The Security State of Ray Kelly

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Oh hey look, the police commissioner of the largest department in America is profiling. Again:

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials... The NYPD did not limit its operations to collecting information on those who attended the mosques or led prayers. The department sought also to put people on the boards of New York's Islamic institutions to fill intelligence gaps.

One confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to put informants in leadership positions at mosques and other organizations, including the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, a secular social-service organization.

That Barack Obama, a politician who pushed Illinois racial profiling bill, ever flirted with a Kelly nomination, is evidence of what happens when take you Serious People, seriously.

From my label-mate Conor Friedersdorf:

Usually, when I write phrases like, "This is how a secret police force with files on innocent Americans starts," I'm issuing a warning about the future. But the NYPD literally started a secret police unit that began indiscriminately keeping files on innocent Americans. This isn't a warning about a slippery slope. It is an observation about ongoing abuse of civil liberties in America's biggest city.

Precisely. This is just who we are, now. Make sure to check out New York magazine's piece on Kelly's outfit. Al-Qaeda greatest victory has been in exposing our meek defense of values we claim to cherish. Shame on Ray Kelly. This is disgraceful.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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