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Saturday, February 25, 2012

In an "unusual" meeting, NYPD gathers press corps to address recent A.P. reports on surveillance of Muslim groups; Bloomberg successors timid

(Scroll below for Bloomberg successors to mayor, and their taking wait and see approach to NYPD profiling Muslims issue.)
From Capital New York:

By Joe Pompeo, 2:42 pm Feb. 24, 2012

The Lineup collects the media stories, big and small, that are on our radar each day.
A.P. vs. NYPD

Late yestserday afternoon, we got a tip that NYPD brass had rounded up all the local police beat reporters for a spontaneous meeting related to something that has become a perpetual thorn in the department's side in recent months: The Associated Press' ongoing probe of police surveillance of Muslim communities in and around the city.

Specifically, we were told, the meeting was convened in response to the latest installment in the series, which began last August—a report earlier this week that "Americans living and working in New Jersey's largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department's effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The operation in Newark was so secretive even the city's mayor [Cory Booker] says he was kept in the dark."

Indeed, When the new A.P. report landed on Wednesday, Booker was furious, telling the Star-Ledger: "I have deep concerns and I am very disturbed that this might have been surveillance that was based on no more than religious affiliation." And so once again, the NYPD spun into damage control mode.

The Daily News reports:

At an unusual press briefing, chief spokesman Paul Browne said the NYPD operates under the tightest civil liberties regulations of any police department in the land.

“There's been a suggestion that what we are doing doesn't comport with legal requirements, and that's not the case,” Browne said. “Everything we're doing is done constitutionally.”

For the most part, both city tabloids have come down hard on the A.P. investigation in their opinion pages, painting the wire as unpatriotic and naive for questioning tactics that some would view as a necessary defense in the war on terror. Earlier this week, for instance, New York Post columnist Michael A. Walsh suggested that the A.P. "for months now has been waging a journalistic jihad against the NYPD and its counterterrorism tactics in the name of 'civil rights.'"

But the A.P. found a more sympathetic ear in today's News, which includes a piece from progressive columnist Juan Gonzalez in which he calls the NYPD program "religious profiling on steroids" and writes of the department's controversial spokesman: "Browne is one the most capable and likeable NYPD spokesman in decades. But he has been caught making so many false statements lately about the department’s anti-terrorism program that his credibility has been irreparably damaged."

(From "Asked about Police surveillance of Muslims, Bloomberg's successors take a wait-and-see approach", Feb. 25, 2012)
From City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's spokesperson:
"Regarding the NYPD's actions in New Jersey and other jurisdictions, unless we know that laws were broken or someone's civil liberties were violated it is difficult to judge police techniques without knowing the specifics of the case," said Josh Isay, a spokesman for Quinn.

From former city comptroller and head of the pre-Bloomberg Board of Education, Bill Thompson:
“The NYPD must continue to be vigilant in protecting the people of New York City from terrorism," said Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee for mayor and former city comptroller. "But to single out one segment of our diverse, religious community for surveillance without cause raises questions of fairness and equal justice.”

From Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, "who has called for a federal probe into whether the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy unfairly targets young black and Latino men (without calling for an outright halt to the practice), said the surveillance policy, too, needs a closer look," Capital New York said. Scott Stringer said:
"The New York Police Department has done an extraordinary job protecting our city from the ever-present threat of terrorism, no matter where it originates," Stringer said. "Whenever the police get wind of a potential threat, we expect them to pursue the matter with all deliberate speed and keep New York City safe. But it is troubling when people are subject to surveillance and investigation simply because they are members of a particular group. We need to ensure that our efforts to combat the threat of terrorism does not trample on the civil liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy.”

From publisher Tom Allon:
"The surveillance and random checking of American citizens is an extremely complex issue that cannot be reduced to a sound bite," Allon said in a lengthy email. "'Profiling' is a loaded term that has somehow replaced 'probable cause' in law enforcement lexicon. We need to face realpolitik realities rather politically correct idealism. The people who attacked us 10 years ago and in 1993 were all Muslims. The few planned attacks that the NYPD has thwarted since then were also plotted by young Muslims ... If you randomly stop a fidgeting 20-year-old Muslim on the street or on the subway, this should be called `probable cause' rather than `profiling.'"

"[New York City Public Advocate] Bill de Blasio was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment," Capital New York wrote. CNY was not able to reach current city comptroller John Liu.

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