[Ppnews] Towards a police state in New York

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 11 18:46:38 EST 2013

  Towards a police state in New York


Joseph Goldstein's /New York Times/ article 
of February 3 outlines a request from US civil rights lawyers to federal 
judge Charles S Haight Jr for an independent evaluation of the New York 
Police Department's counterterrorism techniques.

Writes Goldstein: "The lawyers said the police's tactics have placed 
Muslim communities under surveillance in violation of longstanding 
federal court guidelines." Among these guidelines is a prohibition on 
the retention of information collected during surveillance operations 
unless it pertains "to potential unlawful or terrorist activity".

As the Associated Press revealed 
in 2011, Muslim populations in the New York area had been targeted by a 
pervasive spying apparatus known as the Demographic Unit, the fruit of 
collaboration between the NYPD and the CIA.

The network, which has since been promoted to the more politically 
correct title "Zone Assessment Unit", relies on undercover officers and 
informants to perform critical national security tasks such as - the AP 
notes - "gather[ing] intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, 
jobs often done by Muslims".

According to Goldstein, the civil rights lawyers who filed the motion 
with Haight based their allegations on over 1,200 pages of reports on 
Zone Assessment Unit monitoring activities at Muslim establishments, 
including shops and cafes, where invasive demographic details were 
allegedly compiled and retained despite the lack of "potential unlawful 
or terrorist activity":

    /"The NYPD is continuing a massive, all-encompassing dragnet for
    intelligence concerning anything connected with Muslim activity
    through intrusive infiltration and record-keeping about all aspects
    of life, politics and worship", the court filing stated. "The NYPD
    operates on a theory that conservative Muslim beliefs and
    participation in Muslim organisations are themselves bases for

*How to grow terror at home*

Of course, the absence of apparent "terrorist activity" is not always an 
obstacle for well-funded NYPD informants. The Egyptian informant Osama 
for example, actively encouraged young Pakistani-American Shawahar Matin 
Siraj to undertake the bombing of a New York subway station - a plot for 
which Siraj was convicted despite his stipulation, recorded on tape, 
that he was against killing and that he would need to acquire his 
"mother's permission" before signing on to the project.

These sorts of machinations lend a secondary, ironic layer of meaning to 
the so-called "homegrown threat" of Muslims "radicalised" in the West 
rather than abroad, a topic meriting especial hysteria from the NYPD.

In a lengthy 2007 police department report 
<http://www.nypdshield.org/public/SiteFiles/documents/NYPD_Report-Radicalization_in_the_West.pdf> [PDF] complete 
with a colourful chart depicting "Trajectories of Radicalisation Inside 
the United States", we learn about homegrown Syed Hashmi, a Brooklyn 
College alumnus who "travelled to the UK and joined-up [sic] with 
elements of al-Qaeda". Hashmi is said to have become involved in 
"terrorist activities overseas" and then charged with "aiding the 
al-Qaeda plot to attack targets in London and... delivering military 
equipment and funds to radical Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan".

A glance at other sources confirms the true heinousness of Hashmi's 
mission. Particularly incriminating is a 2010 /Huffington Post/ column 
entitled "Kidnapped by the State 
in which acclaimed author and professor Amitava Kumar explains:

    /[W]hen Hashmi was extradited to the US [from Britain], the FBI
    revealed that a man who had stayed at the detainee's apartment in
    London had supplied "military gear" to al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.
    Then, Hashmi's lawyer found out that the items being labelled as
    "military gear" were socks and rainproof ponchos. The rest of the
    details of the indictment remain shrouded in mystery./

Kumar also notes that, as a Brooklyn College student, Hashmi had been 
"articulate and very critical of the ways in which the civil rights of 
American citizens, especially Muslims, had been curtailed by the Bush 
administration", while a part of his thesis had concerned "the 
government's surveillance and harassment of four or five Muslim groups 
in the US".

*No hope for urban hip-hop gangsters*

It's worth noting that neither Bush nor his successor - two homegrown 
characters who have blatantly pursued "terrorist activities overseas" 
including continuous drone strikes on civilians 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/25/study-obama-drone-deaths> - has 
been subjected to the "special administrative measures" applied to 
Hashmi, who was placed in solitary confinement for over three years 
prior to being convicted.

Efforts to provide the US Executive with a carte blanche to assassinate 
US citizens abroad 
might be viewed as constituting another kind of "homegrown threat". The 
delivery of billions of dollars a year and items far more militarily 
destructive <http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4318508,00.html> 
than socks and rain ponchos to a state that subsists on terror 
meanwhile further underscores US hypocrisy.

Incidentally, in its 2011 report 
on the NYPD's "human mapping" of Muslim communities, the AP cited a 
former police official who described the programme as being modelled 
partly on Israeli operations in the West Bank. Moustafa Bayoumi, 
Brooklyn College professor and author of /How Does It Feel to Be a 
Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America 
commented in an email to me on common denominators between security 
regimes in New York and occupied Palestine: "Both seek to become systems 
of total surveillance [and] both are invested in the idea of essentially 
dangerous Muslims."

Total surveillance would indeed appear to be a prominent NYPD aspiration 
given the comprehensiveness of its list of common "radicalisation 
incubators" for germinating terrorists: cafes, student associations, 
non-governmental organisations, butcher shops, book stores, and so on.

According to the official "Homegrown Threat" manual 
<http://www.nypdshield.org/public/SiteFiles/documents/NYPD_Report-Radicalization_in_the_West.pdf> [PDF], 
"[g]iving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster 
clothes" may indicate a Muslim's "progression along the radicalisation 
continuum" toward "Jihadisation". The report fails to advise persons who 
continue to sport hip-hop gangster attire on how to go about avoiding 
disproportionate subjection to other violations of civil rights in the 
form of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk campaign 

Discriminatory mapping of Muslims clearly does nothing to resolve such 
homegrown threats as were on display during the December 2012 massacre 
in Connecticut 
though it presumably contributes to the surge in anti-Muslim violence 
in the US - a natural byproduct of the selective elimination of human 
rights in favour of a narrative of fear.

As the current legal motion by US civil rights lawyers reminds us once 
again, the only unviolated Muslim right in this country is the right to 
oppressive surveillance.

/*Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas 
Friedman at Work 
<http://www.versobooks.com/books/1024-the-imperial-messenger>, released 
by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine 
<http://jacobinmag.com/>editorial board, and her articles have appeared 
in the London Review of Books blog 
<http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/author/belen-fernandez/>, The Baffler 
<http://thebaffler.com/current>, Al Akhbar English 
<http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/753> and many other publications.*/

*/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy./*

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