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Mar 22 2016

Cruz Calls for Special Police to “Patrol & Secure Muslim Neighborhoods”

muslim surveillance ted cruz

Terrible news out of Brussels, Belgium, today as ISIS claims responsibility for attacks that have killed at least 30 and injured about 230 more. The 2016 Presidential candidates have already taken to various media outlets to give statements about the attacks and give their condolences to the friends and families of the victims. Ted Cruz, in particular, called for special patrols and surveillance of Muslim communities “before they become radicalized.”

No matter one’s views of “radical Islamic terrorism, there’s several things wrong with Cruz’s statement. First, it treats terrorism and radicalization as something that is inevitable and as if every Muslim neighborhood in the country is full of terrorists just waiting to become terrorists, regardless of their current views and feelings. Cruz’s statement makes terrorism look like a viral disease that runs rampant through any practitioner of a certain faith or any person from a certain ethnic heritage (not all people from the Middle East practice Islam).

But even with all that aside, the idea of a special police force to monitor and patrol Muslims has already been tried, failed, damaged relations between law enforcement and Muslim communities, and ended in several lawsuits.

Post 9/11, the NYPD Intelligence Unit began a surveillance program targeting Muslim community leaders, student groups, mosques, businesses, and individuals without any evidence of criminal or terrorist activity. Through a special relationship with the CIA, the program’s reach extended even beyond New York City to encompass every mosque within 100 miles – which included mosques in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. According to a 2011 investigation, the NYPD even had officers stationed in 11 foreign cities.

The Unit created a report describing a “Muslim radicalization process” that named warning signs such as growing a beard, becoming involved in social activism, and abstaining from alcohol. Unbeknownst to smaller, local police organizations and even the FBI, the Muslim surveillance program set up undercover officers and informants to monitor everything from mosque sermons and bookstores to cab drivers and food cart vendors. Once officer even attended a college whitewater rafting trip to record the names of any Muslim students present. Police were told to find reasons to make traffic stops and looks for suspicious behavior to use as leverage to persuade neighborhood residents to become informants. In at least one case, an informant was told to “bait” people into conversations about terrorism and then send their responses to the NYPD. Previously, such activities were illegal under a 1985 court ruling. Even after a 2004 law prohibiting ethnic and religious profiling, the program continued.

After becoming the subject of two federal lawsuits, the city shuttered the program in 2014. During the Muslim surveillance program’s entire tenure, the unit failed to uncover a single terrorist plot. According to the FBI, the program sowed so much distrust within the Muslim community that it had directly harmed national security.

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