The New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit admitted on Monday that six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods and eavesdropping in mosques never garnered a single lead or prompted any investigations, according to the Associated Press.
The Demographics Unit – with help from the CIA – put together databases on where Muslims lived and congregated, while police infiltrated Muslim student groups, placed informants in mosques and catalogued every Muslim in New York who had changed their name to an Americanized one, says the report.
At a June 28 deposition on a civil rights case centered on the monitoring practices, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said nothing that the agents learned warranted opening an investigation.
"Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."
Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, described to the AP how police gather information on people – despite evidence of wrongdoing – simply because of their ethnicity and native language.
Some residents of Bed-Stuy's Muslim community said they are not surprised about the surveillance but they're even less shocked that the city's monitoring has turned up no evidence.
"No good Muslim in the United States is thinking about doing anything bad to the United States," said Ousmane, owner of Bismelale Restaurant on Fulton Street.
"If they're a real Muslim, they're not thinking of doing anything bad. Because you know if you do bad to somebody, you're gonna have a problem with Allah."
Bed-Stuy resident El-Amin said he's not worried about the surveillance one way or the other: "It doesn't bother me, because there's nothing to find. I'm from Guyana, a peacefu place. If it gets bad here, I will just leave."
Galati added that a business can be labeled a "location of concern" if there are groups of Middle Easterners there.
Attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who questioned Galati during the deposition, plans to ask the court for the shuttering of the Demographics Unit be shut down, says the AP.
"This is a terribly pernicious set of policies," Eisenstein said. "No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy."
Ousmane, whose family immigrated ten years ago to Brooklyn from Mauritania, insists the Muslim community in Bed-Stuy is "okay and safe."
"If you are practicing the real Islam, you have too many things to do to be thinking about anything bad," he said.