clear about what’s the requirement, and I think they follow the law,” Bloomberg said at an Aug. 25 news conference, the local news site DNAInfo noted at the time. “We don’t stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”

In October, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly made similar comments under questioning from the city council.

“We simply follow leads,” Kelly said. “Now, those leads may take us into religious institutions; it may be people in a particular religion. But we’re going to follow those leads wherever they take us. We’re not going to be deterred, but we’re certainly not singling out any particular group.”

AP’s previous stories showed the NYPD scrutinized Muslim communities in part based on ethnicity. Today’s story, as well as others earlier this month, showed the NYPD focusing solely on religion.

The secret dossier on Newark published by AP shows the NYPD both thinking about religion and singling out a particular group in the apparent absence of any leads.

The report mapped so-called Locations of Concern in Newark, which were defined to include “Localized center of activity for a particular ethnic group.” The only ethnic groups that are highlighted in the report are those that include Muslims. The report noted that the city’s “largest immigrant communities … are from Portugal and Brazil” but that “No Muslim component within these communities was identified.”

Bloomberg’s press office did not respond to our request for comment about the mayor’s August remarks and the new AP report. The NYPD also did not respond to our request for comment; nor did it comment on the AP’s story.

The report includes multiple maps marking mosques and Islamic schools in Newark like this one:

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