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.
So before we say or do anything else, we are taking out a new subscription and sending a check for 117 euros to Il Manifesto Co-op, Via A. Bargoni 8, 00153 Rome, Italy—and we urge all who care about independent journalism and believe as we do that ultimately democracy, peace and humanitarian politics depend upon an informed, engaged, no-holds-barred public discourse to do likewise. Over the forty years since it was founded, Il Manifesto has produced more than its share of progressive, analytical, investigative and crusading reporting—most recently playing a significant role in mobilizing support for a referendum against the unglamorous subject of privatization of water services. (The referendum won by a landslide.)
Journalism is in trouble around the world. But in Italy, where the state has traditionally funded a wide range of cultural activities, the Berlusconi government’s decision to cut off funding for Il Manifesto’s nonprofit cooperative has had a domino effect, reverberating throughout the banking community, causing Il Manifesto to be denied much-needed credit. (Meanwhile, new Prime Minister Mario Monti has done nothing.)
In our own country, opinion journalism has gotten a bum rap, as pundits, foundations and task forces too easily confuse it with televised shout shows and the un-fact-checked postings that clog the blogosphere. At its best, an independent, dissenting journal of critical opinion like Il Manifesto (a cooperative of writers and editors that lacks only a publisher) reminds us that when the job is done right, opinion journalism can elevate, inform and help set the standards for journalism itself. VICTOR NAVASKY
REMEMBERING ANTHONY SHADID: Along with The Nation and the global journalism community, it was with great sadness that The Ridenhour Prizes learned of the death of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid while he was on a reporting trip in Syria. Shadid’s death deprives us of our most gifted foreign correspondent in a generation. Shadid’s Pulitzer-winning reporting from Iraq during the US invasion and occupation resulted in his masterful book Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War. The recipient of the Ridenhour Book Prize, sponsored by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation to honor “an outstanding work of social significance,” Night Draws Near painted a nuanced portrait of life in Iraq beyond the Green Zone that gave voice and humanity to the experience of Iraqis.
Samantha Power, in her introduction to Shadid at the Ridenhour awards luncheon in 2006, said, “Anthony Shadid took enormous personal risks by choosing the Red Zone over the Green Zone, but he did something far bolder as well. He told the truth.” We mourn the loss of Anthony Shadid, journalist and truth-teller. RUTH BALDWIN
AFTER THE EXECUTION: For the family of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis, the suffering did not end (or begin) with his execution in September. Davis’s mother, Virginia Davis, had died in April, just two weeks after the Supreme Court denied his final appeal. (Family members said she died of a “broken heart.”) Then, two months after his funeral, Davis’s sister and staunchest advocate, Martina Davis-Correia, succumbed to a decade-long battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a teenage son.
As the family grapples with funeral and medical bills, those who fought for Davis’s life are organizing fundraisers, from Washington, DC, to New York to Seattle, to help ease their burden. For information or to contribute, visit troyanthonydavis.org. JEN MARLOWE