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The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities (nymag.com)
78 points by kitcar on Aug 26, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments



As a Muslim, I've had to make peace with knowing that I have no privacy and little guarantee of my rights. I recently graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and the NYPD was even spying and monitoring us there. [0]

History's pages are filled with instances of minorities being targeted and persecuted. One can go back and look at what happened to the Blacks, the Jews, the Japanese, and many others. That the targeted group is different isn't the key here. What's different now is that technology has progressed to the point where the invasiveness and secrecy of what goes on is unmatched.

[0] http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-In-The-News/2012/NYPD-monitored...


Don't make too much peace with it. A lot of my muslim friends have been reluctant to stir the pot about their treatment by the authorities and society in general, saying things like "it is in god's hands." The problem with that attitude is that in the US the system is designed such that the squeaky wheel is the only one that gets the oil.

The civil rights movement happened because blacks organized, the japanese were really passive about the whole interment camp thing. I knew families that had lost everything -- houses, farmland -- because it was basically stolen from them while they were interred. When they were released they preferred to avoid talking about it, as if it were a great shame on them rather than a shame on the rest of the country for doing it to them. So practically no legal action occurred their property was never recovered, depriving their children of opportunities that were rightly theirs.

You have to do whatever it takes to live without completely losing your marbles over the situation, so I'm not judging - just saying that it is important to talk about it as much as you can stomach with as many people as will listen so they can start to understand what your experiences are.


To be fair, nobody is placing Muslims in internment camps nor are they being forced to ride in the back of the bus.

If anything, we are learning that we are all under constant surveillance.


The japanese internment did not happen out of the blue, there was a lot of agitation against them leading up to it. The goal is to stop things from getting out of hand rather than trying to fix them after the fact.


No, they just place you on the no fly list and detain you for 4+ hours every time you cross the US border by land.


I wonder if this is the group that (allegedly? warrantlessly?) searched Aditya Mukerjee's apartment and took a religious photo during his recent boarding troubles and temporary detention.

(See the last 5 paragraphs of: <http://varnull.adityamukerjee.net/post/59021412512/dont-fly-...)


We've accepted so many hedges and exceptions against the rule of law and the constitution that it's hard to argue against the idea that our country isn't on a slippery slope into some horrible devastating loss of freedoms.

We've created so many "constitution free zone" bubbles that they are rapidly merging into one solid wall-to-wall exception for nearly every part of our lives: the ways we travel, communicate, are entertained, do business, etc. Soon enough the parts of our lives where the constitution is actually fully in force will be so small that it might as well not exist.


From the end of the article:

"Whatever the shortcomings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act oversight system, at least there is, theoretically, a check on the agency’s activities. But in New York City, for Muslim citizens and activists of many stripes, there is no such outside system meant to safeguard their privacy. The NYPD conducts its oversight in-house. City Hall doesn’t review intelligence programs the way Congress does. Courts can step in to settle questions about constitutionality, but only if somebody finds out about programs that are designed to remain secret forever.

In 2010, the Demographics Unit was renamed the Zone Assessment Unit over fears about how the title would be perceived if it leaked out. But rakers still troll Muslim neighborhoods, filing an average of four new reports every day, searching for hot spots. The Muslim community is marbled with fear, afraid to speak openly because an informant could be lurking near.

Kelly is unapologetic. Like the department’s use of the tactic known as stop-and-frisk, raking is a tactic Kelly maintains is legal. He said the program is operating just as it always has. “Nothing” has changed, Kelly boasted to The Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

In many ways, Ray Kelly has been a remarkably successful commissioner—but when it mattered most, the Demographics Unit was a failure as a matter of police work. And now, the lawyers in the Handschu case [which resulted in the original prohibition of the NYPD spying on people not suspected of crimes] have returned to court, arguing that Kelly and Cohen, in their effort to keep the city safe, have crossed constitutional lines. Regardless of the outcome, the NYPD’s programs are likely to join waterboarding, secret prisons, and NSA wiretapping as emblems of post-9/11 America, when security justified many practices that would not have been tolerated before."


the Demographics Unit was renamed the Zone Assessment Unit over fears about how the title would be perceived if it leaked out.

The same way the NSA, CIA and FBI repeatedly rename their continuing activities.


The correct term is newspeak [1]

In newspeak the contracted name for the unit would have been DemoUn, pronounced /ˈdiː.mən/.

UnDem would have been a good second choice.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak


The problem there is that "Newspeak" is itself a placeholder term for a certain set of behaviors, not to mention that 1984 quotes carry about as much weight as Simpson's ones.

The term you're probably looking for is "euphemism treadmill:"

http://englishcowpath.blogspot.com/2011/06/euphemism-treadmi...


That's a good headline. We should start calling what NSA is doing "un-American" too - because it is.


It's a reference to [1], not a description.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Un-American_Activities_Co...


Although I've been alarmed by many of the abused of power reported recently, I'm not sure about this one. It may well be illegal, but the article doesn't make the case that any actual harm has occurred. After all, what we are talking about here is a bunch of cops "sitting round eating kebabs and buying pastries".

"That’s when Berdecia realized that, in the hunt for terrorists, his detectives gravitated toward the best food."

"the Demographics Unit never built a single case"

It sounds more like a waste of money than an abuse of power.

On the other hand, what it does do is show how easily law enforcement officers can use nebulous suspicions to justify what they want to do. In this case, they label people as suspicious in order to justify getting a nice meal. Others do so in order to go on a power trip.


"It may well be illegal, but the article doesn't make the case that any actual harm has occurred"

Funny how that logic does not apply to the rest of us when the police make an arrest...


Always watch out for the use of the word Intelligence ... it has special meaning to them.




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