Menendez Calls on Holder, Petraeus To Investigate Reports of NYPD Monitoring Muslim Communities, Students

Menendez Calls on Holder, Petraeus To Investigate Reports of NYPD Monitoring Muslim Communities, Students

Washington - In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director David Petraeus, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today called for an investigation into press reports detailing the effort by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to collect information about Muslim and immigrant communities in Newark, New Jersey and to monitor student groups at Rutgers University and other colleges in the Northeast. Menendez expressed grave concerns "about any program that targets communities with no credible law enforcement intelligence and with no oversight of the operation."

Menendez wrote: "I am deeply concerned by reports that the NYPD's law enforcement efforts focused on individuals who were not suspected of any criminal activity. While I strongly support credible efforts to prevent terrorism, I have grave concerns about any program that targets communities with no credible law enforcement intelligence and with no oversight of the operation. Reports that NYPD plain clothes police officers monitored student websites, programs and associations at Rutgers University and other Northeastern universities - and even followed students on a rafting trip - raise concerns about First Amendment rights of association and the potential chilling effect that such surveillance could have on religious and ethnic minority groups in New Jersey. Monitoring student groups and participating in rafting trips do not seem like credible strategies to combat terrorism."

Full text of letter follows:

February 23, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

David H. Petraeus

Director, Central Intelligence Agency

Room 7-C38 OHB

Washington, D.C. 20505

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Petraeus:

I share your strong commitment to combating terrorism while at the same time protecting civil rights, and it is with these concerns in mind that I write to request an investigation about recent Associated Press reports detailing an effort by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to collect information about Muslim and immigrant communities in Newark, New Jersey and to monitor student groups at Rutgers University and other colleges in the Northeast. I hope to learn more about the program, which has been reported as NYPD's effort to combat terrorism through surveillance in New Jersey, and I ask that you investigate whether appropriate procedures and protocols were followed with regard to informing New Jersey law enforcement officials about this operation. Various press reports mentioned that a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer worked collaboratively with the NYPD on surveillance programs and I also write to request an investigation about whether the CIA was involved in operations in New Jersey, in addition to New York.

I am deeply concerned by reports that the NYPD's law enforcement efforts focused on individuals who were not suspected of any criminal activity. While I strongly support credible efforts to prevent terrorism, I have grave concerns about any program that targets communities with no credible law enforcement intelligence and with no oversight of the operation. Reports that NYPD plain clothes police officers monitored student websites, programs and associations at Rutgers University and other Northeastern universities - and even followed students on a rafting trip - raise concerns about First Amendment rights of association and the potential chilling effect that such surveillance could have on religious and ethnic minority groups in New Jersey. Monitoring student groups and participating in rafting trips do not seem like credible strategies to combat terrorism.

I am also concerned that the Mayor of Newark was not informed about the program and that the Newark Police Department stated that they were not kept up to date regarding the breadth and scope of the surveillance. This suggests that the NYPD may have been operating outside the scope of joint operating agreements with federal and state law enforcement agencies.

While I believe that all appropriate steps must be taken to combat terrorism, I am sure that you would agree that we must ensure that law enforcement efforts strictly follow all federal and state laws and protect fundamental constitutional rights. A publicly-reported audit regarding this program, including the civil rights impact on racial and religious minorities is necessary to ensure that our communities retain trust in our police departments.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding the scope of this program and urge you to consider publicly disclosing additional information regarding any collaboration with the Newark Police Department. In addition, I invite you to join me in meeting with members of the affected communities in New Jersey.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

ROBERT MENENDEZ

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