Following new revelations about the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers–including allegations that entire mosques were deemed terrorist organizations–the reaction in some quarters of city politics was swift.
Comptroller John Liu, a candidate for mayor, was particularly incensed by today’s Associated Press report on the issue, calling an emergency press conference near his office.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly threatened in their starkest terms to date today that two police reform bills headed for passage will compromise public safety–enabling terrorists, criminals and gang members–but refused to place the blame on the City Council speaker, who is allowing the bills to go to vote.
Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bloomberg, joined by more than a dozen law endorsement officials at police headquarters, pointed to the city’s record-low shooting and murder rates, and warned the safety gains the city has won are at risk of being blundered if the bills, which would create an inspector general over the NYPD and expand the definition of racial profiling, are passed by the City Council.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano weighed in on the NSA intelligence leaks on Friday, telling NY1 that fears over government surveillance were overblown.
“I think people have gotten the idea that there’s an Orwellian state out there that somehow we’re operating in. That’s far from the case,” she told Errol Louis during an appearance on Road to City Hall.
Mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn refused to criticize President Obama over reports that the federal government has engaged in widespread monitoring of Americans’ Internet activity and telephone calls–arguing that surveillance is crucial to the city’s safety.
The three leading Republican candidates for mayor all support the use of controversial unmanned drones to watch over New York City–as long as cameras aren’t peering into their bedrooms.
“I’m absolutely for it,” said former MTA Chair Joe Lhota, speaking at a candidates’ forum hosted by the New York Young Republican Club in Midtown Tuesday night. “Drones to be used from a surveillance point of view, so long as it understands people’s privacy rights.”
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change” to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.
“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”
Congressman Pete King, the head of the House’s Homeland Security Committee, has been generating some media buzz recently with his forceful rejection of a Democratic amendment which would restricting federal funding from police forces declared to be discriminatory by the Attorney General. While the amendment wouldn’t directly impact the NYPD, the subtext of the legislation was clearly intended to send a message regarding the Muslim-surveillance controversy unearthed by The Associated Press earlier this year. And on a recent CNN discussion, Mr. King pushed back hard when The New Yorker‘s Ryan Liza tried to give credit to The AP’s report.
“First off, there is no profiling, that’s the absolute nonsense that people like you and others are propagating,” Mr. King stated flatly when the topic was broached.
“I’m not propagating anything I’m just telling you that there’s been some very legitimate questions raised about what the NYPD is doing!” Mr. Lizza shouted back.