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Published: Sunday, 3/11/2012


NYPD, far afield

The New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims in the United States disregards basic civil rights, as well as wisdom and logic.

The geographic range of the NYPD's actions in the name of counterterrorism is astonishing. Undercover police officers have been conducting surveillance, with CIA help, of U.S.-born and foreign Muslims in Connecticut, New Jersey, and upstate New York. Their authority to do so raises questions of jurisdiction.

Officers carrying out such duties are called "mosque crawlers." Imagine the public reaction if the same term were modified by "church" or "synagogue."

The CIA's role is equally dubious. The federal intelligence agency is prohibited by law from directing espionage -- including wiretaps and surveillance -- against U.S. citizens, although there has been some erosion of that ban because of the Patriot Act. Other law-enforcement bodies, such as the FBI, are entrusted with that responsibility.

New York City is considered a special case for counterterrorism programs, because its citizens were the principal victims of the 9/11 attacks. Yet that distinction does not justify gross abuse of civil rights, or provide a basis for New York police to run loose far beyond the city.

President George W. Bush had it right when he declared that Muslim Americans are important allies of all other Americans in preventing future attacks. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has no right to make it otherwise.

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