Surveilling Muslim Groups Is Necessary to Protect Free Press, Bloomberg Tells Reporters

Bloomberg at press conference.jpg
Sam Levin
Mike Bloomberg at press conference this morning.
Reporters repeatedly grilled Mayor Mike Bloomberg this morning about recent reports of the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslim student groups at campuses throughout the Northeast.

Bloomberg shot back at them that the NYPD policies are there to protect freedoms such as the free press. Take that, reporters!

"You are not going to survive. You will not be able to be a journalist and write what you want to say if the people who want to take away your freedoms are allowed to succeed," Bloomberg said after one reporter pressed him on the matter.

This latest controversy escalated with reports from the Associated Press that the police department has regularly monitored websites run by Muslim student groups at 16 colleges, including Columbia and New York University.

(Read this document -- a good example of what this monitoring looked like in practice).

Yale University President Richard Levin came out today criticizing the surveillance practices, calling them "antithetical to the values" of Yale and the country -- the subject of the first off-topic question thrown at Bloomberg at a press conference this morning in Brooklyn about job-creation.

"I don't know why keeping the country safe is antithetical to the values of Yale. Yale's freedoms to do research, to teach, to give people a place to say what they want to say is defended by law enforcement throughout this country," Bloomberg said. "If going on websites and looking for information is not what Yale stands for, I don't know. It's the freedom of information. If people put things on websites, presumably -- and make them available to everybody...it's ridiculous it seems to me to argue that they're not available to everybody."

In line with the defense that the NYPD has offered in light of the recent reports, Bloomberg also reminded reporters that a dozen people have been convicted through this kind of monitoring.

A second reporter asked Bloomberg to respond to the allegation that authorities even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip where the agent recorded students' names and kept a record of how many times the students prayed.

The mayor tried to brush it off with a (bit of an odd) joke.

"The only whitewater rafting that I've done I did with my daughter. I don't think she had a lot of information that I was interested in in terms of her political views. It was a long time ago -- I'm not sure at that time she had political views. She certainly does now," he said before the reporter asked him if he thinks that kind of undercover surveillance goes one step too far.

Bloomberg paused.

"No," he said, pausing again. "We have to keep this country safe. This is a dangerous place. Make no mistake about it. It's very cute to go and to blame everybody and say we should stay away from...[policies like] intelligence gathering. The job of our law enforcement is to make sure that they prevent things and you only do that by being proactive. You have to respect people's right to privacy. You have to obey the law, and I think that police officers across this country...do that."

When a reporter later asked Bloomberg if he was aware NYPD detectives were working out of the state, he responded again with a short joke about whitewater rafting with his daughter.

Finally, in the last question of the news conference, another reporter asked him to respond to complaints from the Muslim community that they are being surveilled more than others.

"I don't know how anybody would know that," Bloomberg said.

He ended with one more line about free press: "Remind yourself when you turn off the light tonight, you have your job because there are young men and women who have been giving their lives overseas for the last 200 plus years so that we would have freedom of the press. And we go after the terrorists. We are going to continue to do that and the same thing is true for the people that work on the streets of our cities."

After the conference, Runnin' Scared called Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager for Council of American-Islamic Relations in New York, to hear his response to Bloomberg's latest defense of the policy.

"We know very well that, despite the NYPD's best effort to deny it, this was not about following leads -- this was about religious, ethnic profiling," he told us.

When Runnin' Scared asked him about Bloomberg mentioning free press in his defense, McGoldrick said, "That's laughable. I would expect better from him...The idea that to protect freedom of press we need to then give up freedom of...religion, it doesn't follow. It's not logical."

Public safety is important, but law enforcement should not devote its limited resources to blanket monitoring of these students, he said. "We are looking at the use of fear to justify the devastation and destruction of our constitutional rights."

[SamTLevin / @SamTLevin]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Jack Jersawitz
Jack Jersawitz

You all need to get things straight. If the 9/11 take down was the act of Muslim terrorists, or other similar acts against U.S. government interests take place, they take place clearly as defensive acts against U.S. imperialism that opines that it has a right to invade and steal the natural wealth of other countries let alone decide whom other governments can converse with, whom they can do business with.

This is nothing new and it goes back a long way to U.S. declared doctrine that Central and South America are strictly U.S. domains of influence which historically was supported with invasions (Haiti, Cuba, Grenada, etc.) and installed governments whose whose local criminality was O.K. as long as U.S. interests got their due. Murder of oppositional figures was always part of that equation.

But, this latest and greatest of the economic crisis' of capitalism have drawn expressions acts from the "liberal" Obama that all ought to heed and prepare to act against.

U.S. governments have always committed murders. They just didn't talk about them. Now you have a president that openly admits to signing off on a list to be murdered; a president that asserts he has a right, sans process, sans courts, to name individuals to that list and to designate them for murder. This includes, according to Obama, U.S. citizens and he has underlined that with the murder of at least five such whose only crime, if indeed it was a crime, was to have a big mouth.

In the history of U.S. imperialism that is new and it clearly signifies the preparations of this government for the imposition of a police state or outright fascism.

There is only one answer to that and it is the answer of Bolshevism, of violent socialist revolution as the only defense against a state that despite its constitution says it has the right to assassinate whom it pleases and therefore makes clear that any movement seeking to organize a socialist revolution must be armed and prepared to defend itself by force of arms.

Which brings me to the thought that started this. Acts like 9/11, attacks on U.S. embassies, naval vessels, occupying military, are simply the acts of people defending themselves and their countries against the new crusades, against the recolonization of Asia and Africa.

Those acts are morally justified (If not always the best tactics) on the part of peoples who have no other means of defense. They are directly akin to acts like those of Nat Turner or John Brown.

The best answer to our imperialist government is not individual terrorism. As we can see the terrorists of U.S. imperialism simply use that, like in 1984, to assert that their illegal acts of surveillance and endless imprisonment, are necessary to defend our constitutional rights even as they advance their destruction of our rights.

It is necessary to intervene in the most powerful social sector of our country, the organized working class, and encourage the organization of an independent, electoral, labor party and for members of labor unions whose leaderships oppose that and try to continue to support Democratic and Republican "Friends of Labor" to turn those leaders out replacing them with a new leadership willing to fight for a labor party with a socialist program, willing to use the Fourth Amendment as it was intended to be used to arm and train its membership against the police and military attacks that are certainly coming against any union that dares to strike or to oppose capitalism and imperialism in government with its own independent labor political party, a party that as well stands up against U.S. militarist adventures and fights for their defeat as part of the fight to overturn this government.

It is also necessary to have a Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyist, political party as a means of providing theoretical guidance for our working class movement. I would suggest that a good guide for that can be found at http://www.wrp.org.uk where the web site of the British Workers Revolutionary Party can be found and as well two or three articles and an editorial of their daily, printed on paper and distributed throughout England newspaper, the News Line.

Jack Jersawitz404-892-1238bigjackjj@yahoo.com  

F_Randy_Hullabaloo
F_Randy_Hullabaloo

Big brother is here to keep you safe, take comfort in knowing that big brother is watching you at all times. 

Robinrobinrobin
Robinrobinrobin

Several years ago I was attending CUNY QCC.  A Muslim student association at the school -- I don't know if they were the only such organization on campus or even the largest -- invited a guest speaker, an Islamic activist known to security agencies for his affiliations.

This gathering probably wasn't advertised, I only became aware of the event after the fact because a non-Muslim student sat-in on the conference and followed up with a blogged report.

I don't remember all the details but what stood out was how out of place (and time) the talking points seemed for 21st century NYC. A religious-branded defense of attacks on American and European targets,  vilification of Western lifestyles, the stressed need to purify Islam of incompatible influences and denunciations of (allegedly) unchaste Muslim female and male homosexual students that were publicly named and shamed.

The blog article stuck with me because it kind of turned my small-world upside down. Before, QCC was just a provincial junior college to me, not overtly political or ideological in the slightest After, my own campus and community would leave an upsetting feeling in me.

Jeffsiddiqui
Jeffsiddiqui

Yes, I would be unhappy with such a presentation as well. It is important to keep in mind that no faith is free from people who would like to see an intolerant versiuon of their faith and who tend to be defensive and shocking about their explanations of catastrophes.Pat Robertson (A Christian Activist?) said 9-11 was God's way of punishing New Yorkers for their decadence, a remark for which he offered no apology and in fact repeated it for the Katrina disaster.Jewish Rabbis routinely say horrible, murderous things about Arabs and nary a ywan from the "civilized world".Hindus do the same and so do the Buddhists.

Don't let such narrow events turn your mind upside-down, just keep in mind that (thank God!) there are more good people, than there are bad.

Billbrown1450
Billbrown1450

The good muslims are more inrimidated by the crazies among them then we are.They will not speak out against them.They are too scared Sharia law is no joke to them.The so call moderates are probably being pressured by the extremists to " speak out"The media the "true parasites of all our collective tradegies" just continue to stir the pot to exploit the situation and aid the bad guys.

Billbrown1450
Billbrown1450

Dont buy it....for one minute but keep trying there are useful idiots that will

Jeffsiddiqui
Jeffsiddiqui

Please do not be so ready to swallow the self-styled "experts" fantasies about Islam and Muslims. Understand Shariah code yourself instead of listening to Spencer et al and try to understand some Muslims yourself.  

I have been here for almost 30 years and I have never felt any pressure to say or not to say anything against any Muslim person or country. This, in spite of encountering Muslims of every stripe. I have lived in Britain and spoken out against issues to do with Muslims and Muslim-majority countries, but never a threat from anyone. 

I have lived in Pakistan and been there several times since coming here, and I have never felt any pressure to keep my mouth shut. In fact the only two times, I have EVER felt danger to my lifer and my family's lives, was in the US, at the hands of two different Christians.

I am Muslim. Not "moderate", not "radical", just Muslim.

Jeffsiddiqui
Jeffsiddiqui

The NYPD justified their surveillance of Muslims by saying NYPD offered a list of 12 people arrested for terrorism, who were once members of MSA (Muslim Students Association). I'll bet we can find a list of murder, drug-dealers and rapists who once ate Cherios, so, time to start looking at all Cherio buyers...and of course, Cherio makers!

Bloomberg said the surveillance was done to keep the Press Free and to keep us all safe. Der Fuhrer said the same when he sent Jews to the Gas Chambers.

As usual, mindless, right-wing, ultra patriotic, sycophants are in agreement saying they would rather suffer this than another 9-11. First, they are not the ones making the "sacrficie", we Muslims are. Secondly, the only alternative to another 9-11 is NOT subjecting innocent people on the speculation that they MIGHT be up to something because they pray in Arabic.

American are sitting on their hands because THEY are not being targeted, but they should keep in mind that for the first time, we have a President who ordered the killing of American civilians without even a Kangaroo Court "hearing" and for the first time, we have passed a LAW that requires the military to imprison Muslim SUSPECTS without charges or trial...forever.

Anyone else want to face where these trends are taking us?

Marla Lopez
Marla Lopez

I commend the mayor for being proactive.  Let them snoop on whoever they have to in order to prevent another 911 or any other terrorist attack on this country.  

guest
guest

Really? I'm assuming you're hispanic or something. How would you like it if you were snooped on because you might have drugs..something your people are notorious for?

Jack Espinosa
Jack Espinosa

Yeah, I'm sure Mayor Mikkke will find the next McVeigh or Andrew Stack through this kind of racial profiling. :P

Asapbado
Asapbado

That really surprises me I thought he wa s lib I now have respect 4 hin  I think it is good they infiltrate drug dealers or hit men so why not crazies that wants t to kill Americans with human bombs........................

Sorochin
Sorochin

You must not have been paying attention for the past 11 years, or you'd know Bloomie is anything but "lib".

Sharon Carlson Thompson Cummin
Sharon Carlson Thompson Cummin

I'm sorry, but you live in the Obama days.....the Constitution means nothing and no one has any rights.  Weren't you paying attention last week?  There is no freedom of religion here.  This is Obama's regime.

Patski
Patski

These are the best comments I've ever heard Mayor Bloomberg offer. It is reasonable to work towards preventing future terriorist attacks...thus far the prevention tactics are called for. I would fault any mayor not involved in supporting the safty of their city.

npk32
npk32

He'll be singing a different tune when President Santorum is surveilling Jews and other non-Christians.

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...