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Cory Booker Starts Investigation into NYPD Spying on Muslims

AP | 2/22/2012, 10:04 p.m.

"These locations provide the maximum ability to assess the general opinions and general activity of these communities," the Newark report said.

The effect of the program was that hundreds of American citizens were catalogued -- sometimes by name, sometimes simply by their businesses and their ethnicity -- in secret police files that spanned hundreds of pages:

-- "A Black Muslim male named Mussa was working in the rear of store," an NYPD detective wrote after a clandestine visit to a dollar store in Shirley, New York, on Long Island.

-- "The manager of this restaurant is an Indian Muslim male named Vicky Amin" was the report back from an Indian restaurant in Lindenhurst, New York, also on Long Island.

-- "Owned and operated by an African Muslim (possibly Sudanese) male named Abdullah Ddita" was the summary from another dollar store in Shirley, New York, just off the highway on the way to the Hamptons, the wealthy Long Island getaway.

In one report, an officer describes how he put people at ease by speaking in Punjabi and Urdu, languages commonly spoken in Pakistan.

This past summer, when the AP first began reporting about the NYPD's surveillance efforts, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his police do not consider religion in their policing.

On Tuesday, following an AP story that showed the NYPD monitored Muslim student groups around the Northeast, school leaders including Yale University president Richard Levin expressed outrage over the tactics. Bloomberg fired back in what was the most vigorous defense yet of his department.

"The police department goes where there are allegations. And they look to see whether those allegations are true," he told reporters. "That's what you'd expect them to do. That's what you'd want them to do. Remind yourself when you turn out the light tonight."

There are no allegations of terrorism in the Demographics Unit reports and the documents make clear that police were only interested in locations frequented by Muslims. The canvas of businesses in Newark mentions Islam and Muslims 27 times. In one section of the report, police wrote that the largest immigrant groups in Newark were from Portugal and Brazil. But they did not photograph businesses or churches for those groups.

"No Muslim component within these communities was identified," police wrote, except for one business owned by a Brazilian Muslim of Palestinian descent.

Polls show that most New Yorkers strongly support the NYPD's counterterrorism efforts and don't believe police unfairly target Muslims. The Muslim community, however, has called for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's resignation over the spying and the department's screening of a video that portrays Muslims as wanting to dominate the United States.

In Newark, the report was met with a mixture of bemusement and anger.

"Come, look at yourself on film," Abdul Kareem Abdullah called to his wife as he flipped through the NYPD files at the lunch counter of their restaurant, Hamidah's Cafe.

An American-born citizen who converted to Islam decades ago, Abdullah said he understands why, after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, people are afraid of Muslims. But he said he wishes the police would stop by, say hello, meet him and his customers and get to know them. The documents show police have no interest in that, he said.