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New revelations of NYPD spying injected into mayoral race

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The mayoral candidates at a debate this month. From left to right: Christine Quinn; Bill Thompson; Erick Salgado; and Bill de Blasio. (Photo: RUTH FREMSON//THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The mayoral candidates at a debate this month. From left to right: Christine Quinn; Bill Thompson; Erick Salgado; and Bill de Blasio. (Photo: RUTH FREMSON//THE NEW YORK TIMES)

After months of largely ignoring the issue of police spying on Muslims or outright supporting it, the latest Associated Press expose on the surveillance dragnet has prompted the leading mayoral candidates to speak out more.

Both Bill de Blasio, the top contender in the race who has captured the attention of progressives, and Christine Quinn have raised questions about the New York Police Department’s spying in response to the article. But they don’t quite reach the righteous condemnation of City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu–who has little chance of winning. Muslim advocates want to hear more outrage from the mayoral candidates.

Yesterday, the Associated Press‘ Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo published their latest piece of investigative reporting on the NYPD’s targeting of Muslims. They revealed that the NYPD had designated at least a dozen mosques as terrorist organizations to justify intrusive spying on the religious institutions. The Muslim community and their allies were outraged, and are calling for a federal probe into the NYPD surveillance program.

The reaction from Quinn was measured. Locked in a battle with de Blasio, who has taken on the progressive mantle, she’s walking a tightrope between appealing to liberal Democrats and communities of color and keeping up her close ties to New York City’s political establishment. In response to the AP article, Quinn told Capital‘s Azi Paybarah:

Any and all monitoring in New York needs to be done in a constitutionally sound manner that doesn’t violate law abiding citizen’s rights and does not target any one group, simply because of who they are. If what the Associated Press is reporting turns out to be true, it raises serious questions that must be addressed.

Quinn also touted her support for an NYPD Inspector General, although, as Speaker of the New York City Council, she was the one who blocked a vote on the bill to establish one for months. “One of the things that a new independent inspector general will be able to do, is review NYPD policies to ensure that there are no constitutional violations occurring in our policing activities and that’s exactly what it would do in this instance,” said Quinn. While Quinn is now questioning the surveillance, she has also not backed down on her insistence that NYPD Chief Ray Kelly would stay on in a Quinn administration.

De Blasio was slightly more critical of the NYPD. His response came in the form of a tweet. “Deeply troubled NYPD has labelled entire mosques & Muslim orgs terror groups with seemingly no leads,” the city’s Public Advocate wrote. “Security AND liberty make us strong.”

In the past, both Quinn and de Blasio have been more supportive of NYPD surveillance of Muslims.

The slight changes in tone may reflect both the shocking nature of the AP story and the fact that the primary is two weeks away. De Blasio has surged to the front of the race.

But the slightly critical reactions from the top candidates pale in comparison to Liu’s response. After the AP article was published, Liu called a press conference where he said that he was “truly outraged at the reports that the NYPD labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations and put them under surveillance. It’s un-American. It’s unconscionable.” Liu is the only candidate to have unequivocally called for a halt to NYPD surveillance of Muslims.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Associate of New York, which the NYPD tried to infiltrate, called for stronger responses from the mayoral candidates yesterday. Sarsour told the New York Observer: “I want mayoral candidates to come out and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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One Response

  1. Citizen
    Citizen
    August 29, 2013, 6:32 pm

    I don’t know who is handling Liu’s campaign, but they should bright light this institutional bias spying issue. Time for real Americans to take over the helm of Homeland Security generally–it’s a bad joke that it was led by Jewish Israel Firsters from the start. The agency’s grants have gone 97% to Jewish organizations, even though FBI stats show domestic terrorism is much more by agents of white power, black power, Jewish power than Muslim power.

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