Power, politics and religion-how race is still very much a problem in America


This article resonated so deeply with me I had to share it.

nypd-muslims-350

Recently news broke of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) unbridled, secret surveillance of Muslim communities and organizations, monitoring intimate aspects of people’s lives and designating entire mosques as terrorist organizations without evidence. I reacted to this with a familiar combination of rage and fatigue.

In an interview on Huffington Post, Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York expressed a similar lack of surprise, while calling these police practices a “new low.”

The NYPD’s approach to counterterrorism policing seems to start from a place that all Muslims are inherently suspect, raising serious civil rights and safety concerns… Subjecting whole communities to blanket surveillance because of their faith is not good policing. These tactics alienate law-abiding Muslims and deepen mistrust between law enforcement and communities. That breakdown in communication puts all New Yorkers at risk.

The criminalization of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities has become appallingly, shockingly normalized in the War on Terror. For a decent yet disturbing roundup of the policies of terror waged against AMEMSA communities since 9/11, check out this article. The writer does a pretty good job of summarizing, but he also makes a common mistake, attributing the origins of this story to 9/11. In reality, the beginnings are much older.

Nineteenth Century western imperialism created false human hierarchies to justify white supremacy. It used these racial hierarchies to rationalize war, genocide, and slavery – strategies that led to the buildup of wealth and power for some through the hyper-exploitation and destruction of others. The criminalization of AMEMSA communities today is rooted in the idea of a permanent, foreign threat to American interests that demands a constant state of war. This is a centuries-old, divided view of the world into two realms: civilized and uncivilized, friend and foe. In claiming to protect the civilized realm from harm, the United States manipulates ideas of “freedom” and “democracy”, while in fact putting these goals out of reach for entire groups of people through militarized violence, criminalization and policing.

The NYPD’s police practices are also rooted in slavery and anti-black racism. After the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments, slavery had officially ended and blacks were granted citizenship. But brutal legal systems of racial control in the South granted broad police powers to regulate all aspects of black life. States throughout the South passed so-called Black Codes – laws restricting black people’s right to own property, conduct business, buy and lease land, and move freely through public spaces.

Fast forward a century later, to Nixon’s War on Crime and War on Drugs, declared after the passage of federal Civil Rights legislation. Just as the federal government yielded to demands for an end to racial discrimination, these domestic wars kicked off the massive expansion of a racialized criminal justice system that scholar Michelle Alexander now aptly calls The New Jim Crow. Today, there are more black people under the control of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850, and the United States is by far the largest jailor in the world. As for the reasons behind Nixon’s War on Crime, contrary to popular belief, scholar Naomi Murakawa points out, the “US did not confront a crime problem that was then racialized[;] it confronted a race problem that was then criminalized” – a race problem rooted in the formation of the United States. Throughout U.S. history, every step toward black liberation has been met with a countering surge in anti-black violence and criminalization.

This history raises important questions for the racial justice movement about the meaning of words like democracy, freedom, and security, when U.S. projects claiming to advance these aims clearly undermine them in reality. As acts of self-defense, we are often tempted to fall back on phrases like “law-abiding” and “hard-working” to distinguish ourselves and assert our rights, or to make overly visible gestures of patriotism like flag-waving and participation in U.S. wars. But these very words and actions feed into the divisions between “us” and “them,” between “friend” and “foe,” between “deserving” and “undeserving” – divisions that have life-threatening impacts for the most vulnerable peoples of the world, both within and beyond U.S. borders.

From the War on Crime to the War on Drugs to the War on Terror, increasingly, this us-versus-them way of sorting humanity is what “makes” race today, by dictating whose lives are safeguarded by the alleged American promise of freedom and democracy, and whose are not; and by normalizing the brutality of criminalization, mass incarceration, and war.

 

Does anyone other than me consider this more than a coincidence?


First there was this, Federal Reserve Bank bomb suspect ‘in US on student visa’ which detailed an imminent threat that was to be carried out by one Bengali student Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis here in America.  The release of information about threats that are designed to both frighten the American public as well as boost a sagging Presidential candidate’s ratings in a close election is nothing new; it was a tactic used effectively by the Bush Administration during its two terms and Obama seems willing to employ the same strategy in 2012.  We won’t talk about all the legal problems inherent in this type of operation, it has worked rather well for both administrations.  However, shortly after the headline of a thwarted plot from a Bengali national came this news about another person of Bangladeshi descent: Informant: NYPD Paid Me to ‘Bait’ Muslims which details how a 19 year old of Bangladeshi descent claims he was used to entrap or bait New York city area Muslims into incriminating statements or actions that could lead to “create and capture….creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD.”  The informant, one Shamiur Rahman who is about the same  age as the terrorist suspect of our first story,  Ahsan Nafis,  21 was engaged in activity that should guarantee their paths would cross during the time they were together in the Big Apple.  In the light of these two stories, that’s a question a good reporter should ask….if they’re not too busy posing on table tops!

Zip, zero, nada….


Patch of New York City Police Department

Patch of New York City Police Department (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

That’s what the New York City Police Department’s six year investigation, read spying, on American Muslims (it should be noted this spying took place in places outside of New York city) turned up in terms of terror suspects, indictments, cases, leads, you name it.

 

In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloging mosques, the New Yorkpolice department’s secret demographics unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.

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 cataloged every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

Police hoped the demographics unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they’d know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.

But in a 28 June deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, assistant chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.

“Related to demographics,” Galati testified that information that has come in “has not commenced an investigation.”

The NYPD is the largest police department in the nation and mayor Michael Bloomberg has held up its counterterrorism tactics as a model for the rest of the country. After the Associated Press began reporting on those tactics last year, supporters argued that the demographics unit was central to keeping the city safe. Galati testified that it was an important tool, but conceded it had not generated any leads.

“I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” he said. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that’s always a possibility. I am not aware of any.”

Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD intelligence division, offered the first official look at the demographics unit, which the NYPD denied ever existed when it was revealed by the AP last year. He described how police gather information on people even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, simply because of their ethnicity and native language.

As a rule, Galati said, a business can be labeled a “location of concern” whenever police can expect to find groups of Middle Easterners there.

Galati testified as part of a lawsuit that began in 1971 over NYPD spying on students, civil rights groups and suspected communist sympathizers during the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit, known as the Handschu case, resulted in federal guidelines that prohibit the NYPD from collecting information about political speech unless it is related to potential terrorism.

Civil rights lawyers believe the demographics unit violated those rules. Documents obtained by the AP show the unit conducted operations outside its jurisdiction, including in New Jersey. The FBI there said those operations damaged its partnerships with Muslims and jeopardized national security.

In one instance discussed in the testimony, plainclothes NYPD officers known as “rakers” overheard two Pakistani men complaining about airport security policies that they believed unfairly singled out Muslims. They bemoaned what they saw as the nation’s anti-Muslim sentiment since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Galati said police were allowed to collect that information because the men spoke Urdu, a fact that could help police find potential terrorists in the future.

“I’m seeing Urdu. I’m seeing them identify the individuals involved in that are Pakistani,” Galati explained. “I’m using that information for me to determine that this would be a kind of place that a terrorist would be comfortable in.”

He added, “Most Urdu speakers from that region would be of concern, so that’s why it’s important to me.”

About 15 million Pakistanis and 60 million Indians speak Urdu. Along with English, it is one of the national languages of Pakistan.

In another example, Galati said, eavesdropping on a conversation in a Lebanese cafe could be useful, even if the topic is innocuous. Analysts might be able to determine that the customers were from South Lebanon, he said, adding, “That may be an indicator of possibility that that is a sympathizer to Hezbollah because Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah.”

After the AP began reporting on the demographics unit, the department’s former senior analyst, Mitchell Siber, said the unit provided the tip that ultimately led to a case against a bookstore clerk who was convicted of plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan. Galati testified that he could find no evidence of that.

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.”

Dozens of members of Congress have asked the justice department to investigate the NYPD. Attorney general Eric Holder has said he was disturbed by the reports. But John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, has said he is confident the NYPD’s activities are lawful and have kept the city safe.

Is anyone concerned with how much all of this cost the taxpayer?  No matter what the investment was the return worth the money it cost?  Why hasn’t Congreeman Peter King of NY asked these questions during a Congressional hearing….or better yet, why haven’t any of the hearings he held led to the NYPD questioning or indicting anyone?  We have been bamboozled America! It’s time to stop this madness.

 

This is what the scare tactic of governance gets you


I’m sure this scene plays out in cities and towns across America.  It’s frightening and terrifying for citizens who go through it and something I don’t quite get is why law enforcement types don’t get that yet……or is it they simply don’t care?   In today’s America however, where everyone and every circumstance is enough to justify even the most strident militant response from ‘officers of the law’, it might be a good thing that municipalities are cash starved and considering layoffs of their law enforcement personnel.  I for one am a firm believer that people are responsible for their own protection and police’s role in society should be one of monitoring, reporting  and assisting citizens when needed.

Police bust in to a house that had a teenaged girl and her grandmother, looking for someone who had used the internet to issue threats against the town’s police department. In none of the reports that I read about this tragedy was there any link to the threats made besides a mention that they were personal in nature and that was enough to make the  police department  embark  on a course of terror against its citizenry.   Unfortunately for the  victims of this story, their internet connection is on an unsecured router that anyone can use to receive and post information.  But what’s regrettable   for the citizens of Evansville, Indiana is their police department personalized insults and uncivil language that was on the internet  to intimidate and infringe on the rights of the citizens of that city.  In other words speech that some may see anonymous and even protected was used by the police department of Evansville to justify  physically intruding upon and even potentially harming people who had no relationship with that speech at all.  Instead of carefully determining who were the residents of the house, police decided based on the accusation that threats were made to raid the  house in a manner befitting any shock and awe operation run during the Iraq war.  Later on, realizing the error of their ways, police went to a second suspect’s house in a much more appropriate manner…..knocking on the door, which possibly yielded more promising results.  Check out the video below

 

There was a lot of news about the New York City police department spying on Muslims in the NYC area and now I understand what motivated  the police department.  Like others in government who have reaped immense financial rewards from America’s war on terror, WOT, the NYPD has too!  With money funded by the federal government they have acquired a state of the art helicopter they say will help them in the terror fight.  They claim that they are becoming increasingly more dependent on helicopters, a very high ticket  item for fighting terror…and in order to justify such huge expenditures they ,NYPD , have to conjure up a threat sufficient enough to get governments, local, state and federal, as well as tax payers to want to appropriate the funds necessary.  That bogeyman for the NYPD has been the tri-state area Muslims. 

The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the elite Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

Police talked to local authorities about professors 480 kilometres away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for the New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly.

This helicopter is supposed to be able to detect radiation and any other kind of threat from the sky…..and I’m sure the mantra will be if it makes us secure it’s worth the investment, but the question to ask is at what cost to American citizens do we want to get our hands on this type of equipment?  How far in demonizing one group of Americans, lying about them and their existence among us all the while stretching the limits of time worn freedoms and privileges do we want to go to justify getting our hands on this?  The point has been made with alarming alacrity there is no threat to America by American Muslims; in fact they are the least threatening group to inhabit our shores, yet time and time again imagery of an Islamic terrorist threat is used and its end result is usually the investment of large sums of money to those who sound this exaggerated  threat, much like the communism scare of 50 years ago which resulted in a lot of empty  bomb shelters and a cold war atmosphere that saw America spend money and fight wars against a virtually  impotent and even non-existing enemy.  The sons of the leaders of America’s cold war with communism are now leading the war against Muslims with almost the same empty results.  Is it no wonder if we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it?

Serve and Protect? If you’re a Muslim in New York city don’t expect it!


Imagine if you lived in a city whose police department regularly looked at films that claim members of your race or religion shoot and terrorize people and showed photographs of victims of terror imposed by your special group of people while stating emphatically every of you was like that and therefore a threat to the security of the country.

Such is the case with the New York City police department which for over a lengthy period of time screened for its officers a film entitled, The Third Jihad.

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

In January 2011, when news broke that the department had used the film in training, a top police official denied it, then said it had been mistakenly screened “a couple of times” for a few officers.

A year later, police documents obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Law reveal a different reality: “The Third Jihad,” which includes an interview with Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, was shown, according to internal police reports, “on a continuous loop” for between three months and one year of training.

During that time, at least 1,489 police officers, from lieutenants to detectives to patrol officers, saw the film.

News that police trainers showed this film so extensively comes as the department wrestles with its relationship with the city’s large Muslim community. The Police Department offers no apology for aggressively spying on Muslim groups and says it has ferreted out terror plots.

But members of the City Council, civil rights advocates and Muslim leaders say the department, in its zeal, has trampled on civil rights, blurred lines between foreign and domestic spying and sown fear among Muslims.

“The department’s response was to deny it and to fight our request for information,” said Faiza Patel, a director at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which obtained the release of the documents through a Freedom of Information request. “The police have shown an explosive documentary to its officers and simply stonewalled us.”

Tom Robbins, a former columnist with The Village Voice, first revealed that the police had screened the film. The Brennan Center then filed its request.

The 72-minute film was financed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit group whose board includes a former Central Intelligence Agency official and a deputy defense secretary for President Ronald Reagan. Its previous documentary attacking Muslims’ “war on the West” attracted support from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who has helped reshape the Republican presidential primary by pouring millions of dollars into a so-called super PAC that backs Newt Gingrich.

…….Repeated calls over the past several days to the Clarion Fund, which is based in New York, were not answered. The nonprofit group shares officials with Aish HaTorah, an Israeli organization that opposes any territorial concessions on the West Bank. The producer of “The Third Jihad,” Raphael Shore, also works with Aish HaTorah.

The people behind this nefarious production, The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah should be enough to call into question the integrity of such a video.  Both organizations are deeply involved in the spread of Islamophobic notions of Muslims in America in a manner consistent with the strategies mentioned in a previous Miscellany101 post here.  I’m also not surprised, but note with more than a bit of sarcasm the presence of a GOP candidate for President being affiliated somehow in this macabre alliance of xenophobes.

the Clarion Fund,……(I)ts previous documentary attacking Muslims’ “war on the West” attracted support from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who has helped reshape the Republican presidential primary by pouring millions of dollars into a so-called super PAC that backs Newt Gingrich.

In addition, the NYPD’s denial then admission that the film was ever aired by them and their subsequent position that they did nothing wrong means precisely that they did something wrong.  This adversarial attitude, along with the equally omnipotent  alliance between the NYPD and the CIA has raised more than a few eyebrows, plenty of suspicion and the ire of New York Muslims, some of whom participated in an interfaith boycott last month to protest the city’s increased surveillance of area Muslims after it was revealed the NYPD in coordination with the CIA gathered information on city Muslims who were neither suspected or charged with any crime.  All this is what we KNOW about, albeit with a great deal of diligence at gathering the information and difficulty at getting authorities to respond; no doubt there’s plenty more we don’t know about.  Stay tuned.

Dead NYPD Officer’s Body Snatched By New York City To Deny Link To 9/11 Related Illness


NYPD patch, first introduced in 1971

Image via Wikipedia

An interesting tidbit discovered while browsing the web. First it shows the ethnic diversity of the New York City police department…a good thing, but it also shows a rather heavy handed approach by New York City towards the issue of 911 and associated illnesses.
Vodpod videos no longer available.