According to the Associated Press, the New York City Police Department is using paid informants to spy on Muslims and “bait” them into saying bad things.
Up to this point, the NYPD has vehemently denied the existence of such a program.
The report comes from the startling admission of 19-year-old Shamiur Rahman, who accepted $1,000 monthly payments from the NYPD’s intelligence unit in exchange for his informant work and leniency on his marijuana charges. Rahman no longer works as an informant.
The AP corroborated Rahman’s account through phone records, photos and former NYPD officers who verified the existence of paid informants dedicated to spying on Muslims.
According to Rahman, who is of Bengali descent, he was instructed to initiate conversations about jihad or terrorism with Muslims, as well as photographing mosques and taking down names of New Yorkers involved in study groups on Islam.
“We need you to pretend to be one of them,” the police told Rahman.
His work included eavesdropping in Muslim neighborhoods, with the occasional specific target, such as anti-American activist Siraj Wahhaj. Rahman snapped hundreds of pictures of Muslims, including his friends, in his effort to please his NYPD handler, known only as Steve.
Whoever his handler was disconnected their phone line before Rahman came to the AP. His identity remains unknown.
Since the September 11 Attacks, the NYPD has been scrutinized for its profiling of Muslim citizens, which has included spying on mosques and Muslim businesses. The plain clothes informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” are used by police to collect names of attendees and record imam sermons.
Shamiur’s exploits as an informant began in January 2012, coming to an end in early October.
To appease Steve, Rahman would spend many of his days spying on friends from high school, as well as prominent Muslim figures from around the city. Not once did Shamiur witness any wrongdoing or criminal activity of any kind during his nine month stint on the NYPD payroll.
He especially felt bad following his Muslim friends around, noting instances when they were simply delivering food to needy families. In a rather ironic moment, Rahman recalled a time when he caught another NYPD informant spying on him, believing Shamiur to be Muslim.
At the beginning, he considered his work important and heroic, but now admits that he “made a mistake.”
You can find the AP’s original and more detailed account of Rahman’s exploits here.
The news is another black eye for the NYPD, who was embroiled in scandal last week following the unprovoked beating of a homeless man outside a Brooklyn synagogue by two police officers.