MISSION: ISLAMOPHOBIA: The New York Police Department, already widely criticized for its racially biased stop-and-frisk policy, is facing calls from lawmakers and civil rights groups for an investigation into intelligence programs targeting Muslim communities and student groups throughout the Northeast. Partly funded by federal grants, the program, which may be ongoing, is subject to little outside oversight.
On February 20 the Associated Press revealed that between 2006 and 2009, undercover officers infiltrated Muslim student groups on dozens of campuses in the region, even accompanying them on trips to other states and compiling daily reports, including details such as where they hung out, what they talked about, how often they prayed and what they ate. Leaders of Columbia and Yale universities expressed outrage, calling the practice “chilling” and “antithetical” to academic and American values.
News of this surveillance program followed reports of a larger initiative, overseen by current and former CIA officials, and apparently prompted by international events rather than local, terrorism-related leads. For example, as tensions between the United States and Iran escalated in 2006, the NYPD began spying on local Shiite communities, since most Iranians subscribe to that branch of Islam. Attacks linked to Moroccans abroad in 2003 prompted a “Moroccan Initiative” targeting that community. The NYPD mapped entire neighborhoods, compiling databases to record where various ethnic or religious groups shopped, ate, prayed, even where they worked out and watched sports. Twenty-eight nationalities—along with “American Black Muslim”—were deemed to be “ancestries of interest” to the NYPD.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, already under fire for appearing in a documentary equating religious Muslims with violent jihadists, has refused to apologize for the program, calling it a “contingency plan,” and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended it as “legal” and “appropriate.” But in addition to civil liberties concerns, critics point out that the program is counterproductive because preserving the trust of Muslim communities has proven crucial to preventing attacks. At least 37 percent of attempted attacks since 9/11 and half of the attempts since 2009 were stopped because of tips from Muslims. UMAR FAROOQ
SAVE IL MANIFESTO: It has come to our attention that Il Manifesto, like The Nation an independent journal of critical opinion, is on the ropes and has filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11. This is bad news for our friends at Il Manifesto, for the Italian left, for Italy, for Europe, for anyone who cares about public discourse and wishes to understand the always complicated state of Italian—not to mention world—politics.