Muslims and allies rally in New York's Foley Sq. against NYPD spying on Muslims (Photo: CAIR-NY/Flickr)
A group of Congressional Democrats is challenging the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) program of spying on Muslims. An amendment and a separate bill were introduced last week in the House of Representatives that would have barred federal funds from being used to conduct profiling and condemned the NYPD’s program.
Rush Holt (D-NJ) led the efforts, and was backed by five other House Democrats. Last Wednesday, he introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have “barred federal funds from being used to conduct ethnic or religious profiling.” The White House, through an anti-drug grant program, has provided funding that was used by the NYPD for their spy program. Holt’s amendment ultimately failed (232 votes against), but he didn’t stop there.
The day after Holt’s amendment failed, he introduced a stand-alone bill “condemning the New York Police Department’s ethnic and religious profiling and warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans.” That non-binding resolution slams the NYPD’s “illicit ethnic and religious profiling and surveillance of Muslim American communities.” The bill also says the NYPD program “recalls other dark chapters in the Nation’s history, including the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.” And most importantly, the bill calls on the NYPD to stop the program, “purge” its intelligence databases and urges a Justice Department investigation. Holt’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
The New York Daily News reported that more than half of New York’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of the Holt bill.
The bills represent the first legislative effort to curb the NYPD spying program. The NYPD has long been criticized for being unaccountable, and there have been calls for an inspector general position to be created in New York to monitor the NYPD.
The usual suspects are outraged at Holt’s efforts. Peter King (R-NY), who led the Congressional hearings on “Muslim radicalization” last year, took to the House floor to say, “We should be here tonight giving the NYPD a medal...If you’re looking for an Islamic terrorist, you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli. When they were looking for the Italian mob, they didn’t go to an Irish bar.”
Holt’s bill is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Arab American Institute.