New Report:  “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying & its Impact on American Muslims”

New Report:  “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying & its Impact on American Muslims”

by Sheila Musaji

One year ago, after NYPD spying on mosques in New York became public knowledge, 44 organizations issued a joint statement condemning the practice.  And, 110 advocacy and civil rights groups wrote a Letter To Eric Holder Asking Him To Investigate NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance.

A new 55 page report Mapping Muslims:  NYPD Spying & its Impact on American Muslims (PDF) was released today.  The report was produced by The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY School of Law, and The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

Table of Contents:

PART ONE: Background: Mapping & Monitoring American Muslims 7
PART TWO: Findings 12
Section One: Suppressing Religion 12
Section Two: Stifling Speech & Association 20
Section Three: Sowing Suspicion 25
Section Four: Severing Trust in Law Enforcement 32
Section Five: In Focus - Campus Life 39
PART THREE: Responses to The NYPD Program 46
PART FOUR: Recommendations 50

The report is already receiving mainstream media attention.  Len Levitt on the Huntington Post calls the NYPD spying A Black Eye for Democracy and he notes:

... Earlier this year, Kelly publicly acknowledged at a seminar at the YMHA that his vaunted oversees spying service, which has stationed detectives in 11 cities around the world, had produced not a single tip about potential attacks against the city. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan. 14th, 2013.]

Kelly has also maintained that the NYPD’s spying on Muslims “only follows leads.” He has yet to explain why officers from the Intelligence Division spied on Buffalo’s Somali community in 2007 and 2008 when its local law enforcement liaison reported that there was no evidence of terrorism criminality in that community. [See NYPD Confidential Feb. 27, 2012.]

One of the philosophical pillars on which The NYPD has based its spying is “homegrown” or “lone wolf” terrorist threats.

Those threats have been articulated by Dr. Marc Sageman, a former CIA official with a doctorate and medical degree and the author of two books on terrorism, who in 2008 became the NYPD’s first and only “scholar in residence.”

In what appears to be an unprecedented financial arrangement for a municipal agency, Sageman was paid $180,000 through a non-profit organization called the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation, which was set up by the department and raised $300,000 from secret donors.

Its president was Stephen Hammerman, the department’s former deputy commissioner for Legal Affairs; its secretary, Joseph Wuencsh, Kelly’s chief of staff.

Who the donors are remains a mystery.

The focus on lone-wolf threats has led the NYPD to pursue mentally unstable young men, at least two of whom have histories of psychiatric treatment.

It has also led them to operate as a lone-wolf law enforcement agency, apart from its terrorism-fighting law enforcement partner, the FBI.

Its first such success was the conviction of Matin Siraj, arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention for conspiring to blow up the Herald Square subway station. The NYPD did not alert the FBI to its investigation until shortly before Siraj’s indictment.

Testimony at Siraj’s trial revealed that the NYPD had paid an informant $100,000 to egg on Siraj and his co-defendant, James El Shafay.

Testimony also revealed Siraj had an I.Q. considered borderline-retarded and that El Shafay, was depressive and schizophrenic, and recently released from a mental institution.

Once arrested, El Shafay pleaded guilty and testified against Siraj, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

This week, a second supposed lone wolf, Ahmed Ferhani, is to be sentenced after pleading guilty in Manhattan State Supreme Court under a state terrorism law, which was used because the FBI declined to pursue Ferhani’s prosecution.

Law enforcement sources said that FBI agents from its Joint Terrorist Task Force, which is charged with investigating all terrorism plots, distrusted the NYPD’s undercover officer who produced the evidence against Ferhani and his co-defendant, Mohamed Mamdouh. This distrust was furthered when the NYPD refused to allow the JTTF to interview the undercover. [See NYPD Confidential, May 23, 2011.]

At a City Hall news conference, announcing the arrest with great fanfare, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance accused Ferhani and Mamdouh of plotting to blow up the largest synagogue in Manhattan and to kill as many Jews as possible.

A grand jury, however, failed to indict them on the top terrorism charge. Instead they were indicted on lesser state terror and hate crime counts.

Ferhani’s lawyer has claimed Ferhani has had 30 involuntary commitments to psychiatric wards since age 17.

The third case involves Jose Pimentel, a Dominican immigrant who the NYPD says was an Al Qaeda adherent, preparing to make bombs in his mother’s Washington Heights apartment. He too was described as having mental problems.

The FBI again refused to pursue the case, saying it distrusted the NYPD informant who developed the evidence against him and who supplied him with bomb-making equipment, then helped him make the bomb.

If anyone thinks he is safer from terrorism because of any of these arrests, he should think again. 

John Knefel in Rolling Stone calls the NYPD spying on American Muslims a pointless national shame and he notes

The report combines publicly available documentation about the NYPD’s snooping regime – including the Associated Press’ groundbreaking investigations into the department’s Demographics Unit – with original interviews of 57 Muslims in New York City. But the significance of this report reaches far beyond New York’s Muslim community – and even beyond the American Muslim community at large. The authors have provided a needed rebuttal to the common argument that surveillance isn’t a problem if you have nothing to hide, and that spying itself is essentially value-neutral so long as you don’t become a target of an investigation. The Muslims interviewed in the report describe a terrifying reality where trust and privacy are virtually impossible, and where lives are severely harmed by spying alone.

... So what has all this surveillance, this so-called “intelligence gathering,” gotten us? A terrorized local Muslim population, a police department that grossly exaggerates the terror plots it has disrupted and a crown jewel investigation of a troubled man named Ahmed Ferhani that was so problematic even the FBI – recently dubbed “the terror factory” by one author because of its role in manufacturing plots that its own agents then disrupt – wanted nothing to do with it. And as the report reminds us, Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, “admitted during sworn testimony that in the six years of his tenure, the unit tasked with monitoring American Muslim life had not yielded a single criminal lead.”

While Muslims in the Northeast are the people most directly affected by this surveillance, it is a national problem – both in the sense that all of our rights are infringed if anyone’s are, but also in a more concrete way. The state’s capacity for surveillance is already enormous, and will only expand as technologies, including domestic drones, continue to increase in sophistication. When total surveillance of one population becomes normalized, we are all at a greater risk of being illegally spied on. This report is an important document that illustrates just how damaging that can be.


Mel Fabrikant in an article in the Paramus Post quotes Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, chair of the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York:

“This report is critically important reading for all Americans concerned with freedom, justice, and equality in 21st century America.  It is the authentic voice of real people impacted by unjust policies and procedures, for which Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly remain both defensive and un-apologetic. Further, it is a powerful rebuttal to all who seek to minimize the impact of NYPD surveillance of Muslims as a faith group, even as they strive to do the same with the program known as ‘Stop and Frisk’.”



A Black Eye for Democracy, Len Levitt

Activists say NYPD surveillance harmed Muslims

American Muslim Coalition Releases Critique of NYPD Radicalization Report

American Muslim Report Condemns NYPD Surveillance

American Muslims Cooperation With Law Enforcement, Sheila Musaji

The Climate of Fear Created by the NYPD’s Pervasive Surveillance of Muslim Communities, Kevin Gosztola

Counterproductive CounterterrorismHow Anti-Muslim Bias is Undermining America’s Homeland Security, MPAC

Document shows NYPD sought to spy on Shiites, based on shared religion with Iranian terrorists

Documents show NY police watched devout Muslims, Adam Goldman

Existing reports and studies on radicalization in the American Muslim Community (TAM article collection)

How the NYPD Slipped Blanket Surveillance of American Muslims Past the Courts—and the People, Aziz Huq

Mapping Sharia Project’s “Sharia and violence in American mosques” report is raving, paranois, in(SANE)ity!, (with extensive article collection) Sheila Musaji

‘Muslim Mapping’ report urges leaders to declare that NYPD ‘informants are not welcome

Muslims detail fear from NYPD spy probe, Omar Sacirbey

New Report Launch: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims, Mel Fabrikant

New York’s finest Islamophobes: A new report sheds light on NYPD’s secret surveillance of Muslim communities. And what it reveals about liberals Falguni A. Sheth

NYPD Cops’ Training Included an Anti-Muslim Horror Flick

NYPD document: Gather intel info at Shiite mosques

NYPD document: Gather intel info at Shiite mosques, Matt Apuzzo

NYPD ethnic tracking included citizens

NYPD Intelligence Strategy Report (actual document)

The NYPD, the CIA, and “The Third Jihad”, Sheila Musaji

NYPD Muslim Surveillance Report Details ‘Collateral Damage’ Of Program, Matt Sledge

NYPD Spied on U.S. Citizens Without Any Evidence of Crimes

NYPD surveillance causes Muslim fear, chills religious freedom: report,_chills_religious_freedom__report/

NYPD targeting Muslims, Belen Fernandez

NYPD terror report casts suspicion on all U.S. Muslims

NYPD’s Cooperation With CIA Lacks Effective Oversight, Civil Liberties Groups Say, Matt Sledge

Police Spying on American Muslims Is a Pointless National Shame, John Knefel

Report: NYPD’s Surveillance of Muslims ‘Harmful’, Mirela Iverac

Where is the U.S. Government Getting It’s Information on Islam and Muslims?, (with lengthy article collection) Sheila Musaji