NYPD to Continue Undercover Monitoring of Muslims Despite Dismantling Spy Unit

This week, the New York City Police Department shocked many by announcing an end to its Muslim monitoring program, the Zone Assessment Unit. But at a time in which Islamic extremism appears to be an increasingly present risk, the NYPD also appears to be putting extra efforts into undercover programs.

The Daily Beast's Michael Daly reports that operations under new police chief William Bratton will persist in gathering intelligence from communities that appear prone to encouraging individuals to participate in terrorist acts. Without the Zone Assessment Unit, the NYPD will use its larger, more all-purpose Intelligence Division in "an ongoing counter-terrorism effort that includes the use of undercovers and confidential informants. In fact, the department is training more undercovers even now."

Daly argues that New York "may be better defended as the NYPD’s Intelligence Division sharpens its focus on what most demands its attention" now that the resources previously allocated to the unit targeting Muslim extremists can go toward targeting potential terror threats around the city indiscriminately.

While some herald the change as an improvement in the mechanics of fighting terror threats, activists who had opposed the creation of a division specifically dedicated to Islamist terror threats are calling the shutdown a victory, as it would appear to end a specific kind of racial profiling. To those activists, the issue was not a national security one, but one of unfair ethnic profiling. The assumption necessitates the belief that Muslims are being targeted by the NYPD as enemies, not being targeted by terrorists as potential recruits.

The far left, however, have identified the reality that shutting down the program will not mean an end to the ethnic and religious profiling of communities in which terror recruitment groups operate. At the ACLU blog, Noa Yachot warns diversity activists that the end of the unit is not necessarily an end to the activity they oppose. The end would require that the NYPD not treat Muslim community centers as potential grounds for radical Islamic recruitment and for the police not to "treat with suspicion people ... 'wearing traditional Islamic clothing [and] growing a beard,' abstaining from alcohol, and 'becoming involved in social activism.'" 

Yachot also calls for an end to the "use of informants" and "surveillance cameras," which would significantly disarm the NYPD's intelligence apparatus, leaving New Yorkers exposed to threats undiscovered before they are followed through.

A judge in New Jersey found the Zone Assessment Unit's activities to be constitutional, after a group of Muslims who were targeted sued the NYPD. The judge, dismissing the suit, wrote, "The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself."

Evidence of al-Qaeda groups around the world expanding after a significant period of determent following the September 11 attacks continues to grow. This week, a video surfaced online of a large group of al-Qaeda extremists in Yemen convening for a meeting, including more than one dozen who had escaped from a prison in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. That the incident occurred in broad daylight, with apparently little fear of American intervention, then made its way to YouTube, has alarmed a number of law enforcement officials who fear a potential resurgence of the group.


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