NYPD secretly tags mosques as ‘terror groups’ for ease of spying

Tag means anyone attending mosque is potential subject of probe.

Written by Associated Press | New York | Published: August 29, 2013 1:02 am

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organisations,a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams,often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Since the 9/11 attacks,the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations’’ (TEI) into mosques,according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like. Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Many TEIs stretch for years,allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organisation with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how,in its hunt for terrorists,the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn.

The NYPD did not limit its operations to collecting information on those who attended the mosques or led prayers. The department sought also to put people on the boards of New York’s Islamic institutions to fill intelligence gaps. One confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to put informants in leadership positions at mosques and other organisations,including the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn,a secular social-service organisation.

Among the mosques targeted as early as 2003 was the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge.”I have never felt free in the United States. The documents tell me I am right,’’ Zein Rimawi,one of the Bay Ridge mosque’s leaders,said after reviewing an NYPD document describing his mosque as a terrorist enterprise.

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