Despite an announcement last month that the New York City Police Department had disbanded a controversial surveillance unit, the New York Times reports on Sunday that the department has continued to systematically target the city's Muslim communities by recruiting individuals arrested of petty crimes to act as informants for so-called "terrorist investigations."
The Times reviewed stacks of internal reports and spoke with former members of the units involved in the program and learned that "a squad of detectives, known as the Citywide Debriefing Team" was combing the city's jails for newly arrested individuals in order to "invite" them to become police informants.
According to the Times:
The men, all Muslim immigrants, went through similar ordeals: Waiting in a New York station house cell or a lockup facility, expecting to be arraigned, only to be pulled aside and questioned by detectives. The queries were not about the charges against them, but about where they went to mosque and what their prayer habits were. Eventually, the detectives got to the point: Would they work for the police, eavesdropping in Muslim cafes and restaurants, or in mosques?
Even as the NYPD defended the program, saying that it was both "effective" and that the interview were "conversations" not interrogations, the paper notes that "many of those interviewed said that as Muslim immigrants in a post-9/11 world, they felt they had little choice but to cooperate."
As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said after the shuttering of a separate unit that targeted Muslims last month, the NYPD runs a "huge, discriminatory surveillance program" against the Muslim community of which these separate programs only make up a part. The NYPD, said Shamsi at the time, must go further by ending "all aspects of the bias-based policing that has stigmatized New York's Muslim communities and done them such great harm.”