AALDEF Files Information Request on Funding of NYPD Surveillance of Muslims
February 23, 2012 – Following months of reports revealing widespread NYPD surveillance of Muslim Americans, and the use of anti-Muslim propaganda in NYPD training, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has submitted Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to obtain public information regarding the sources of funding for these NYPD initiatives.
Since August, 2011, the Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD built secret programs with help from the CIA to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop, and pray. In 2012, the New York Times reported that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly attempted to cover up his role in an anti-Muslim propaganda film that was used to train nearly 1500 NYPD officers. More recently, the Associated Press reported that the NYPD conducted surveillance of Sh’ia mosques throughout the Northeast, visited websites and forums of Muslim student associations at out-of-state colleges, and attended a white-water rafting trip with 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York.
“Despite reports of extensive NYPD infringement on the civil rights of Muslim Americans, very little information is publicly available regarding how the NYPD funds these programs,” said Nermeen Arastu, staff attorney with AALDEF. “If the NYPD is violating its operating rules and the FBI guidelines it supposedly follows through racial and religious profiling, we deserve to know how much of our taxpayer money is being used to do so.”
AALDEF has submitted FOIL requests to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services as well as to the Office of the State Comptroller. Additionally, AALDEF has submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the federal Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding funds dispersed to New York City. For example, New York City planned to use $24.3 million in federal homeland security grants to pay overtime to its police departments in 2011.
“In the past, federal agencies like FEMA neglected to ask the NYPD to demonstrate what, if any, benefits resulted from its use of federal grants,” said Arastu. “Now, considering the NYPD’s duplicity about its operations and the resultant distrust these actions have fostered in the Muslim American community, the time of zero accountability and transparency must end. We deserve to know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.”
You have a right to know if you, your business, or mosque were amongst the thousands subject to the NYPD’s overbroad and bigoted surveillance. Through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), you can request NYPD’s file on yourself — and AALDEF can help. AALDEF has provided FAQs and templates that will help you submit your own FOIL, and we would like to hear what you find out so we can take action. (Note: AALDEF will only use summary data and anonymous anecdotal information. AALDEF will not use your name or personal information without prior permission.)