As a mayoral candidate, New York City’s Bill de Blasio (D) last year endorsed a “full review” of NYPD surveillance efforts, but civil libertarians weren’t sure whether the so-called “Demographics Unit” would persist.
As Adam Serwer reported this morning, however, the once-secret unit devoted to surveillance of local Muslim communities is no more.
“Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair,” New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”Referred to as the “Demographics Unit,” the unit, advised by an official from the Central Intelligence Agency, had engaged in broad surveillance of Muslim communities, such as neighborhoods, mosques, businesses in New York and New Jersey, without specific evidence of criminal behavior. Testifying under oath, an NYPD official admitted that the program had not lead to a single terrorism investigation.
Despite this track record, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who stands a reasonably good chance of becoming the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee next year, told msnbc this morning he feels “strongly” that the surveillance program that didn’t lead to a single counter-terrorism lead “worked.”
“The reality is the threat is going to come from the Muslim community,” King added. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of Muslims are good Americans, but the fact is the Islamic terrorist threat comes from the Muslim community and good detective work is knowing who is in that community.”
The “Islamic terrorist threat comes from the Muslim community”? Well, I suppose that’s true to the extent that an Islamic terrorist threat wouldn’t come from some other community, but if King still believes that the most meaningful terrorist threat in the country comes from Muslims, the congressman might want to check out Rachel’s A block last night.
The whole thing is well worth your time if you, like Peter King, missed it, but I wanted to flag this portion in particular:
“The New America Foundation tracks deadly, ideologically motivated attacks inside the United States since 9/11. Following the Kansas City attacks this weekend, their totals stand at 21 for the total number of people killed by attacks motivated by Islamic extremism, and that includes the Boston Marathon bombing, with four people killed a year ago today. It also includes the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, with 13 people killed.“But after the Kansas City shootings this weekend, the total number of people killed in what appear to be ideologically motivated attacks, not by jihadists, but by right-wingers in this country, that is a higher number: that’s 34. Not 21, 34. And we have decided that combating terrorist attacks motivated by Islamic extremism is not only a matter of national significance, it’s something that should drive the entire international order of things.“But when it comes to the proven and interconnected threat of the armed American extreme right wing, we’re still treating every attack by them like a surprise. We’re still treating every one of those attackers like a lone wolf. Regardless of how many letters we find between them, each of them, while they’re in jail. Regardless of the places where we find them talking to each other online. Regardless of the connections that they say exist between them. Regardless of the tide of evidence that these networks exist and are operational.”