Some time ago, I wrote about this program by the New York Police Department to infiltrate Muslim organizations including “student organizations on college campuses outside their jurisdiction and even outside their state. The names of students taking part in such things as white water rafting are deemed worthy of entering in their files if they pray several times a day or discuss Islam, though you would expect that a Muslim student group would do just these things.” Merely speaking Urdu or frequenting a Lebanese café could trigger suspicions and your conversations recorded.
After six years of such spying on perfectly innocent people and entering their names into databases, it turns out that not a single lead about any dangerous plans or actions were uncovered.
The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.
Attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who filed the Handschu case more than 40 years ago and questioned Galati during the deposition, said he will go back to court soon to ask that the Demographics Unit be shut down. It operates today under a new name, the Zone Assessment Unit. It recently stopped operating out of state, Galati said.
“This is a terribly pernicious set of policies,” Eisenstein said. “No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy.”
Thanks to this program, now thousands of Muslims have had their names entered into a database that could flag them down for higher-level security searches or even to end up on a no-fly lists.