Two members of the House Committee on Homeland Security sharply rebuked a call to investigate the New York Police Department over a report that it’s spying on Muslim Americans, calling the allegations “embarrassingly uninformed and shamefully misleading.”
On Thursday, Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) sent a joint letter to the attorney general saying they were “deeply troubled” by reports that the NYPD has been collecting information on members of the Muslim community in New York.
“The NYPD has engaged in conduct that has singled out Muslims for police contact — stops and investigations — based upon their race, ethnicity or national origin,” the letter read in part. “This surveillance allegedly included targeting mosques, student groups, restaurants and even motorists in both NYC and outside the NYPD’s jurisdiction.”
In addition to the allegations of racial profiling, the letter alleges that the NYPD has been collecting a database of information on Muslims in New York City without probable cause.
The lawmakers based their concerns on a series of reports by The Associated Press detailing the NYPD's controversial counterterrorism intelligence-gathering techniques.
Reps. Pete King (R-N.Y.) and Bob Turner (R-N.Y.) shot back with a letter of their own on Thursday, saying they wanted to “clear away the cloud of ignorance, political correctness, misinformation and false allegations against the NYPD.”
“A recent 'Dear Colleague' from three members of Congress attacking the NYPD was embarrassingly uninformed and shamefully misleading,” the letter stated. “The reality is that the NYPD is the leading police department in the country with the largest and most effective counterterrorism force, dedicating 1,000 officers to protecting New York from terrorist attacks.”
King and Turner argued that under Commissioner Ray Kelly’s leadership, the NYPD has thwarted at least 14 attacks by Islamic terrorists, and has done so “in full compliance with federal law and despite the NYPD being underfunded by the federal government.”
King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has held four hearings into the radicalization of Muslim-Americans, the most recent of which focused on potential terrorist infiltration of the U.S. military.
It’s the second time this week that the NYPD has been the focus on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller at an Oversight Hearing over the bureau’s recent clash with the NYPD.
Last month, the NYPD arrested an alleged “al Qaeda sympathizer,” accusing him of plotting to build a bomb to detonate on U.S. soil. Shortly after, press reports surfaced citing anonymous sources within the FBI that said the bureau had declined to pursue the purported terrorist because he didn’t represent a real threat.
“I was as distressed as you and others to see the press reports, anonymous, of federal government persons talking about another prosecutor's, another agency's investigation, this being NYPD,” Mueller said on Wednesday. “I gave directions that that should not happen.”
“We recognize, I recognize that — that Ray Kelly has done a remarkable job in terms of protecting New York City from terrorist attacks, New York City being a — a principal target,” he continued. “And as I say, these things are unfortunate. I wish they didn't happen, but our relationship remains solid.”