One of the great underreported stories of 2011 is the way in which the NYPD has turned itself into a combination of the 1960s COINTELPRO FBI and domestic CIA operation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has recently called the NYPD his own “private army,” and offers no condemnation of the broad spying powers arrogated by the NYPD.
The Mayor is hosting his annual Interfaith Breakfast on Friday, December 30, and the New York Times is reporting that Muslim leaders will be boycotting the event. I do know that the request for a boycott was initiated by Muslim leaders, but was sent to leaders from several faith communities. I was invited to the breakfast and to participate in the boycott. Based on what we know, I find the spying program deplorable and the interfaith boycott important, but I will attend the breakfast.
Earlier this year, when the story about NYPD spying broke, one of the people they were spying on was someone who was invited by the Mayor to an Eid dinner. The dark joke many of had been making—that even though we worked with local and federal agencies because we loved this country and we are as much at threat as anyone else, we were suspect—had been proven a reality. Simply by virtue of our heritage, we are not afforded the same rights as Americans.
This boycott makes it obvious that while the NYPD is targeting Muslims, they are violating the rights of Americans. The issue is not a Muslim one, but an American one. My goal in going to make sure my compatriots from other faith traditions understand how serious this threat is. If I am suspect, and based on what we know of the NYPD’s scattershot approach I have no reason to believe I am not, then anyone I associate with is suspect. I intend to meet as many faith leaders as I can tomorrow and ask them how they feel about spied upon by the NYPD.
I am not speaking hypothetically. We have seen this encroachment of extraordinary circumstances into daily life already. Juan Cole talks about how the NYPD and Department of Homeland Security worked with the FBI against the Occupy Wall Street group, with the approval of Mayor Bloomberg. What the NYPD is doing is not surveillance, with probable cause and warrants. This is spying and infiltrating our lives. The are coming after Muslims and no one is saying anything. They are coming after social justice activists and no one is saying anything.
I am going to the breakfast to make people realize this is not my issue, but our issue. I want to make as many suspects as possible, because we are all suspects now.