NYPD monitoring of Muslims enters mayoral race

February 26, 2012 - 4:25 PM
NYPD Intelligence

FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011, file photo, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speaks at a news conference with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, in Brooklyn, N.Y. New York Police Department spying operations began after the 2001 terror attacks with unusual help from a CIA officer. "If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD's job is to do it," Bloomberg said. "The law is pretty clear about what's the requirement, and I think they follow the law. We don't stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there." (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Potential candidates for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office are taking stands on the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslim students, ranging from cautious support to a warning about curtailing civil liberties.

Bloomberg, who leaves office after the 2013 election, has said that he finds "worrisome" the idea that his successor might abandon NYPD policies that have kept New Yorkers safe.

The NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups at a dozen colleges in New York City, upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, documents obtained by The Associated Press show. The monitoring was part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts.

But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement to the AP over the weekend that "it is troubling when people are subject to surveillance and investigation simply because they are members of a particular group."

However, the Democrat, a declared candidate for mayor, praised the city's police department for doing an "extraordinary job protecting our city," as long as authorities make sure anti-terrorism efforts "do not trample on the civil liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that his department is "continuing to do what we believe necessary to protect the city, pursuant to the law." He did not elaborate.

NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, who is expected to run for mayor, praised "the dedicated men and women of the NYPD" for doing "an extraordinary job of keeping New Yorkers safe." But in a statement, he also warned that "we should not as a matter of policy profile people based on religion or race — it goes against everything this city stands for."

Liu, a Queens Democrat, faces a federal investigation into his fundraising operation after reports of inconsistencies in his campaign finances.

When asked about the NYPD surveillance, media executive Tom Allon didn't hedge.

"I support the tactics that they've used," said Allon, who plans to run as both a Liberal and a Democrat. "I think we've got a much larger problem here, which is making sure there's no terrorist attack on New York."

Three other possible candidates, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former comptroller Bill Thompson, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.