The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 28, 2013

NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations

(Continued)

Sarsour, a Muslim who has met with Kelly many times, said she felt betrayed.

"It creates mistrust in our organizations," said Sarsour, who was born and raised in Brooklyn. "It makes one wonder and question who is sitting on the boards of the institutions where we work and pray."

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Before the NYPD could target mosques as terrorist groups, it had to persuade a federal judge to rewrite rules governing how police can monitor speech protected by the First Amendment.

The rules stemmed from a 1971 lawsuit, dubbed the Handschu case after lead plaintiff Barbara Handschu, over how the NYPD spied on protesters and liberals during the Vietnam War era.

David Cohen, a former CIA executive who became NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence in 2002, said the old rules didn't apply to fighting against terrorism.

Cohen told the judge that mosques could be used "to shield the work of terrorists from law enforcement scrutiny by taking advantage of restrictions on the investigation of First Amendment activity."

NYPD lawyers proposed a new tactic, the TEI, that allowed officers to monitor political or religious speech whenever the "facts or circumstances reasonably indicate" that groups of two or more people were involved in plotting terrorism or other violent crime.

The judge rewrote the Handschu rules in 2003. In the first eight months under the new rules, the NYPD's Intelligence Division opened at least 15 secret terrorism enterprise investigations, documents show. At least 10 targeted mosques.

Doing so allowed police, in effect, to treat anyone who attends prayer services as a potential suspect. Sermons, ordinarily protected by the First Amendment, could be monitored and recorded.

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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