Today the Associated Press reported that the New York City Police Department conducted surveillance and monitoring of Muslim communities in Newark, New Jersey.
For months in mid-2007, plainclothes officers from the NYPD's Demographics Units fanned out across Newark, taking pictures and eavesdropping on conversations inside businesses owned or frequented by Muslims.
The result was a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, containing brief summaries of businesses and their clientele. Police also photographed and mapped 16 mosques, listing them as "Islamic Religious Institutions."
The report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark's Muslims.
In some instances, the NYPD is able to operate outside the borders of the city and the state in accordance with a formal interagency agreement that delineates responsibilities and liabilities, according to a statement from the Brennan Center's Faiza Patel. For example, when NYPD officers work alongside federal agents as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, they are deputized as federal marshals in order to allow them to operate nationally. However, whether this multi-state surveillance of innocent people was part of such an agreement is unclear, and once again highlights the need for independent and robust oversight of the NYPD.
The Brennan Center has called for an inspector general for the NYPD. An inspector general would ensure that the police only operated outside of their jurisdiction subject to properly concluded and vetted arrangements and would have the ability to investigate operations like the one in Newark.
"The latest revelation of the NYPD’s continued acts of unlawful religious profiling, both inside and now outside of city limits, underscore the need to act quickly to establish an inspector general for the NYPD," said Ms. Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security program. "Oversight by an inspector general will help ensure that the Department is both effective in protecting New Yorkers and respects our right to live free of spying or unlawful government intrusion."